Although Daniel Blake is a fictional character, the theme of this film was very familiar to us at seAp Advocacy. So many people find themselves lost in the benefits system, with profound effects on their physical, financial and mental wellbeing. We have seen first hand the fear and anxiety experienced by many people going through the medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments. The impact of getting the wrong outcome to the assessment can be devastating. We saw the difficulty that Daniel Blake had in making himself heard and understood and how difficult it was to challenge a system that he relied on for his survival. For whatever reason, anyone could find themselves in this vulnerable situation and would benefit from an advocate.
In Hastings, we are able to offer an Advocacy service to those applying for ESA or PIP empowering them to get the right decision the first time - by supporting them through the process, and helping them to clearly and accurately convey their situation. We have seen the power of advocacy to transform lives and in some cases to literally save lives. We believe that if government is serious about social equality then advocacy services should be available to anyone who needs that support. If Daniel Blake had an advocate, his outcome may have been very different.
Our experience of providing face-to-face Advocacy in Hastings led us to develop on-line support tools that aim to provide the same level of reassurance and preparation to a much larger audience of people going through the system, with or without support. Since January 2016 we have had nearly 35,000 unique visitors to the PIP site, equivalent to 1 in 17 of the total number of people in the whole of the UK registering a claim for PIP over that period. The ESA site had nearly 25,000 unique visitors, equivalent to 1 in 14 of the total number of people in the whole of the UK going through, or heading to, assessment for ESA over that period.
The mobile-responsive sites are completely free, independent and anonymous and include guidance on the process as well as the opportunity to experience and understand the questions posed at the medical assessment and to get an indication of the likely outcome. Please share the link www.c-app.org.uk as widely as you can to ensure that more people can find their voice. And please support seAp's campaign to encourage all local authorities and CCGs to invest in face to face advocacy services for those who are the most vulnerable or who are not able to use digital technology.