Here’s another example of the utter dysfunction of the benefits system, from its myriad useless angles. I think we can safely say that we’ve reached the point where hardly an aspect of this bureaucracy is fit for purpose (see other articles I’ve posted recently for plenty more on that. The whole thing is out of control. It doesn’t even make sense). I’m pretty sure that I could run a better system myself out of a garage, pissed. I reckon I get two or three calls and/or emails a week about the sort of monumental bureaucratic mess described below at the moment. These situations require endless phone calls (and ages spent on hold), letters, challenges, visits to welfare advisers (if anyone can find them) and appeals to MPs and councillors. It never, ever ends.
These sorts of situations are also almost impossible for one person to deal with. That point needs to be made loud and clear. The calls take hours, as do the letters, application forms and time needed to source support information. Calls go unanswered and letters and certificates go missing, or aren’t acknowledged for ages. There’s no way that people can sort out problems of this magnitude by themselves these days. Finding a welfare rights adviser with the time to help is often just not a starter. Those services have gone, or are so oversubscribed that people no longer bother to try. I know this, because I’ve queued myself at places like the CAB and found all appointments gone by 9am.
I’ve just been talking with a woman I know well. She is 22 years old and has a four-year-old daughter. This young woman has about £20 a week to live on at the moment. Here’s a list of the way things are going for her with benefit claims at the moment. This could be anybody’s story, too. God knows I hear plenty similar.
In the past month or so, this young woman has:
– Had her child tax credit stopped, purportedly because she has another person living with her. She has never heard of this person. In her life. You’ll will know, of course, that many other people are dealing with the same sort of situation and the collapse of this part of the system.
This begs a number of questions, one of which I would like answered as a matter of priority. Shouldn’t the DWP, HMRC, councils and their various useless provider companies be required to provide evidence of all this alleged cohabitation BEFORE accusations are made and benefits are actually withdrawn? What is this system where an accusation is made and money simply stopped? Why is the onus on people who receive such payments to prove that they’re innocent? In the last week or so, my phone really has been buzzing with calls and emails from people who are experiencing these sorts of problems. There’s a guy I’m working with in north west London at the moment who has been accused of sharing his home with some bloke he’s simply never heard of. His council says that the DWP has imparted this information and that it’s his responsibility to prove that the bureaucrats are wrong. If he doesn’t, his housing benefit will be cut. Wtf. Really. Homelessness lies at the end of that path.
The young woman whose story I began this post with has also:
– struggled to sort out her Housing Benefit claim because she moved address this year under very stressful circumstances and had trouble sorting paperwork.
– been told by her jobcentre that the only way to sort out the Housing Benefit problem was to sign on for Universal Credit (and move to that benefit from Income Support)
– had her Income Support claim suspended while the Universal Credit claim was made (apparently, her jobcentre told her that was the way things went with a UC claim. God knows how many other people with small children are getting this line. Feel free to feed back on that). Apparently, the jobcentre and/or the DWP said later that this suspension was an error, but have also said that they can’t sort this part of things out until the Universal Credit claim is fixed/sort/whatever the hell it is.
– been told that her UC claim can’t go further until she brings in more paperwork (even though the jobcentre presumably has her paperwork from her Income Support claim). The jobcentre can’t meet with her to look at that paperwork until mid-October.
– been told that her Universal Credit claim won’t be paid for six to eight weeks after that.
– been instructed that she can apply for some sort of budgeting loan, but that she can expect that to take a couple of weeks to come through.
Meanwhile, she has nothing.
As I’ve said before, I could go on. I hear these stories time and time again. People send me the endless letters that they get. They simply can’t keep up with the paperwork and the demands. Every letter is a threat. Money simply stops. That puts people in a very bad place.
Seriously. Nothing here works. The system and accompanying instructions are actually impossible to follow a lot of the time. The mayhem is everywhere. Take the whole thing down and start again. Properly.