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HWRSE

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HWRSE ...

    Liverpool City Council

    Housing

    Welfare

    Rights

    Service

    WELFARE BENEFITS MANUAL

     1 Updated 30/11/00 in compliance with Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999 and CLS Quality Mark Standard April 2000

    Community Legal Services Liaison Manager

? The named representative who will act as a focal point for the Community Legal Services Commission

    (CLSC) Liaison Manager for the HWRSE (HWRSE) will be the Welfare Rights Manager Terry Craven.

? He will be available during any audits conducted by the Community Legal Services Commission.

    ?

    ? He will notify the Community Legal Services Commission account manager of any alteration in the named

    representative, or if he leaves the HWRSE.

? Terry Craven as the manager of the HWRSE's activities, has sufficient standing within the City Council to

    ensure that any requirements of the Community Legal Services commission and any action required

    following the audits will be carried out.

    ?

    ? Terry Craven will make available to the CLSC information relation to status inquiries during the lifetime of

    any CLS quality Mark or funding.

    ?

    ? He will also advise the CLS of any adverse findings made by either the OSS and any claims made against

    our indemnity insurance during the term of the Quality Mark period.

    WELFARE BENEFITS

? May Stone (MS) Sharon Thompson (ST) Karen Beckett (KB) and Paul Hackett (PH) have been appointed

    as Welfare Benefits Supervisors having met the requirements of the Community Legal Services

    Commission as set out in Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April

    1999.

? All legal aid caseworkers will be trained to a sufficient level to recognize when there is a need for specific

    advice on welfare benefits. Such advice is to be obtained from the Welfare Benefits Department.

? It is MS,KB,STand PH’s responsibility to ensure that all legal aid caseworkers involved in the giving of

    advice in the HWRSE’s work are able to recognise the need for Welfare Benefit Advice and where

    appropriate refer clients to the appropriate source of advice using the procedure listed in this manual.

? MS,KB,STand PH’s will also ensure that any new supervisor/case workers will

    maintain a welfare rights caseload of their own.

? MS,KB,STand PH’s and any future supervisors employed by the HWRSE will

    attend at least 3 external training courses that are directly relevant to the

    provision of welfare benefits advice.

? MS,KB,STand PH’s will ensure that s/he can demonstrate enough direct

    supervision of welfare benefits cases to ensure she maintains her skills base.

    She will also maintain a caseload of more complex cases.

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    INDEPENDENT ADVICE.

? The HWRSE will provide independent advice to all its clients. Please refer to page 4 of the HWRSE Office

    Manual for a full copy of our independence statement.

    ?

    ? We will not be pressurised into acting in anything other than our client’s best interests.

? All case workers are aware of the Law Society’s Practice Rules and ethical guidance regarding conflict of

    interests, and will ensure that the appropriate action is taken promptly if any such conflict (or the real

    possibility of it) should arise.

    PRINCIPLES OF THE SERVICE:

1. General Statement

The service has a generic role and as such its work will bring it into contact with a variety of clients groups, for

    example elderly people, disabled people, young people, lone parents and other disadvantaged groups. These

    clients are over-represented amongst people living in poverty. It is therefore particularly important that the

    service is underpinned by the following principles: -

2. Equal Opportunity

Users of the service will be treated impartially and without discrimination. Increasing benefit entitlement is one

    step towards tackling the inequality that exists for actual and potential clients within the benefit system.

    3. Anti-Oppressive Practice

Increasing benefit to individual service users provides the opportunity for greater individual choice. The

    service will seek to promote the empowerment of service users providing the opportunity for individuals to

    decrease their dependence on other statutory services.

    SERVICES PLAN

The Welfare Benefits Department aims to offer services and advice in connection with that promotes the

    maximisation of income, maintenance of maximum income and development of an understanding of

    entitlement to income, through the complex legislation and administration of Social Security benefits.

? The services are to be provided primarily by offering a home visiting service. However, the office is open to

    provide advice and assistance to clients during normal office opening hours.

? Potential clients for Advice work will be Merseyside based and in the surrounding areas and will stem from

    referral, recommendation, advertisement, outreach work and through the HWRSE’s existing client base.

? The service will have a broader base as a consequence of forming a relationship with Registered Social

    Landlords to provide Welfare Benefits advice for their clients.

     3 Updated 30/11/00 in compliance with Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999 and CLS Quality Mark Standard April 2000

     ? See also the Centre’s General Services Plan 1999

    SUPERVISORS, SUPERVISION AND FILE REVIEW.

    ? The named supervisor for the Welfare Benefits Department will be Terry Craven. He is employed full time 35 hours a week at various offices throughout the City.

    ? He has been appointed as the Welfare Benefits Supervisor having met the requirements of the Community Legal Services Commission as set out in Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999.

    ? Should he be absent from work for any significant period of time or leave the employ of the HWRSE, then an alternate supervisor will be appointed by the City Council promptly. If the supervisor has to attend any relevant courses, the HWRSE will supplement attendance on the course by providing coaching/mentoring by another experienced supervisor.

    ? That temporary supervisor need not have the relevant two year experience, but by the time of the next periodical audit the HWRSE recognise that a suitably qualified supervisor will be put in place.

    ? The Welfare Rights Manager of the HWRSE will notify the Community Legal Services Commission immediately should any caseworker/supervisor leave the HWRSE, or be replaced as a supervisor.

During those times when casework is being provided in out reach offices, the supervisor will be available

    throughout the day for contact by individual caseworkers. Each caseworker may be equipped with a mobile

    phone. The supervisor has a mobile phone and a direct dial telephone facility. The supervisor is also

    connectable via e-mail from all the out reach offices served by the HWRSE.

If a caseworker requires a letter to be typed, then the HWRSE’s standard letters can be accessed via the

    computers wide area network or from a floppy disk or the hard disk of their laptop computer.

MS,KB,STand PH’s are responsible for

     (a) Checking incoming post in accordance with page 10 of the office manual

     (b) Checking or signing outgoing post in accordance with page 11 of the office

     manual

     (c) Conducting BI-Weekly review sessions with all caseworkers to look at -

     (i) New cases being taken on, and case plans in complex cases

     (ii) Progress of current cases of each case worker.

     (iii) Outcome of completed cases.

     (iv) Training needs in relation to legal knowledge and skills.

     (d) Checking of devolved powers

    (e) Looking at undertakings given. In accordance to page 12 of the office manual

    INTERNAL QUALITY CONTROL - FILE REVIEW

? As MS, KB, ST and PH’s are the persons responsible for the vast majority of the day to day conduct of the

    files within the Welfare Benefits department, they will be responsible for reviewing substantive legal issues on the files, as well as procedural points. This would include all Welfare Benefits files in the department, whoever has day to day conduct of them. Reviews will be carried out at least once every four weeks to ensure that the files remain active. This will be done by a periodic ‘cabinet trawl’ and data base analysis.

    ? When each file is reviewed the file will be marked to reflect that a review has taken place, even if it is to show that no action is currently required as at the date of the review.

    ? Where action is to be taken, then that action will be recorded on the file. If deficiencies on the file continue following any corrective action then the caseworker will be stopped from working on case files until the situation can be addressed whether by training or disciplinary procedures.

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    ? A central record of file reviews will be kept, in a file review diary, so that it is apparent when each file is next due for its review.

    ? All caseworker/supervisors or Welfare Rights Manager will every month carry out a procedural review of no less than 5 of the Files, of each case worker randomly selected and will record his review in the central diary of reviews. This must include samples of files of all work carried out under any CLS contract we may be awarded. If corrective action is needed then a time limit will be placed upon the file for that corrective action to be undertaken, and that time limit must at all times be reasonable depending on the particular circumstances of the case. The manager caseworker/supervisor will ensure that, at the end of the reasonable period set, that the corrective action has been taken and will record that on the central register. A checklist for each reviewed file will be completed, and kept on the file. Annexed to this manual is an example of the checklist.

    ? In pursuance of its desire to maintain a quality service the supervisor/project manager is not expected to

    run a large caseload. This is because the HWRSE consider the supervision and management of the

    service as a full time provision. However in those cases where the supervisor chooses to open a file, these

    files will be reviewed by the worker who is most senior in terms of experience at the time of the review.

    ? The supervisor will supplement the lack of caseload by providing case notes of substantial work carried out

    on casework files.

    ? At least annually there will be a review of the file review sheets to see if there are any recurring trends in corrective action being required, and this review will be documented. This is to try to cut down on the number of recurring trends.

    ? The caseworker has ultimate responsibility for consulting with the Welfare Rights Manager if the

    case they are handling is beyond their competence. Only they can ascertain this and bring it to the

    attention of the supervisor. Maintaining this approach will be seen as strength and a tool for

    identifying training needs.

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ALL FILES:

Requirement Y N

    Is the client’s name and address marked clearly on the outside of the file Has a benefit check been carried out and recorded on file Has appropriate information leaflet been sent Have your Say and Customer Survey If referral criteria met, has referral procedure been followed? Has advice been recorded + confirmed in writing if criteria met Have the clients legal/info needs been fully recorded? Has the correct advice been given based on these needs Is the status of the matter clear from the record?

CASEFILES ONLY

    Have letters been sent in line with procedures Have any key dates been recorded in the central diary? Have enquiries from the client been dealt with politely and promptly? Have the appropriate steps being taken/advice been given? Is the file being progressed as quickly as possible? Have reviews been carried out in line with procedure Is the file orderly, and the present position of the matter clear?

Comments

Corrective Action Required ; Date to complete by;

Corrective Action Completed;

    FILE MANAGEMENT

    INDIVIDUAL CASES - AT THE OUTSET OF THE CASE.

? After each attendance upon a client or telephone conversation as soon as is possible a note must be made

    of the conversation. Each note must record, so far as is applicable to the conversation

     (a) the requirements or instructions of the client.

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     (b) the advice given in answer to those instructions.

    (c) the action which it has been agreed that the client will take, and also the action which it has been

    agreed that the case worker concerned will take on behalf of the Centre.

     (d) the possible effect of the statutory charge.

     ? Where decisions have been made or action agreed that affects the case, the instructions received and the agreed action will be followed up in writing. Any letters written will be written in clear English, avoiding the use of jargon or too much terminology. The caseworker will have in mind the level of comprehension of the client so as to avoid being either patronising or baffling to a client.

    ? Where the advice given reflects a fundamental step in the case then the advice given will also be followed up in writing,

    ? If it is a major decision, for example the settling of a matter against the advice of the case worker concerned then the client will be asked to confirm their instructions in writing so as to avoid misunderstandings. The client being invited to sign a duplicate letter confirming the advice received and the agreed action to be taken will usually do this.

    ? The client will be told at the onset of the case who will be responsible for the conduct of that case, and the status of that caseworker.

    ? The client will be advised in good time of any inability of the HWRSE to be able to represent the client, or any unwillingness to act on behalf of a client, whether that be in a general capacity, or for a specific court date, or tribunal date. It must be made clear to the client from the onset, or as soon as practicably possible, that the HWRSE will not be in a position to represent the client for that part of the matter concerned.

    INDIVIDUAL CASES - PROGRESS OF THE CASE.

    ? Information as to the progress of any case (we do not charge for services) will be given to the client in writing: on request and in any event at any key stage,

    ? The client will also be advised of any change in case worker during the progress if the case.

    INDIVIDUAL CASES - AT THE END OF A CASE

    ? A client will be advised of the outcome at the end of the case. This will be done in writing as will the matters referred to below.

    ? The client will be advised that the file will be retained by the HWRSE for a period of at least 6 years after which time it may be destroyed. The client will be advised that the file can be retrieved up until that time.

    ? The client will be advised if the matter requires review in the future, for example where a claim has been awarded for a limited period, which future circumstances may make inappropriate.

    ? Closure checklist will be completed prior to storage of file and recorded on the first page of the file. A customer satisfaction survey will also be sent to the client.

    ?

    ? Returned satisfaction surveys will be stored in a central register and reviewed annually along with the complaints register in order to address any trends. Feedback both positive and negative will be relayed to the team as and when this is required.

     7 Updated 30/11/00 in compliance with Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999 and CLS Quality Mark Standard April 2000

    CASE RECORDING PROCEDURE

Every worker in the HWRSE must adhere to the following procedure. If there are any omissions by any worker

    the case file will be handed back to the worker responsible, and immediate remedial action must be taken and

    then handed back to the advice worker for outstanding action.

Following the procedure means that the HWRSE can provide a good standard of service to our tenants and will

    contribute to a more efficient use of individuals’ valuable follow-up time. Less time will be spent doing things

    that another advice worker should have done and correcting their errors. As well as ensuring good practice,

    following this procedure will also help other members of the team to deal with queries from tenants in the

    absence of a colleague.

    1. Case Files

     All case files must contain the following:

    ? Tenant Details Form

    ? Client’s name address and telephone number on outside of file.

    ? Action sheet(s)

    ? Opening letter

    ? Instructions letter

    ? Other correspondence relating to the case

    ? Referral sheet

    ? Authorization form to disclose details to Community Legal Services Commission

    ? Quick Benefit Calculation

    2. Tenant Details

     The tenant’s details must be clearly marked on the file as follows:

    ? Surname

    ? First name

    ? Address

    ? Telephone number

     e.g.

     Jones May

     32 Smith Street

     Liverpool L3 2AB

     0151 260 1111

3. Tenant Details Form

     The Tenant Details Form must be completed properly. The following details must be recorded:

    ? Name

    ? NI Number

    ? Date of birth

    ? Full address including the full post code

    ? Telephone number

    ? Partner’s details if applicable

    ? Savings

    ? Dependent children/others in household

    ? Weekly income

    ? Brief outline of case

     8 Updated 30/11/00 in compliance with Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999 and CLS Quality Mark Standard April 2000

    ? Applicable amount

    ? Income details

4. Statistical Recording Sheet

     All the fields on one SRS sheet must be ticked apart from:

    ? Amount awarded

    ? Community Care Grant awarded

    ? Benefit backdated amount

    ? Once a case has been resolved and benefit has been awarded this must be recorded on the SRS.

    ?

    5. File Notes

     If possible these should be typed and placed on the correspondence clip in order to provide a

    chronological record of every action carried out by the HWRSE on behalf of the tenant. Each action

    (e.g. phone calls, letters, visits) must be recorded once it has been carried out so a contemporaneous

    record can be built up. For letters in, a synopsis of the contents of the letter should be recorded.

    Accurate file notes ensure the following:

    ? An opening file note detailing client's instructions

    ? An outline of the case

    ? An up to date record of the case so far

    ? Colleagues have a clear picture of what action has been taken and what is outstanding and makes

    their job easier.

    ? Protection against accusations of alleged negligence on our part

    Case recording is an integral part of advice work and should not be viewed as a burdensome task.

    Where an advice worker is continuously failing to meet the agreed standard then the Welfare Rights

    Manager will take corrective action.

6. Correspondence

     Correspondence should be sent promptly, ideally within 5 working days. However, in recognition of

    the nature of the HWRSE’s work it would be reasonable to send out correspondence within 10 days of

    file opening, unless an appeal or review needs to be submitted. Responding to correspondence

    should not take more than 10 days from the date it was received by the HWRSE. If there are any

    problems in meeting this target please bring them to the attention of the Managing Welfare Rights

    Manager.

     In cases where workers are on leave for more than two days the Managing Welfare Rights Manager

    will go through their post and deal with any urgent matters.

    8. Reviews

     A case file will automatically be diarised for review on opening.

The automatic review times are as follows:

    Benefit Check 3 Weeks

    Social Fund 3 Weeks

    Overpayment 3 Weeks

    Crisis Loan 3 Weeks

    Income Support 4 weeks

    Housing/Council Tax Benefit 4 weeks

    Family Credit 4 weeks

    Other non-disability Benefit 4 weeks

    Attendance Allowance 6 weeks

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    Disability Living Allowance 6 weeks

    War Pension 8 Weeks.

    Once a file has come up for review and no action is necessary at the time the advice worker must

    diarise it for review once again, either by putting it straight in to the review diary

    The next review date must also be written on the Action Sheet. Further reviews must be noted in the

    same way throughout the life of the case file.

    Failure to follow the review procedure will result in:

    a) Case files remaining in the drawer without further action being taken

    b) Missing time limits for appeals and reviews

    c) Ultimately losing benefit for the tenant

? All documents must be placed on the file in the appropriate place. In each file there must be the following

    clips:-

     (a) Correspondence - this must be both incoming and outgoing, and will also contain file notes

    reflecting attendance and notes of telephone conversations.

     (b) All original documentation of the clients, for example P60s and payslips, must be kept in a separate

    envelope in the file, with an index or other identifying notes as to its contents, and the envelope must show

    clearly details of the name of the client, address, matter number, legal aid status, and legal aid reference

    number.

? When any new file is opened, a conflict of interest check will be carried out.

    ?

    ? Files are checked for inactivity manually at the file trawl that takes place regularly

    ? Care needs to be exercised when acting for a client in a number of matters so that it can be ascertained what is relevant to which file.

    ? Files need to be up to date, and tidy, with all-important information readily available so that someone else can readily check the status of the file, and any action required taken promptly.

    ? To that end, key information shall be displayed prominently on the face of the file, especially concerning undertakings given.

    ? Each file, will have, on the front of it details of the clients name, address, matter description, date of birth, surname at birth, and file number. It will also be clearly displayed whether the file contains correspondence or pleadings, and if appropriate, how many other files there are.

    ? All file notes, will have the clients name on them, and other documents will have sufficient information on them to establish from which file they originate.

    ? In the future it is planned that HWRSE have the use of a computer system which allows all relevant matters relating to the conduct of the case to be easily accessible if the same is not readily available from the face of the file. The system has the ability to show what other matters are ongoing on behalf of any particular client. It also has time recording, and the office and client ledger accounts relating to that file are easily available. By use of the database, checks can be made to ascertain what documentation is retained by the HWRSE on behalf of the client, and where that documentation is kept.

     10 Updated 30/11/00 in compliance with Not-for Profit Edition of Legal Aid Boards Quality Assurance Standards April 1999 and CLS Quality Mark Standard April 2000

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