| Helen Sharp
c-App, the virtual advocate
Using c-App meant I could practice the assessment. It gave me confidence to speak up and represent myself properly
Around 720,000 people each year apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and another 400,000 will apply for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The work capability assessment which is at the heart of the ESA process has been widely criticised and people preparing for the ‘interview’ can feel terribly anxious because often their whole life depends on the outcome. I have had the privilege to meet some of them and they told me horror stories of waiting months for the assessment and the fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or being viewed as too ‘able’ and losing all their benefits as a result.
Do something to help
seAp, an advocacy organisation, decided to do something to help people and worked in partnership with Neontribe and PIP and ESA recipients to find a solution. They used a range of interactive approaches involving cereal boxes, cake and hundreds of sticky notes and employed a series of ‘personas’ and ‘scenarios’, which enabled people to feed in their own experiences, without the process becoming too personal.
The result was c-App, an online tool which allows users to be guided through the PIP and ESA assessment with ease; granting the user a certain degree of confidence and composure throughout the process which may have otherwise not been possible. It acts as a virtual advocate, highlighting particularly important questions to the user, so that they can be aware of these during the real interview and consider how they will answer. Liz Fenton, the Strategic Service Manager explains ‘when they say, “can you feed yourself?” people may say, “yes”, but does that mean you can only eat takeaways? Does that mean you can only cook beans? Or, are you able to use a cooker or microwave? Are you able to walk across the kitchen holding a plate of food? It goes into a lot more detail, so that people can be really clear about the limitations on their lives’.
Unlike seeking help from another organisation where one might have to attend meetings for benefit help, c-App allows flexibility in that people are able to contemplate questions for as long as they like, take breaks whenever they feel and all in the comfort of their own home. This is especially useful for those with fluctuating conditions.