The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2002/3

Judy Stenger, Neath
Income Project, Neath Mind Association, 32 Victoria Gardens, Neath, SA11 3BH. Tel
01639 643905. £10, bulk order reductions for statutory and funded organisations.

This book is
described in the accompanying flyer as “200 illustrated A4 pages of
user-friendly information, examples, hints, tips and tactics aimed at people
with mental health problems and those who help with benefit applications”,
writes Gary Vaux, Community Care’s welfare rights expert. The flyer is very
accurate but doesn’t capture the full flavour of what Neath Mind has produced.
This guide is an essential piece of kit for all community mental health teams,
community psychiatric nurses, approved social workers, and voluntary groups, as
well as general benefit advisers. The guidance on claiming incapacity benefit
and making a successful disability living allowance application is particularly
impressive. The pack has a few small correctable faults, but they are more
related to design than content. Any 200-page guide will struggle to appear
user-friendly. Some superfluous pages have weak cartoons or unnecessary
graphics. Stripped of some of these and the “I have desktop publishing and I
intend to use it” house-style, the guide could be shortened and improved. It
would also be extremely useful to have in electronic format. These are only
minor criticisms, however. If you have a mental health problem and are trying
to cope with the benefit system, or if you are a professional who wants to give
good solid advice or help, then there really is no better guide that you can
buy. The examples of model “supporting letters” are worth the £10 price alone
and perfectly illustrate the benefits of having a downloadable version too – it
would save me having to retype the substantial number of extremely useful pages.

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