A new helpline based in Leeds will support disabled people across the country as they seek urgent help with issues such as Universal Credit and controversial PIP assessments.
The service from Scope, which officially opened on June 21, is giving free advice and support to disabled people and their families nationwide.
Scope, which fights for equality for disabled people, receives between 150 and 200 calls per day.
Calls cover a range of queries but the top three issues people ring up about are benefits, housing and employment.
Catherine Murton, Scope National Delivery Manager said: “Universal Credit changes have had a big impact on disabled people’s lives so we get a lot of calls about benefits.
“We have always had a strong presence in Leeds so it is really exciting for that the helpline is finally fully operational as now we can help people across the community and the country with these kinds of issues.”
Opening the call centre was Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn who has been open in his criticism of the PIP assessment system – which has replaced the old disability living allowance.
In a column for The Yorkshire Evening Post in 2018, he wrote: “Nowadays, barely an advice surgery of mine goes by without someone asking for help with their personal independence payment (PIP).
“In far too many cases, the DWP is getting their assessment wrong. And while those affected seek justice – it can take a long time for appeals to be heard – they face stress, worry, uncertainty and debt.
People who have suffered enough because of their disability are now being made to suffer again by an unfair assessment system. And that’s why we need to continue to campaign to change it.”
At the event, he praised the new helpline and was and said the city would now have an “important national service.”
He said: “I am delighted to be opening the new Scope Helpline here in Leeds, which means that our city will now have an important national service, supporting disabled people and their families, based here.
“Scope does incredibly important work and this new service will continue to provide a lifeline for those who are in urgent of guidance and advice.”
As well as Universal Credit problems, the charity also receives a number of calls about social care, finance and employment.
Mark Hoddinott, a Helpline Advisor at Scope said: “A lot of the calls we receive are about benefits and PIP assessments and we offer advice and guidance to help and empower the users.
“We can also really help disabled people who are looking for employment.
“I am disabled myself and I have been in the position of being out of work and looking for jobs. Now I can offer guidance and sport to people who are in a similar position to what I have been in. It is great to give something back.”
The launch of the Leeds helpline means that the opening hours have been extended.
Specialist advisors are now available between 8am to 8pm on Monday to Saturday and on Sundays and most bank holidays from 10am – 6pm.
Mr Hoddinott said: “It’s great for the community of Leeds to have this new helpline and Scope to be prominent in the city.
“I am chuffed to bits that the Leeds helpline is now open. It’s good to get the word out there because as now we can increase the opening hours and hopefully reach more people than ever
“Now the Leeds office will be at the heart of making sure we can help disabled people and continue to fight for the equality of disabled people.”
To speak to someone at Scope, ring the freephone number 0808 800 3333.