Changes to the welfare benefits system over the past year has given cause for great concern from many who are partially or wholly reliant on support payments. The move to universal payments and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in particular is one area that service users with us at Positive Life have highlighted issues around time and again. We have received hundreds of queries in relation to PIP and Employment & Support Allowances and the levels of anxiety that the transition has created is only increasing and exacerbating the challenges faced by people living with HIV.
This is a complex system to navigate. Many of our service users are confused about what support they can access, and how to spot if they are not maximising their entitlements.
At Positive Life much of the important work is hidden behind the scenes and often isn’t front and centre due to the range of work that we do. Our advice provision in partnership with Advice Space, is one support service that is vital to the wellbeing of our service users. Recently we have helped more than 20 service users gain access to tens of thousands of pounds they hadn’t realised they were entitled to. This is a huge success for us all and clearly demonstrates the impact we’re having and how we help improve the lives of those who come to us for advice and support.
Let’s face facts – being HIV positive in Northern Ireland isn’t easy. People still experience high levels of stigma and the lack of knowledge and understanding around the condition continues to create many barriers. With this in mind, we’ve recently worked in collaboration with Capita and the Department to deliver a training programme for Disability Assessors, who will now be better informed when completing applications from claimants who are HIV+.
We’re chuffed that we have been able to be involved at this level and will continue to advocate and support our service users to ensure that those who need it, get all the help they are entitled to.