Community Projects Blog – Waverley Care and Welfare

When you’re struggling to make ends meet, it can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health. For many people living with HIV or hepatitis C, this sort of financial hardship is a daily reality.

Here, Andrew from our Community Projects Team in Lothian, writes about his experience of working with service users on money matters…

HIV and hepatitis C can affect anybody. But they tend to disproportionately affect people who are already vulnerable to other health and social inequalities.

Many of the people we work with face a mix of complex challenges, including substance dependency, history of abuse, or complications with their physical and mental health. These challenges can limit peoples’ ability to work, leaving them vulnerable to poverty.

One of the first things we do when people come to us with money worries is to help check they’re accessing any additional financial support they may be eligible for. That covers the whole range of benefits from Housing and Income Support, to Child and Working Tax Credits.

If you’ve ever had to apply for anything from the DWP, you’ll know how confusing the process can be. One of the main ways we can support people is to help them navigate the forms and appointments so that they can give a true reflection of their needs and get assessed fairly.

Changes to the benefits system over the last few years have created additional challenges for service users. In some cases, more regular checks to make sure people are receiving the right level of support have had the unintended consequence of causing stress and anxiety at the prospect of a benefit cut. The changes have also led to an increase in appeals and delays in payments, and I’ve worked with people who have faced eviction and homelessness when their money hasn’t come through.

I’m increasingly supporting people who’ve been living with HIV or hepatitis C for decades and were previously told they would be entitled to benefits for life. Thanks to improvements in treatments that can manage HIV and cure hepatitis C, some people are having their benefits reduced or removed. Although such decisions can often be justified, it is still a huge change for people to process. We are there to support them to overcome years of negative thinking that has damaged their confidence and self-esteem, building them back up and helping them make positive changes that allow them to live well with their condition.

Poverty is just one aspect of a complex mix of circumstances faced by many of our service users. However, by helping people to access the support they are eligible for, and reducing the burden of poverty, we can help create a more stable situation from which they can begin to address the challenges they face.

If you are living with HIV or hepatitis C and struggling to make ends meet, you can get in touch with us for advice and support.