Thursday, February 16, 2012

Big Society Bureaucracy

As anyone who follows my blog or twitter already knows...I have the most amazing neighbours ever! There's a pile of crockery sitting on top of my microwave as I type, the different patterns showing just how many people have pitched in to help while I've been so poorly this winter. One lady had already declared her intention to run a 10k later this year and help fundraise towards my wheelchair, and now others are organising a fundraising gig to be held in a local bar on March 17th. Knowing me well, the person setting up the gig even made sure to tell me I didn't have to go if I didn't feel well enough! We're the kind of community that Cameron has tried so hard to define with his 'big society' and failed to do so. Which is perhaps partly because it's micro communities not big societies which work in this way. But I digress into rambling. Again. 

So, we've got the venue, the talent, the organisation, and the gig is good to go. Where we've stalled is the financial practicalities. It's not possible to use sites like justgiving without being linked to a registered charity to receive the money. It's also not possible for me to have the money put directly into my bank account because I'm in receipt of means tested benefits. So, I tried to get in touch with the DWP to see how to do this officially as it is technically possible to receive money for a specific purpose such as this without it being considered income. Technically, as I can't find anyone who actually knows how to do this.

First I tried the DWP Press Office on twitter. They didn't reply. So then I tried the local Jobcentre department who oversee income support. They didn't have a clue, which is understandable as it's far from a routine enquiry. After that I thought to try my Disability Employment Advisor. She didn't know either, but was able to tell me that the Income Support department had tried to contact me to say they didn't know...and made a note on my file which said 'treat as income'. I'm not thinking about the possibility of that note triggering a benefits investigation, particularly as I've already just been through a benefits investigation*. After a more in depth conversation with the DEA we decided the best thing to do would be for me to write to the DWP explaining the fundraising and copy my DEA into the letter because then if there were any problems later on I would know where a record of the letter had been filed.

So theoretically, all I have to do now is set up a paypal account to receive the funds. Except...this is the DWP, I'm on means tested benefits and I'm not confident with that uncertainty. I don't want to accidentally do something wrong then find out later when it's too late that it's classed as benefit fraud. I just want my wheelchair and to be able to enjoy how amazing it is that my community want to help support me in this way.

One suggestion was that the wheelchair appeal itself could be set up as a registered charity. I'm not sure whether such an appeal would satisfy the charitable requirements, but I do know how much work is involved in setting up a charity, and that I don't have the time or energy to do that. Another suggestion has been to find an established charity who are willing to have all the fundraising money donated directly to them and then pay for the wheelchair themselves. I'm not sure whether that would satisfy the charities accountants terribly well either.

So, I'm a bit stuck. I know the wheelchair will cost somewhere in the region of £6000. I have all this incredible support to help me raise that money....and so far nowhere I can send that money to be donated without possibly accidentally committing benefit fraud. This is where hopefully the collective knowledge of t'interwebs comes in... I'm hoping one of my readers might know exactly which form I have to fill in to let the DWP know that this money is for disabled specific stuff and not income, or what the DWP call this so the local jobcentre staff know what to look up on their computers. Or perhaps there's another way that this kind of fundraising can be done...

If anyone wants to come to the gig, I'll make sure details go up soon as available, but for now a preview to whet your appetite.



*which showed, unsurprisingly, that I'm claiming all my benefits genuinely, legitemately and not doing anything wrong.

17 comments:

Oya's Daughter said...

I have an idea - could it be given to your Lovely Carer type, who could then buy the wheelchair FOR you as a "gift"? This way she could act as your "trustee" and you wouldn't actually be handling the money at all?

Socrates said...

Just been through a benefits investigation? Umm.., if you'll excuse my language, wtf!?

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Socrates: Benefits Integrity projects are still running quietly in the background. It was a standard Income Support BI. No dodgy reports or accusations, just a randomly selected form....the one where they check if you're living alone etc. Filled form in, sent it back, got usual odd letter about recent change of circumstances not affecting benefits levels which I assume means everything's fine!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Oya's Daughter: I wondered about that too...no doubt she wouldn't mind, but it's a very big responsibility and I'm not sure if it has any potential to affect her individual financial circumstances (not benefits related)

sad times said...

Hi, I'm always trying to deal with sort of stuff myself. One eg. I was accepted for direct payments ( under assessed as moderate need) and have a small ill health pension.....after investigations of my accounts over 2 years and 5 years for one, I was asked did I have any disability related expense as all that can be off set. Cutting a long story short the direct payments were too expensive and complicated for as sick couple trying to do the best for themselves, as you are.
My suggestion is could it be classed as a 'disability related expense' therefore exempting it from income as far as the DWP are concerned? Just a thought.
I'm in full empathy of your situation. But good on you and I know these situations exacerbate health so take care too. X

Anonymous said...

if the people organising the fundraising , simply take the money and buy the wheel chair .then there is no need to worry about supposed income or even the need to involve the authorities at all . it's a gift .

Rowie said...

why don't you contact a company who is selling wheelchairs and explain the situation and they can be passed the money as and when it comes in until there is enough.. does that make any sense? I hope so! x

Mary said...

If it was me, and it isn't... I'd probably start with my friendly local mobility supplier as the person most likely to be up to speed on such things. I'd also ask at the local NHS Wheelchair Services dept, because "other people want to help me buy the chair I need rather than the one you'll give me," can't be an unusual scenario.

Beyond that I'd be at the same "ask the internet" stage as you are. Although if nothing else presented itself, approaching "established" charities like the Lions or the Rotary Club would be the most risk-free path.

The other thing that springs to mind and needs thinking about (sorry): what will you do if the chair you need costs £6,000 and your fundraisers manage £6,358.79?

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

Gifts are gifts and not considered income (something they regularly check out for me as I get a regular gift from my Grandfather). If they build up, though, they are capital. Any capital over £6k they calculate a tariff income from. So, that could be a problem. However, in principle, if someone else collected the money and gave you the chair as a gift, that *should* be fine, I think.

Gifts from complete strangers, however, do cause them to become a bit suspicious (I think).

Bill Kruse said...

What does your MP suggest?

The Goldfish said...

I received my chair as a gift and I'm certain I didn't commit any fraud (although mine was second hand). But I received the chair, the money never passed through my hands.

I think you need someone to be your "trustee", an involved individual who isn't on means-tested benefits. I don't think their tax could be effected in any way as the money is passing through for a specific purpose, but if they opened a bank account especially, entitled it clearly etc., I can't imagine there'd be any problem. Whilst I do think it meets criteria for charitable status, it's only just over the £5000 that requires official registry and you're right about the work involved for a one-off.

As Sam says, gifts are gifts. Someone could buy you a car or a house and it wouldn't effect your benefits - but the moment you had the *money* in your account, it'd be capital and they make judgments about "reasonable expenses" to avoid a situation where people with savings who lose their income can't just blow the lot overnight on a holiday in order to qualify for Income Support. To be honest, such matters usually come down to discretion and I can't imagine they'd penalise you for receiving money for something so essential to your quality of life, but it'd be great if you can avoid the extra form-filling and finger-crossing that would entail.

Really hope you can sort something out and hope the gig is a great success!

BubbleGirl said...

I'd ask the wheelchair place if they have payment plans available to pre-pay for your chair, and have the money go directly to the company. That way, once the chair is paid for, they can refuse any new donations coming in. Unfortunately, as I'm from Canada, I don't know all of the ins and outs of paperwork involved.

I hope it all works out for you.

Chris said...

A charity, eg Ehlers-Danlos Support UK, may be willing to accept donations on your behalf. The donors would have to specify that their donations are for you, eg the 'Kaliya Wheelchair Fund'. It's been done before.

Paul Treloar said...

You can have up to £6,000 without means-tested benefits being affected at all. Over £6,000 and less than £16,000 means that you have something called a tariff income applied, whereby your means-tested benefit is reduced by £1 for every £250 above £6,000 - i.e. if you have £6,001, they take away £1 per week, if you have £6,251, they take away £2 per week etc.

So on the face of it, you shouldn't really have a problem as long as the donations don't go over £6,000. Might be a good idea to seek some independent advice from a Citizens Advice or a Law Centre, if you are worried.

Anonymous said...

You may be able to find a small local charity that will help with handling the money. I'm a director/trustee of a community development trust (charity) that handles money for quite a few local
causes/purposes. We can hold money on trust for others and it can be held as 'restricted' funds, i.e. money that we hold but that can't be used for any other purpose.

I can't offer that we'd do this for you because you're outside our 'patch' but look around locally and see if there's an equivalent of us where you live.

sad times said...

Just do it! Who on earth can diss this. Sounds like under £6k is all ok. This is life changing for you. Enjoy.... Saving nhs loads of money in long term. Just do it. X

Penelope said...

Do you know @Imogen__May or @techiebabe on twitter? I know at one point they were trying to raise money for an AAC in similar circumstances so they may have an idea about how to manage the money without impacting means tested benefits.