A mental health charity in Croydon will be able to help twice as many people manage their finances, access benefits and maintain vital social contact.
The charity will use the money to improve its peer navigator service, which helps people find their way through the often complex benefits maze and support them to challenge decisions where they’ve been unfairly refused benefits.
It will also help people access discretionary payments from local authorities and to access the Motability and Freedom Pass schemes to ensure they can maintain their independence and stay connected.
“The benefits system can be very complicated and often if people run into problems or get a negative decision they just give up, because they don’t know the next step or they just don’t have the energy to fight,” David Ashton, Hear Us welfare surgeries manager, said.
“It really helps that all of us have had mental health issues so we can use those experiences to help others, and people know when they come to us they can talk about their difficulties without being judged.
“People often tell us that just by talking to us they feel like a weight has lifted off their shoulders and they feel more hopeful knowing that they’ve got support and they don’t have to face these issues alone.”
Hear Us says it has seen an increase in the number of people needing support, with the switch from Income Support to the online-only Universal Credit.
Susan Ellis, 57, from Thornton Heath, is a client of Hear Us and has received help accessing benefits, applying for discretionary and mobility schemes and obtaining food parcels during the pandemic. “Coming to Hear Us has helped me immensely. I don’t know what I would have done without their help – if I was faced with these difficulties on my own, I wouldn’t have coped.
“Hear Us has given a lot of support and help which has made these difficulties and my life more manageable. Having mental health problems themselves, they have understanding and compassion and they always go that extra mile for me.”
Dhruv Patel, the chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said: “People who have mental health issues are far more likely to find themselves in poverty, and to need access to benefits, due to the day-to-day difficulties they experience in getting and holding down a job.
“The support from Hear Us is invaluable, not just in supporting people to keep on top of their finances and keep food on the table, but also in helping people access the transport they need to maintain social ties which are vital for good mental health.”
More information about Hear Us is available online at www.hear-us.org.
Charity funder City Bridge Trust is London’s biggest independent grant-giver, making grants of more than £25million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital.
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