CAB and assessing advocacy and complaints data
Assessing advocacy and complaints data can also alert decision-makers to potential risks or systemic problems. Good communication can flow two ways between services providers and local advocacy groups and this can be evidence of compliance with the duty. Two examples are provided below.
A Staffordshire CAB took a call from a benefits officer at the local JobCentrePlus (JCP) about one of his clients, a man in his twenties receiving Job Seekers Allowance who was living with his mother. He previously claimed Employment Support Allowance because of mental health issues, but was found fit for work by Atos. The client was then caught in a catch 22 situation because the GP was unwilling to provide further sick notes after the work capability assessment found him fit for work. And as he had not satisified requirements for finding work he risked benefit sanctions. The benefits officer was concerned that the client's family were disinterested in his situation and social services were unwilling to provide support or advocacy as he was no longer considered vulnerable. He contacted the bureau so that the client could get some support. In doing so, the JCP staff member showed how individuals in public bodies can help with compliance by doing the right thing and identifying a person with ongoing mental heath issues who was falling through the bureaucratic cracks, risking deterioration in their condition and downstream costs to the authorities.
A London CAB reported that their client, an adult wheelchair user had been accepted by his local authority as homeless but was then housed on the first floor of a homeless hostel with no accessible bathroom, despite having had care package out in place for him by the same local authority arranged for essential activities of daily living. Whilst housing support workers provided by the authority had helped her apply, he was not deemed to have highest priority and had been left in the hostel for two years. The bureau wrote a complaint letter which argued both maladministration and failure of the local authority to meet their duties under PSED by leaving the client in unsuitable accommodation for so long; this helped achieve a positive outcome with the authority taking the duty into account without the need for legal action.
* Source: Public Sector Equality Duty: Submission to Government Equalities Office Review, Citizen’s Advice [April 2013]