Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Feb 19, 2017 21:54:27 GMT
The danger of advice centre cut backs
Growth in informal on-line advice forums creates new risks for clients
It greatly concerns me that an increasing amount of welfare benefits advice is being given out on social media, all of which I'm sure is provided with good intention, but it horrifies me to see how much of it is just plain wrong.
The advice sector warned of this when faced with cuts, the government didn't listen, and more and more of these help groups are springing up. I'm all for a bit of peer support and helping people who can't access the proper help they need, but some of the advice being given is positively dangerous. In particular advice over what changes need reporting, the difference between income and contribution based benefits and the qualifying criterion are frequently wrong. I, and others working in the sector, pick up the pieces when people fall foul of the rules, often because the client tells me "this is how they were advised to complete a certain form etc".
The trouble is that by the time this has happened, the damage is already done, the DWP and LA's will soon remind you how it is your responsibility to check what you declare, a potential over-payment is imposed and all too often the client ends up being the subject of a criminal investigation. Undoing the damage involves a massive amount of work in challenging decisions and so forth. Proper training, funding, and insurance indemnity is an absolute must as is some kind of accreditation in recognition of quality of advice.
Another area where the government gets an easy ride is through the decreased work which is being done on social policy. Every case of injustice which people comment about on here should be part of a much wider exercise in bringing all of these cases to the attention of the MPs who in many cases voted for the reforms which have increased the scope for all of this damage. Perversely, I see a fair number of people turn to the very MPs who voted for this carnage asking them to help fix the damage.