We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who responded to our article on the future of the Benefits and Work forum. An overwhelming 150 people contacted us to say they would be interested in being trained to be a moderator.
The most common motivation of people who responded was the desire to give something back and to be of service to people in the same position as themselves. Here’s just a small selection of the comments we received:
“I'm a full time carer for my disabled husband, and it would be rewarding to give something back to the forums that have helped me in the past.”
“The help you give is invaluable, it saves so much anxiety and gives claimants an insight into how to word their answers to best effect. I would love to offer my services and give a little back.”
“I have used your site for three or four years now and found it very informative. In fact I have used your website to help other people (voluntarily) over the years with so far great success. I'd love to help your organisation and help others in the same way that you guys have helped me.”
“I’d love to help! I think the idea of online benefits training is fantastic and I would love the opportunity to take part.”
“I was successful in my claim I feel mainly due to following the advice in your guides & support from Gordon in the forum. I really would like to give something back if you think I could help.”
“I have been a member of Benefits and Work for many years, and the help it has given me has been has been invaluable. I would love to be in the position to give back to this wonderfully supportive team.”
“I have found the site and advice extremely helpful re being transferred from DLA to PIP and would like to be able to support others.”
“Basically I would love to do anything that helps guide and support others through the process and help alleviate the stress induced. If you feel I could be of any help please do not hesitate to contact me.”
“Your excellent guides were no doubt instrumental in me receiving PiP and ESA, and I am keen to ensure that people are given all the information necessary to get the benefits they are entitled to.”
“You do a great job in what you do to help, indeed my first DLA award was definitely helped by your forums input, advice and online materials. I’d like to offer some of my time and give something back.”
“This would be a superb opportunity to contribute to a very much needed service.”
So, we got a very definite answer to our question about whether there are enough interested people to make it worthwhile writing the training.
As a result, we’ve already begun work on creating training relating to PIP claims, which will be followed by training on PIP appeals. Other subjects will follow.
But it will take some months before the training is up and running.
Apart from anything else, this will be the first time we have created an online training course. It’s all new to us and we want to make sure we provide training that actually works, which definitely isn’t always the case with online training.
So there will be new software and new techniques for us to master. Speaking of which, if there’s anyone reading this who has experience in this field, we’d be happy to hear from you.
On another positive note, there were a few people who got in touch who have sufficient knowledge to have a try at moderating straight away, so you will see some new names on the forum.
But please bear in mind these are people who are being thrown in at the deep end without any training at all.
We received a number of other suggestions about ways to ensure the future of the forum.
The most frequent one was to put up the price of a subscription to help cover the cost of the training or to allow us to pay welfare rights workers to act as moderators instead.
But we haven’t put up the price of a subscription for the site for many years. And with so many people suffering from the the effects of years of austerity we have no plans to do so.
We really do appreciate the offer by some members to pay more though, even if we’re not going to take it up.
Instead, we want the forum to remain a place where claimants support each other.
And we believe that support is going to be needed even more in the future.
Because, over recent years we’ve seen the virtual disappearance of legal aid for claimants and the resulting decimation of tribunal representation by voluntary organisations, who were often reliant on such funding.
Now we are witnessing the introduction of online appeals where claimants won’t even get the chance to put their case in their own words to an appeal panel after a mandatory reconsideration. Instead they will subject to continuous online resolution, where the ability to respond in writing to questions from a tribunal will be crucial.
So, we’re going to see this as an opportunity to build a training programme that will empower members to support each other to an even greater degree than you already do.
We aim to have enough moderators to support everyone who needs help with their appeal, both emotionally and in terms of understanding the process they find themselves caught up in.
So please, keep checking the newsletter for updates on how things are progressing.
And if you’d like to put yourself forward as a volunteer, we’re still happy to add to the list – especially if you have enough benefits knowledge to start moderating without training. Drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, enormous thanks to the new moderators who have bravely stepped into the breach and, as always, to Gordon who has been single-handedly supporting hundreds of claimants and making a difference to so many lives for years.