Memorandum submitted by DIAL UK (OP 11)
DIAL UK has received evidence from several DIAL
advice centres in areas where ONE pilot projects have been running
since June 1999. This evidence relates to the specific impact
ONE has had upon disabled people using DIAL advice centres.
All of the DIALs that have submitted evidence
have reported problems with the way in which ONE pilots have dealt
with the specific needs of disabled people. The main areas of
concern include the following:
Inaccessibility of ONE premises and
lack of disabled facilities.
Lack of accessibility to information
about the ONE service in formats usable by disabled people with
The limited knowledge and awareness
of ONE advisers about disability benefits and the specific needs
of disabled people.
ONE advisers issuing inappropriate
claim forms and giving inappropriate advice.
Claimants not being given enough
time before interview to seek help filling out forms.
Aspects of inconsistency within the
Time being taken to arrange home
Inadequacies in the service for disabled
people under 25 years old.
Worries clients have about the independence
of the new system.
DIALs have reported some positive aspects to
the new system. Most notably has been the positive effect the
continuity the service has had for disabled people suffering from
mental health problems or learning disabilities.
It has also been noted that some pilot projects
have been more successful than others in addressing the problems
experienced by disabled people. This has been mainly due to differences
in the quality of communication between ONE projects and Welfare
Rights groups such as DIALs.
1.1 DIAL UK welcomes the opportunity to
have an input into the development process of the ONE pilots.
1.2 DIAL UK is the umbrella organisation
for a national network of 150 independent, specialist disability
advice centres run by and for disabled people. DIAL UK provides
these centres with training and support in areas of management,
welfare rights, information provision and social policy.
The network exists to address the poverty and
social exclusion that disabled people face by providing them with
specialist high quality information and advice services, by raising
awareness of the needs of disabled people and by campaigning on
national issues that directly affect the lives of disabled people.
Last year, the 1,200 local DIAL advisers helped
more than ¼ million disabled people to access their rights
and entitlements and to live more independent lives.
1.3 This submission has been compiled by
DIAL UK drawing upon the evidence received from local DIAL advice
centres in various ONE pilot areas. It focuses on the experiences
of disabled people in relation to these pilots.
1.4 The majority of the evidence received
by DIAL UK has been regarding privately run ONE pilot projects.
We have had no feedback from DIALs in areas where call-centre
pilots have been in operation. As DIALs operate a confidential
service we are not able, at this stage to include any specific
case studies in our evidence. Permission to use particular cases
must first be sought from the client involved. Such details may
be made available at a future time if necessary.
Problems arising from ONE pilot projects
2.1 A major obstacle that DIAL clients have
experienced in using ONE projects has been difficulties with physical
access. In all the evidence received, the ONE premises being used
have not been adapted for use by disabled people. In one case,
the ONE office was based on the first floor with the only means
of access being a steep flight of stairs. This scenario makes
access impossible for people in a wheelchair and makes it difficult
for those people with mobility, heart or breathing problems.
2.2 The lack of other facilities within
ONE premises has also caused problems for disabled people. Traditionally,
job centres do not have public toilets (for disabled people or
otherwise) and many ONE projects are based in job centres. This
has led to difficulties and a great deal of embarrassment for
DIAL clients. There have been cases where clients with bowel disorders
have had to be escorted to and from staff toilets by their ONE
2.3 One way of addressing these physical
access problems is to provide home visits for some disabled people.
However, this option has been problematic too. There seems to
be a lack of clear guidelines as to who is responsible for arranging
work-focussed interviews where the client needs a home visit.
DIALs have found that clients are still waiting to have their
interviews after several weeks. After further investigation it
was found that ONE projects were saying that the arrangement of
home visits were the responsibility of the Department of Work
and Pensions (DWP) whilst the DWP asserted that it was the responsibility
of the ONE project. Issues such as this need to be sorted out
and clear guidance issued as delays caused by these uncertainties
mean additional hardship for disabled people.
2.4 Access to information about the ONE
process has been an issue for DIAL advice centres. DIALs have
had difficulties in obtaining additional leaflets about the ONE
project. In one area the leaflets sent to DIALs were out of date
and were not relevant to the type of project running in their
locality. An additional problem has been the design of the leaflets
being produced. The colouring and design of the leaflets are inappropriate
for use by people with visual impairments. There also seems to
be inadequate provision of information in alternative formats
i.e. braille or large print.
2.5 Perhaps the most serious problem that
DIALs have encountered with the ONE projects is the lack of knowledge
advisers have of specific disability benefits and the needs of
disabled people. A number of DIALs have commented on the fact
that disabled people are being given claim packs and forms that
are inappropriate to their needs. This has left clients confused
and has led to delays in claiming the appropriate benefits. In
some cases advisers have dissuaded clients from claiming benefits
based on limited evidence. An example of this occurred in the
Leeds ONE pilot area. A client contacted ONE in order to claim
Incapacity Benefit. She was ill on the day of the interview and
it had to be rearranged. She went to ONE and was told that it
was not worth claiming because if she could get to her GP surgery
for a sicknote and attend the ONE interview then she would probably
not qualify for IB.
2.6 There seems to be, in some areas, inconsistencies
in the application of the ONE process. DIALs have reported that
some clients in ONE pilot areas have received claim forms for
Invalid Care Allowance directly from ICA administrating bodies
and been accepted by ICA without the involvement of ONE.
2.7 DIALs based in large urban areas are
experiencing problems with the timetabling of ONE interviews.
Clients are being given only a week to fill out their claim forms
before the interview. As ONE advisers in these areas are not giving
clients the help they require to complete the forms they are approaching
DIALs for this assistance. As the number of clients coming within
the ONE process is growing DIALs are finding it increasingly hard
to deal with clients' needs in this limited time.
2.8 There has been a further problem experienced
by disabled people under the age of 25. In certain ONE areas,
clients under 25 have been turned away from ONE offices because
they have been told that only certain offices can deal with their
claims. They have not been given the correct information as to
which office will deal with their claims resulting in them having
to visit three different offices before being properly dealt with.
Also, there has been no indication on any of the information that
DIALs in these areas have received that clients under 25 should
attend one particular ONE office in this way. This has caused
inconvenience, frustration and extra stress for clients.
2.9 Some DIAL clients have expressed wariness
in making claims through the ONE system. There are concerns amongst
some clients, though not all, about the independence of the system
in that the Employment Service/Benefits Agency is involved in
a clients initial claims process.
2.10 A worrying development in Leeds in
recent weeks has been the suspension of all work-focussed interviews.
It has been said that this is due to staff shortages. This has
left many DIAL clients who are part way through the ONE process
both worried and confused.
Positive aspects of the ONE pilots
3.1 DIALs have identified a particular area
in which the ONE system has had benefits for some disabled people.
This has been in relation to clients with mental health problems
and learning disabilities. Clients with these types of problems
have found the process of dealing with a single adviser, someone
that they have met before, much easier. Clients such as these
are often wary of change so the continuity of the system is much
less stressful for them.
3.2 In the Suffolk ONE pilot area DIALs
are very happy with the new system. Although they experienced
problems initially, many of these have been addressed through
a process of ongoing meetings and consultations. DIALs and other
welfare rights groups were able to establish a line of communication
with ONE managers at an early stage in the project. This resulted
in ONE managers attending welfare rights group meetings and hearing
first hand the problems that were being experienced. This ongoing
communication with groups such as DIAL has led to changes in practice
from the ONE project to address problems as well as ONE advisers
referring clients to DIALs for further help when needed. This
seems to be an ideal way of addressing the problems that disabled
people are experiencing with the ONE system. While Suffolk has
been successful in establishing a good working relationship with
ONE projects, this has not been the case in all areas. In Leeds
the DIAL has attempted to build such communications but their
requests for meetings with ONE managers has been ignored. Consequently,
the problems their clients experience have not been addressed.
Social Policy Worker