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Claiming UC with ASD/Agoraphobia - Cannot attend Jobcentre

capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected

Hello

I am looking to help my son claim UC. He is 25 and has never worked because of ASD, social phobia, conduct disorder, and severe anxiety issues. He has already managed to claim PIP, and he was given a paper-based assessment after we supplied a comprehensive account of his difficulties alongside relevant diagnostic and psychological reports. He was awarded the higher rate daily living, and the standard rate mobility component, meaning the DWP have acknowledged the extent to which his conditions affect him.

However, it seems that in order to apply for UC he would be required to attend his local Jobcentre to provide ID and to sign a ‘claimant commitment’, likely mandating that he engage in some “work-related activity” until the WCA is complete. As I understand it, this would take place at some point after he submitted his claim online.

This would be impossible for him as he cannot even leave the house without experiencing severe distress and anxiety (which often culminates in a panic attack) and cannot speak on the telephone due to his social phobia and communication difficulties. While he has no official diagnosis of agoraphobia, his symptoms are effectively the same. I am aware that a paper-based assessment (or at least a home assessment) is possible for the WCA itself, but I cannot find any mechanism by which my son can even proceed to this stage of a claim without physically attending the jobcentre and meeting the “work coach.”

I would appreciate if anyone could give advice about how we should go about this. Will the requirement for him to attend the job centre be waived in light of his disabilities, or will someone from the DWP be willing to come to the home? While this would be difficult in itself, it would at least be manageable if it could take place in a familiar environment.

Many thanks.

Replies

  • wilkowilko Member Posts: 2,352 Disability Gamechanger
    Hello and welcome, you are asking a very difficult question, have phoned the DWP or the job center to find out what their policy is regarding claimants who are not able to attend such places or interviews because of their mental health problems. This would at least let you know where you stand how you may have to adjust or find another way to accommodate the DWP if they will not make adjustments to ease the stress for your son. Keep us updated and let us know how you get on.
  • Firefly123Firefly123 Member Posts: 525 Pioneering
    Hi. Our sons have the same issues I could not find anyway around it and yes I understand the stress and anxiety it causes Are you his appointee? If unable to work would need sick notes and then it's up to the work coach until he gets the assessment form that's as far as we have got so far 
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected

    I’m not his appointee. It was considered but we decided he would be better off if he dealt with his own money. He doesn’t have any learning difficulties and would prefer to have the money paid into his own account so we more or less ruled it out as an option. I believe the DWP would refer to me as his representative.

    Sick notes will be no problem as the GP is aware of his difficulties. He has also had a recent psychological assessment (which had to take place at home) which elaborates quite extensively on his day-to-day challenges and how he does not leave the house or interact with anyone other than myself.

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had similar difficulties, Firefly123. I would still be immensely surprised if there wasn’t some way around this; there surely must be contingencies for claimants who can’t attend due to physical or mental disability? Perhaps in these cases it’s intended that an appointee attends on their behalf, but such an arrangement doesn’t seem suitable here as my son is capable of managing his own money. As I understand, they’re obligated to make a reasonable adjustment under the equality act, though I’m not sure if this can extend as far as to exempt him from an interview, or even just to allow him to have it at home where he’s less likely to have a panic attack or meltdown.

    I will keep this thread updated. I intend to phone the DWP on Monday and see what they suggest. It’s scary how little information is out there about a situation that should, at least in theory, be quite common.


  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi,

    This is a very difficult situation.

    What is the reason for claiming UC? You say he's never worked so what benefits has he been claiming up until the claim for UC?

    The issue we have here is the UC claimant commitment that has to be signed when applying. A PIP claim doesn't automatically give a person LCWRA and fit notes from a GP doesn't mean that the work related requirements will be turned off. It's down to the discretion of the job coach. Some will drop the required amount of hours, few will turn them off completely. If the work requirements are not completed then a sanction could happen. Yes it's very unfair but there's nothing fair about UC. It's totally different to claiming ESA and just sending in the fit notes while you wait for your assessment.

    Another issue you have is that you're not his appointee. Being his representative is not the same and attending appointments on his behalf may not be possible and you may have to go down the home visit route, if that's even possible.

    I wish i had some specific advice for you but i really don't. I wish you both good luck and please do come back and update the thread because i'll be very interested to hear what happened.
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • RipplesRipples Member Posts: 189 Pioneering
    @capybara23 I believe you can verify identity online but it involves scanning or uploading copies of identity documents to a third party site ( like the Post Office)'  then inputting  the code they give you into a box on the UC application. It seems like a lot of hassle. Secondly you might be able to arrange an appointment where you hand in his documents personally  for them to photocopy.
    Unfortunately I am not sure how you will get around him signing  his commitment. 
    Has he ever worked?  If he has never worked or has been out of work for sometime  it would be unlikely that they would mandate him to start seeking work  in any intense way. If you get a doctors  certificate and make it clear that he will be seeking to be assessed for Limited Capability for Work his commitments to receive UC will be light given the other circumstances.
    I very much doubt if they will send someone out to you but nothing is lost by enquiring.
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected
    @poppy123456
    He claimed ESA several years ago. He was placed in the support group and did not have to attend a face-to-face assessment. He stopped his claim in 2015 after inheriting money from his late grandfather, which has since been exhausted. Recently he successfully claimed PIP after I persuaded him him that they could likely assess him on submitted evidence without a face-to-face, which was indeed the case (though it did take a few phone calls to sort out.)

    I do understand that a PIP award doesn't automatically entitle him to the LCWRA element, but there is significant overlap between the criteria, and having looked at the requirements for LCWRA I am absolutely certain he will receive it.

    @Ripples
    He has never worked, having left school at 17 as he found himself unable to cope with the pressure of 6th Form. He did claim JSA for a brief period, but we realised that getting a job, let alone keeping it, would be incredibly difficult for him - even getting him to the Jobcentre to sign on was a struggle, as he could not use public transport or speak to his adviser alone.
  • lizzieloz30lizzieloz30 Member Posts: 57 Courageous
    Hello, 

    I don't think my post just uploaded.

    I've been on UC since Feb an so i've signed my claiment commitment on my online account (you just have have to accept the commitment, via a button) as I struggle to leave the house.

    A phone call will need to take place though, via himself or his appointee. Ring the man tomorrow. 
  • lizzieloz30lizzieloz30 Member Posts: 57 Courageous
    I have phone call appointments now, as I can't go in and my commitment says I must do everything I can to look for work, but they switched it off so it doesn't apply to me. 
  • lizzieloz30lizzieloz30 Member Posts: 57 Courageous
    Also your Identify Ian verified online when you apply if you have a passport and bank card. 

    You will need a numbered code though for his online account. I'm sure they could post this out to you if needs be. 
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected
    @lizzieloz30
    Thanks for the information. Did you not have to attend the Jobcentre at any point at all, not even for an initial appointment? I've heard about the online commitment but was under the impression that they require an interview so that they can give you a more personalised agreement tailored to your circumstances, at least until the WCA is completed.

    Telephone would still be exceptionally difficult for my son, but I think if I were to do most of the talking on his behalf then he would be able to manage it; it's preferable to having to attend face-to-face appointments, at least.

    Do you still have to keep in touch with them via phone? If they've turned off the commitment then I assume you're awarded the LCWRA component, but I was under the impression that this meant no further contact was required.
  • lizzieloz30lizzieloz30 Member Posts: 57 Courageous
    Hi @capybara23

    I did attend an initial appointment at the JC at the very start, to get given my gateway code for UC and to accept my original claiment commitment. I did however not tell them I couldn't go, I went with someone and then after this I did not have to return. Since then any changes to my commitment I have just accepted via my online account. 

    Had I prostested against going originally I'm not sure what would have happened. But everything on UC is now done online, so I don't see why, you couldn't just speak on the phone on behalf of your son & then log into his account to accept. Also the code they give you could be given to you over the phone I'm sure. 

    I'm currently in the process of applying for sick under UC. Been submitting sick notes since Feb. I had to accept the will do anything to look for work commitment to set my claim up, but once I accepted it, the job centre turned it off, so even though it says I have to look for work, I don't. 

    My advice would be to give them a ring & see what they say. 
  • lizzieloz30lizzieloz30 Member Posts: 57 Courageous
    @capybara23 Also I do have to keep in contacts with them via phone every 6 weeks roughly. Brief phone call just checking how I am and has anything changed. 
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected

    Positive news.

    It seems that the DWP do have a protocol for these circumstances; their guidance stipulates a home-visit should be considered “when a claimant has been identified as being vulnerable or having complex needs”. Sadly it’s not very well documented, and it doesn’t mention the UC interview explicitly, though it does suggest it may be appropriate in circumstances such as explaining WRA requirements to a claimant who cannot leave their home.

    It would therefore seem that a refusal to conduct a mandatory interview at our home would be in breach the Equality Act. As there’s already an established precedent for such visits (at least for similar purposes) it would be difficult for them to argue that such an adjustment isn’t “reasonable” given my son’s condition.

    However, he still appears to be at the mercy of the “work coach” until he undertakes a WCA and is determined to have a limited capacity for work-related activity. I’ve read through the UC Regulations and it seems he will be exempted from any form of work-search (including “any action prescribed for the purpose of obtaining paid work”) under section 99(5)(c). This also exempts him from the “work availability requirement”, meaning he does not have to be available for work.

    Unfortunately, they are still able impose the “work-focused interview requirement” and the “work preparation requirement”, the latter which may require him to take part in training or work placements. However, I’m not sure how they could legally sanction him for failure to attend given his severe anxiety and agoraphobic symptoms would likely constitute “good reason” for failing to comply, so it seems unlikely they would choose to impose any such requirements, even if they legally can. They are likely also required to make reasonable adjustments when it comes to any "work preparation" activities or interviews, so I imagine in most cases they will just choose to suspend all requirements pending the outcome of the WCA and any subsequent appeals.

    I am not a lawyer so I might be wrong about all of this, but this is more or less the situation as I understand it. I will update this thread with anything else as I hope it can be useful to others who find themselves in a similar position.

  • RipplesRipples Member Posts: 189 Pioneering
    @capybara23 it's good to know so that the information might help others in the future.

  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected
    Just to update this.

    I've been trying to ring the UC helpline every night after I get home from work, but despite staying on the line for over an hour each time they've never bothered to pick up. This was for the general enquiries option, if anyone is curious.

    We decided to go ahead and apply online today. Sadly he was unable to verify his identity, so he is now expected to book an interview to provide the relevant documents. He's also expected to hand his fit note in to his local Jobcentre, either in person or by post. Nothing yet about having to sign any claimant commitment, but I guess they're waiting on ID and intend to do this in the same interview.

    I will now have to call their appointment line on Monday and hopefully I will get to speak to someone sympathetic and who is willing to make the necessary referral to the visiting team. I'm trying to remain hopeful, but I feel this is just going to be a massive battle.
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    As you're not his appointee then he will have to call DWP and go through security and then tell them that you'll speak on his behalf.

    There's still a massive hurdle to get through because a PIP claim doesn't automatically give him LCW and signing the claimant commitment means he's agreeing to the work commitments. If his work coach doesn't agree to turn them off completely then he's likely to be sanctioned. UC is a nightmare unless you have LCW. Good luck and please keep us updated.
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected
    @poppy123456

    We've got a signed letter declaring me his representative, which I will give to the Jobcentre along with his sick note on Monday. It might take a while to get put on to the system, but as per the DWP's guidance this should be sufficient to allow me to speak on his behalf.

    I understand that PIP doesn't automatically qualify him for anything under UC, but having looked through the descriptors I'm certain he will ultimately qualify for the LCWRA element.

    In regard to the claimant commitment, I am hoping to take advantage of Regulation 16(b) of the UC Regulations 2013, as seen here:

    16. A person does not have to meet the basic condition to have accepted a claimant commitment if the Secretary of State considers that–

    (a) the person cannot accept a claimant commitment because they lack the capacity to do so; or

    (b) there are exceptional circumstances in which it would be unreasonable to expect the person to accept a claimant commitment.

    I believe this is where they can simply just turn them off completely, and since they've done similar for others it would likely be discrimination not to do so here as well. Additionally, if someone being unable leave the house or talk to people without experiencing severe anxiety and panic doesn't count as "exceptional circumstances" then I would be very curious to know what does.

    I'm also unsure if they can even sanction him given he will have permanent "good cause" for not complying with anything but the most basic requirements.

    Of course, I will update again once I've made headway with them.
  • capybara23capybara23 Member Posts: 8 Connected
    Everything worked out in the end.

    They agreed to do a home visit for the initial ID check - sadly we were unable to verify online, probably due to his lack of credit history. The visiting officer didn't actually require my son to be present for verification, so I'm not sure why they wouldn't allow me to just go into the Jobcentre to present ID. At least it saved me the trip so I can't exactly complain there! She did discuss me becoming his appointee, but I asked to simply be his representative and they concurred that this is generally their preference in these situations as well. They asked for a written letter of authority (which I already had prepared) and have had no issues speaking to me on his behalf.

    The commitments interview was essentially waived, although they did speak to me over the phone to get some general information about his qualifications, what he did all day, and if he has ever worked or attends any sort of supported education. They agreed to communicate exclusively through the online journal or post, and to allow me to bring fit-notes to the Jobcentre on his behalf.

    He did have to accept a claimant commitment, but only a very basic one that asks him to report changes in circumstances. It also asks him to participate in meetings, though after querying this with his work coach this is apparently just part of the default commitment and is unable to be changed. They have given verbal assurance he won't be expected to do this, and he even took the time to explain how he couldn't practically be sanctioned anyway. His de facto conditionality is essentially nothing, other than for him to eventually complete the WCA.

    From what I've been told, they are essentially required to make these adjustments, and they'd likely have to continue doing so even if he somehow "failed" the WCA. Essentially, they can't make him do anything that puts him at a substantial disadvantage, and to do so is likely going to be judged as discrimination. I didn't spell this out to them, but I think their own guidance is aware of this, hence why they are so accommodating.

    Now we will simply wait to receive the UC50 and complete the WCA. I'm not too worried about this part since it's essentially the same as it was under ESA, and he got into the support group multiple times without any face-to-face.

    If anyone has any questions about this whole process then I'll do my best to help; there's such a lack of information about this side of UC and it can be quite daunting with some of the stories out there about work coaches who are downright cruel.
  • Firefly123Firefly123 Member Posts: 525 Pioneering
    Glad to hear you got it sorted. They don't make anything easy with UC 
  • LouiseAinsleyLouiseAinsley Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I am in the process of just starting to claim for my son who is exactly the same - I have verified his identity on line, but I ma dreading the next stage of calling for the appointment....I also did not realise he would be entitled to PIP. Any advice? I'm about to call UC now on his behalf. Do you mind if I email you directly capybara23 .. this whole thing seems like a minefield.
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    I am in the process of just starting to claim for my son who is exactly the same - I have verified his identity on line, but I ma dreading the next stage of calling for the appointment....I also did not realise he would be entitled to PIP. Any advice? I'm about to call UC now on his behalf. Do you mind if I email you directly capybara23 .. this whole thing seems like a minefield.
    Hi,

    I'm a Community Champion here on scope. I'm afraid we don't allow personal email address use here on scope. Once you've made a certain number of post (not sure how many exactly) then you can private message other forum users.

    As for your son's UC claim. May i ask if he's a student? If so, does he claim any student loan?

    does he live at home or with a partner?  It's difficult to give advice without knowing more of his circumstances.
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • LouiseAinsleyLouiseAinsley Member Posts: 2 Listener
    No he's not a student, has no student loan, he lives with us his parents. Capybara's initial post seemed to be exactly the same position that I am in now with my son, down to even her sons age.
  • jayneburns71jayneburns71 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Can I just say I was pretty lucky with UC. I've been total housebound for many years as I am extremely agoraphobic! I explained on the phone that I haven't stepped out of my house in years and said what I had missed out on weddings, funeral ect... I phoned my doctor's for a fit note and told UC I was waiting for that but the man said he could tell I wasn't fit for work and said he would turn off my looking for work and just to tell him when I had my fit note... I must have just caught them on a good day.. 
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Testing team Posts: 7,997

    Scope community team

    That's for sharing your experience @jayneburns71, they are supposed to take your circumstances into consideration when deciding your claimant commitments, but we've definitely seen that isn't always the case. I'm glad yours was helpful! :)

    When did you apply for UC and were you claiming anything beforehand?

    Senior Community Partner
    Scope
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