Complaints process for those who lose benefits should be easier says national ombudsman on visit to Blackpool

Parts of the complaints process need to be made easier
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Projects which reach out to vulnerable people in Blackpool to ensure they get proper health care have been praised by a national defender of public rights.

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), said other towns could learn from schemes such as the Bridge Project run by the Salvation Army.

Rob BehrensRob Behrens
Rob Behrens
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It provides access to an NHS nurse who attends lunch sessions at the citadel on Raikes Parade, enabling homeless people and others to seek help for any health concerns they may have.

Meanwhile, other organisations, such as the Bispham-based charity Empowerment run Lived Experience programmes with support workers who have experienced difficulties such as homelessness themselves.

Mr Behrens, who spent two days in Blackpool speaking to health and welfare leaders, said: "Empowering people with lived experience is significant in terms of the approach to public policy making."

This includes people who have suffered homelessness, drug and alcohol dependencies, lost their benefits or recently been released from prison.

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He added: "The unique thing is these programmes use people who have been in these situations and understand them. I have met someone who had been sleeping rough and is now helping vulnerable people and has an empathy that sometimes people in public policy don't have. That is imaginative and something we can learn from."

The ombudsman's responsibility also stretches to helping ensure people are treated fairly in relation to issues including welfare benefits and visa applications, but because they must seek the support of their MP in making a complaint, fewer people use the process.

Mr Behrens said: "The MPs filter is an outdated piece of legislation and makes it very unlikely people in the majority of cases will come to me. This needs changing. However I have met people on this visit from the DWP who have an outreach team and they are trying to reach people before they lose their benefits."

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has offices in London and Manchester and employs around 550 people, of whom two-thirds are investigators. Nationally it receives around 125,000 inquiries a year.

For more information about making a complaint to the Ombudsman, visit:

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