Elena was newly married to her partner when she moved to the UK three years ago. When her relationship became violent and untenable just a year later, she was left without a home and holding a handful of bills. So began her relationship with Citizens Advice Barnet.
Her situation in terms of living and bills has stabilised with her own hard work and the help of Citizens Advice Barnet and other agencies; but, as a result of her trauma, in the interim, her health –both mental and physical – have deteriorated. As such, with the help of her case worker, she applied for Limited Capacity to Work under Universal Credit.
She acknowledged that, “when they did the assessment [for Limited Capacity to Work], I didn’t have very good mental health and they denied it and denied it again.”
Then, she thought to call Citizens Advice.
She met with her adviser on the day of the appeal deadline. Together, they drafted the grounds for the appeal, that the assessment had been incorrect, and submitted it to await a date for a tribunal.
“[A few weeks later,]I had a tribunal over the phone and they did an assessment again.”
She was granted Limited Capacity to Work. Speaking about it later, her relief was palpable. “As a result of the tribunal, I got 18 months to recover and they will reassess me in one year.”
A critical piece to her relief is that there is less pressure to apply for jobs, though she must comply with Universal Credit’s requirements. “Universal Credit was pushing me too much; it was affecting my mental health. I told them, ‘Listen, I can’t make the decision if I want to eat today or not. I need people to make decisions for me. I’m not ready for a job. I’m working on myself right now.’”
And, it’s work that she’s taking seriously. With a team of people on her side, she hopes that the ups and downs of the last two years are behind her.
But if things go south again, she knows who to call. “When I don’t know what to do with these situations, I call Citizens Advice.I am really thankful and I appreciate all the help that I’ve had.”
When I don’t know what to do with these [benefits] situations, I call Citizens Advice [Barnet]. I am really thankful and I appreciate all the help that I’ve had.