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Do Citizens Advice NOT Care about skin disease patients?

As you know SKIN DEEP Behind the Mask is a new charity. We have big ambitions and lofty aims, but we are also pragmatic. We know that we just don’t have the funding and resources to do all we want to do. Well, not just yet anyway. So, wherever possible we try to work with others (check out our skin forums in partnership with talkhealth).

One area we know that many skin disease patients and their families need help with is how to access benefits that they are entitled to. Many are suffering financially because of their condition. Some have great difficulty finding and keeping a job. According to media reports, every year, billions of pounds of benefits are unclaimed by people who are entitled to them. There are many reasons why this is so, but the biggest reason is that people don't know about the benefits they may be entitled to.

To help skin disease sufferers, we at SDBM have decided to setup a section on our website called A2B: Access to Benefits. Here we can give clear, unbiased advice on what benefits you may be entitled to. We are in the process of recruiting volunteers who have the right experience to help us. In the meantime, I thought it might be a good idea to collaborate with the Citizens Advice Bureau. This large national charity had an income of more than £77million (financial year ending 31 March 2014) mostly in the form of grants. In their 2013 Summary Information Return (SIR) to the Charity Commission it is stated that the charity’s aims are:

“To provide the advice people need for the problems they face.

To improve the policies and practices that affect people's lives.”

Surely, they would be the perfect partner for what we want to do. I wrote to the company secretary, Joanne Hampton. I introduced SDBM, outlined what our aims are as a charity (SDBM’s mission is ‘providing Education, Guidance and Support to skin disease sufferers and carers alike.’) and asked for help in contacting the right person to talk to about collaborating. It is important to stress that at this stage I had not outlined any proposal. I just wanted to know to whom I should talk. I contacted Ms Hampton by email on 17 December 2014.

On 23 December 2014 at 13:15 I received an email from Andrew Seager, whose job title is Head of Service Development. Below is the verbatim text of his email.

“Dear Kofi,

Your email below has been passed to me as Head of Service Development and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write to us and explain the work of SKIN DEEP Behind the Mask.

Unfortunately this isn’t something that we have a focus on and, at the current time, we don’t have the resource to take it forward.  However I would like to wish you well with your service for the future.

Kind Regards

Andrew “

Let me repeat, at this stage I had not yet outlined any proposal. Therefore, you can understand my befuddlement when he states that they don’t have the resources to take it forward. He doesn’t even know what it is yet! This led me to wonder. All Mr Seager knows is that I represent a charity that aims to support skin disease sufferers. Is this what puts him off? I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Mr Seager was giving me a polite brush-off even before he knows how I wanted our two organisations to collaborate. Interestingly, the charity says that one of its current priorities is to campaign to make society fairer with regard to “Consumer, money and welfare”. Well, Mr Seager there are 8 million people suffering with skin diseases and conditions. However, to you they are invisible.

So, readers, may I ask a favour? Will you send Mr Seager an email and ask him to explain why he thinks he doesn’t have the resources to help SDBM help skin disease patients when he doesn’t even know what our proposal is. I will let you know how this progresses.

Hands up for volunteering

If you would like to volunteer as a Benefits Researcher/writer & Adviser you can apply by sending an email to us

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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