The Ipswich Disability Bureau provides free and confidential advice, information and advocacy to disabled people. In an average month, the charity handles over 800 enquiries and 230 cases. The Bureau provides an extensive array of vitally important services, from providing advice on welfare benefit entitlement, tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit, to the delivery of a debt and money management service, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Most recently, the Bureau has been supporting clients who need help to manage their Universal Credit account with the Department of Work and Pensions. Following a survey of their clients, it was discovered that 55% were not confident in the use of the internet on their own, or did not have internet access. It is for this reason that the charity has set up an internet café, specifically designed to offer the training, help and access that is needed to build confidence in internet usage.
Speaking on the new project, the manager of the Ipswich Disability Advice Bureau, Pat Ramsey, said “Difficulty in accessing the internet can have serious repercussions for those trying to access Universal Credit. Changes to the benefit system have made benefits less accessible to those that need it most, like our client-base.”
She continued, “With the help of Big Lottery funding, we have been able to provide some training, but additional fundraising has enabled us to hire a room at 17 Tower Street, and we have equipped it with computers kindly donated by Suffolk New College. But we lacked any other furnishings, so we are grateful to the Suffolk Labour Group of Councillors for stepping in and providing the funding we needed to supply the Café with adjustable seating.”
Labour Equalities Spokesperson, Kathy Bole, said “New Government policy, combined with cuts by the County Council, have hit disabled people extremely hard. The Ipswich Disability Advice Bureau provides an invaluable service to disabled people by helping them navigate their way through the benefits maze set before them by the Government. This service not only improves lives, but saves them as well.”
Cllr Bole continued, “As someone who has at times struggled with my own disability, I am delighted to back a charity that continues to provide such important support for disabled people in Ipswich and Suffolk.”