New ways of working
Liz Osborn, Mental Health Welfare Rights Caseworker, has had to find new ways of working with the local mental health support teams so that clients continue to receive the vital help they need. As Liz explains:
“I have continued to work within the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) offices during lockdown, as I felt that it was important to support the NHS staff as best I could during this difficult time. I also felt that unless I was physically present, staff would not think to approach me for help. As such, I have been able to continue to support clients, offering telephone appointments which, on the whole, have worked well. Having to adapt has been a challenge for both myself and clients, but I have managed to come up with alternative ways of assisting clients and offering help, with forms being left for me to complete or completing online forms whilst the client has remained on the phone. I have also continued to offer casework support with letters written on clients’ behalf.
“The reception staff at the CMHT offices have been extremely helpful, with clients coming in to sign consent forms and leaving documents for me. I have also been available for the CMHT staff still working in the office to ask for advice about various client related issues and to work with them to try and resolve these.This has been particularly useful for clients who are either in hospital or who would have struggled with the telephone advice. It has been rewarding to work in this way as a part of the CMHT team.
“The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) have also been very helpful during this time, especially so with new claims for Universal Credit. This has also been the case with the Westminster Benefit Service for housing benefit and council tax issues. They have accepted that we have had to change the way we work and are being more open to offering information to allow me to try and resolve issues in an informal way. This has been particularly helpful, as not all clients have been able to leave their home to come to the CMHT office to sign the necessary consent form, or even to post it to me.
“Although the DWP have suspended reviews of current benefit claimants, in terms of limited capability for work reviews or Personal Independence Payment reviews, they are still making some very negative decisions. So I have continued to support clients to challenge these. By being physically present in the CMHT offices I can access the NHS/CMHT online medical files to obtain clinic reports to support any challenge. This has also enabled me to discuss with doctors and support staff the best way to word supportive letters. So, on whole, the way I work has not changed too much and I have continued to support clients as best I can.
“ I have also enjoyed working at home, as I can work without the usual distraction of the office noise/disturbance, although at times it can be a bit boring with no one to chat to.“