About: Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

(as a staff member),

Health related benefits are going through enormous changes which appear to be having a negative effect on the people that as a Trust we represent:

J’s story

J came to our service (The Social Inclusion and Wellbeing Service of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust) with extreme anxiety and depression. J needed lots of support and coxing to move out of what he describes as his bubble. J was frightened of coming out of the bubble due to his distorted view of the world which has been formed due to the symptoms of anxiety and depression that he experiences.

We (as a service) have supported J to move away from that bubble and get involved in the activities that we offered. J started woodwork at the SPAN centre where he learnt to use his hands in a therapeutic way. This was a start to J being able to manage his symptoms more effectively. J went on to join the IT classes which he really enjoyed and with support J was able to achieve a level 2, award in ICT. With a marginal change in J’s confidence we were able to encourage J to do voluntary work with us in which he supported the other students in the IT classes. J enjoyed giving back and became interested in teaching.

We supported J to access teacher training with on-going support from us. J went on to achieve the level 5, diploma in Adult Teaching and more recently achieved Qualified Teacher status (Learning and Skills). None of this came easy for J; he required lots of support and guidance to work through the qualifications and the distressing symptoms he experiences, J continued to rely on his bubble as a coping/avoidance technique.

We went on to support J to access supported permitted work within the Trust enabling him to use the skills he worked so hard for. The post is in a supportive environment which has enabled J to cope with part-time work at minimum wage rate. J really enjoys this role and manages the 15 hours reasonably well; although he never seems to be free of the on-going symptoms that he experiences. J’s mood remains fragile albeit that he is managing the work really well.

J recently received notification that Incapacity Benefit was being withdrawn and he also received a questionnaire about his health and his capacity to work. J completed the questionnaire and attended the subsequent medical. A little while later J received a letter to say that his benefits would be stopping as he had been assessed as having capacity. The psychiatrist who is heading J’s care made it clear to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that J currently has limited capacity to work, hence our support for J on the supported permitted work, which we viewed as on-going therapy to help maintain J’s mental state and coping. Although ultimately the goal would be for J to do more independent work there is a little way to go yet as regards J’s recovery.

Following this J had a letter from the council to say that his housing benefit was being stopped due to the DWP having stopped his benefit. As we had launch an appeal against the DWP’s decision J had to go and have his housing benefit reassessed and subsequently the housing benefit was reinstated. Having had his Incapacity Benefit withdrawn J no longer had the money to live on; the benefits agency then said they required a sick note this is despite them having the supported permitted work registered and they were aware of our on-going involvement in J’s care and recovery.

J has now received a letter to say that he will be receiving ESA at a contribution rate whilst the appeal goes through. This means that J’s income is significantly reduced on top of which J’s housing benefit has been withdrawn again due to the ESA contributions not giving him the same access to housing benefit as his previous benefits. Housing benefit has also presented him with a bill for £400 due to the above changes.

It is unforgiveable that J is going through such a stressful time due to the benefit review. J is trying to improve his future by accessing supported employment but has unfortunately fallen foul of the current benefits review. J will not be able to afford to pay his rent or Council Tax and the likelihood is that J will end up being evicted.

Currently J is experiencing panic attacks and increased anxiety which appears to have been exacerbated as a direct result of the negative effects of the needless stress that J has been put under due to the benefits review. The psychiatrist working with J has increased his medication and remains concerned for his current welfare. J’s only hope is that his appeal is heard soon which is looking unlikely. I am going to write to the DWP again today and will feedback how this goes.

I wrote to the Prime-Minister who directed my letter to the DWP some 6 weeks ago unfortunately I haven’t received a reply as yet. One of my colleagues is due to meet with her MP today. J met with his MP last week to highlight his plight. I intend to send the Prime-Minister a link to this story.

I have also asked Mike Cooke our CEO to look at the issue of benefit reforms and the effect this is likely to have on the growing number of people we support as a Trust. As part of Mike’s answer to this he encouraged me to take the issues to the Mental Health and Employment – Community of Interest. I attended the meeting last night and put forward my concerns. This was quite productive, one of the actions that were decided upon was that the Community of Interest would gather evidence to look at what is actually happening to the service users that we support due to the health related benefits reform. This is where I hope you will help us gather this information:

How can you help?

If you or a client you are working with is experiencing or has experienced anything similar to J’s story then we would ask that you get in touch. Your details will remain confidential.

Ways you can help

• Write a reply or tell your story (anonymously) on the Patient Opinion site

• Email me tim. wood@nottshc. nhs. uk

• Write to Mental Health and Employment Community of Interest (Care of Tim Wood) The Ivy Suite Highbury Hospital, Bulwell, Nottingham NG6 9DR

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Jane Danforth, Involvement Team , Involvement & Experience, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

picture of Jane Danforth

Thank you for sharing J's story.

We will be following this up via the Mental Health & Employment Community of Interest and update on any developments.

I hope people will take an interest and comment on this site or via the contacts above.

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Response from Catherine Pope, Associate Director Allied Health Professionals Clinical Director,, Allied Health Professionals Clinical Director, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Thank you Tim

The Mental Health and Employment Community of Interest shared your concern about the impact of the benefit reforms on service users with mental health problems

I would echo your request for people to share their stories so that we can gather evidence to help us try and highlight these problems

Obviously we think that employment is very important for people's long term recovery but this can be a long journey for some patients and its really sad that all the progress J made towards getting back to work has been put at risk in this way, but even more worrying to hear about the negative impact this is having on his health

We will be discussing this further at our community of interest meetings to see what we can do both to help service users and to highlight the issue with decision makers

If people would like more information about or to join our community of interest they can e-mail me at catherine.pope@nottshc.nhs.uk

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