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.
Hear Us, which is staffed and run entirely by people with experience of mental health issues, has received a £148,500 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charitable arm.
The charity will use the money to ramp up its peer navigator service, which helps people navigate 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.
Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee Dhruv Patel 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-today 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.”
Hear Us says it has seen an increase in the number of people needing support in recent years with the switch from so-called legacy benefits such as Income Support to the online-only Universal Credit.
It expects demand to continue to surge as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic – and the resultant impact on people’s jobs – continue to take their toll.
David Ashton, Hear Us welfare surgeries manager, added that “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.
“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.”