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Office with 'To let' sign4 March 2010

The future is looking increasingly bleak for claimants who need help with benefits problems as more and more welfare rights workers face joining the dole queue

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has revealed its ‘procurement plan’ for paying for welfare benefits advice in different areas of the country. The plan will see cuts in funding for welfare benefits advice amounting to 50% in some counties.  In addition, the LSC are giving preference to agencies which provide a service in more than one locality.  This means that smaller local advice agencies will be put under even more severe financial pressure and some may disappear altogether.

Just as worryingly, much of the LSC funding is now being diverted to telephone based services.  These often employ call centre workers with minimal benefits knowledge who give information based on what is in front of them on a computer screen.

This is happening at a time when the need for knowledgeable benefits advice is rapidly increasing because of the introduction of ESA with its complex regulations and very high refusal rate.  Once current incapacity benefits claimants begin to be moved onto ESA in 2011 the demand for advice and representation is likely to skyrocket.

But whilst the demand will be massive, it seems the government is already taking steps to ensure that the supply is next to non-existent.  Benefits and Work suspects that this is  particularly cynical example of ‘joined-up thinking’.

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