Member Matters: Dementia and Welfare Rights

PFA General

Caring for a relative with dementia can be incredibly daunting and for many of our members and their families, the act of balancing everyday life with the financial strain that come with dementia can be stressful.

Brian Snaith is an independent consultant who works closely with the PFA to provide a comprehensive welfare rights service to members and their families. With over twenty years experience working in local authorities, Brian offers specialist advice on a whole range of state and local authority benefits and adult social care funding issues. We caught up with Brian to find out more about his work. 

Hi Brian, how did you get involved with the PFA?

I’ve always had a passion for football and in 2012, when the welfare reforms came in, I realised that there might be footballers in their late 50’s who have not made much money during their careers, and could be struggling with arthritis and other medical conditions. Day to day I was helping people of a similar age, who were struggling because the changes in criteria had made it more difficult for them to access the benefits they were entitled to, so I approached the PFA to see if they felt there was a demand to promote a service based on that. Over the last two years more and more referrals from the PFA have involved a diagnosis of dementia, and at a time when austerity has reduced the capacity of local authorities and third sector organisations who usually provide these services, the PFA has stepped in with a bespoke welfare rights service to ensure their members are covered.

What kind of support do you offer members and their families?

I will contact the family and offer a full benefit check to make sure they are getting everything they’re entitled too. I’ll identify any missing benefits and provide assistance with claim forms, as they can be quite complex. If their claims have been refused, I help with challenging that decision and personally represent them at tribunal hearings. I also advise on residential and nursing care costs, and negotiate with adult social care departments and the Department of Work and Pensions on various issues. With dementia, I know it can be overwhelming for families dealing with so many professionals, so I think it's helpful to explain what is happening in plain language, and support them through a difficult time.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Often I’ll be dealing with people at crisis point and that can be quite pressured, but I have a lot of experience in that area and I know the most important thing is to just listen. Increasingly, dealing with the Department of Work and Pensions has become harder due to budget cuts, which now means a case might not be dealt with locally, so you lose any contacts you may have built up over the years, making it harder to resolve problems.

What changes would you like to see in Dementia Care?

The whole benefits system is incredibly complex especially for those who aren’t used to it, and it’s becoming more difficult to speak to someone who is personally dealing with your case. The forms for severe disability benefits, attendance allowance and personal independence payment are daunting, so I think a simplification of these would be helpful. Local governments have suffered tremendous cuts in the last few years, meaning people may wait a lot longer for a basic assessment of their care needs. Ultimately this affects people at crisis point, so I certainly think that sector needs more investment.

What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

I find all my work rewarding, and I get satisfaction from winning at tribunals because I know how that will help the patients and their families. I feel like I’m doing something positive, and I like to think I’m able to help people in a small way during a really difficult time in their lives.

At the PFA, our members always come first and we’re here to help you in any way we can. If you require support with welfare rights or any other aspect of dealing with dementia, please don’t hesitate to contact us:

Call: 0161 236 0575

Email: info@thepfa.co.uk