Behind the scenes with frontline service users in austerity: excerpts from interviews and covert videos and recordings

The post below – Linda’s story – is an excerpt from a story in a collection project I’m working on.

The project collects interviews I’ve made with people directly affected by benefit cuts.

It also collects covert recordings I made from 2014 when I accompanied people to jobcentre meetings, ESA and PIP assessments, and council homelessness meetings.

My aim is to show you how benefit and service cuts have ravaged the lives of people who’ve been among the most marginalised by welfare reform and austerity.

The videos and transcripts from the meetings that I recorded between people in need and frontline staff demonstrate how utterly dysfunctional frontline services have become.

The project also shows how people respond personally and politically to a brutal austerity state.

I’ll post more extracts from this project as I work on it this year.

This collection of interviews and transcripts is being made possible thanks to a Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust grant

Amiel_Melburn_logo

————-

The rest of this post is an extract from a story about a Kilburn woman I call Linda.

I met Linda and her partner Eddie (name also changed) in 2014.

Linda and Eddie were in their 50s.

Both had learning and literacy difficulties, and worsening health problems.

Both received jobseekers’ allowance. I recorded their jobcentre meetings for about three years. They attended Kilburn jobcentre when we met.

The post focuses on a particularly difficult experience that Linda had at Kilburn jobcentre at the start of 2016: Kilburn jobcentre erroneously closed Linda’s JSA claim when she was ill and missed two signon meetings.

She was left without income or rent money for months.

The video and transcripts in this post show:

– the problems that people with learning difficulties had meeting the DWP’s strict signon criteria and the excessive punishments people faced if they did not meet DWP demands.

– jobcentre advisers admitting that people in Linda’s situation were vulnerable to sanctions and claim closures, because the DWP had removed the specialist disability staff who might have intervened when people with support needs were threatened with sanctions. Disability Employment Advisers were removed from jobcentres as part of austerity cost-cutting at that time.

– Linda’s distress at her illness and at not being able to to find a jobcentre staff member to help her restart her claim

– the DWP’s general institutional contempt for people who relied on benefits.

————-

Let’s go in at the deep end.

This article starts with a description of that devastating time for Linda: the months in late 2015 and early 2016 when Kilburn jobcentre closed her JSA claim and left her without income or rent money.

Video: Linda at Kilburn jobcentre on February 26 2016.

I called Linda in Feburary 2016, because I hadn’t seen her for a while.

Linda told me she hadn’t received any money for weeks, because the jobcentre had terminated her JSA claim.

Jobcentre advisers said they’d closed Linda’s claim, because Linda had missed two JSA signon meetings.

Linda said she’d missed the meetings because she’d been too ill to attend (she found out later that she had thrombosis). She told me that she was still very unwell and couldn’t walk far.

Closing Linda’s claim was an obscene decision by any measure.

The jobcentre knew Linda well. Advisers knew her story. Linda had signed on at Kilburn for more than seven years. Hers was a familiar face at the jobcentre.

Advisers knew that she had learning difficulties and was in poor health. They knew Linda relied on her JSA. They knew that her age, learning difficulties and deteriorating health meant she wouldn’t find work – that she hadn’t suddenly stopped attending JSA signon meetings because she’d found a job.

They also knew that Linda would only miss a meeting at the jobcentre if she had good reason. Linda often said she hated the jobcentre, but she attended her appointments there religiously – possibly because the jobcentre was a place she knew and could go to.

Advisers knew all of this, but still they closed Linda’s JSA claim. Such were and are the times. Advisers told us that the rules said two strikes (two missed meetings) and you were out (your claim would be closed). Some staff were sticklers for the rules.

Finding someone at the jobcentre to take responsibility for restarting Linda’s JSA claim was a nightmare.

Linda kept saying that she’d missed the meetings because she’d been too sick to attend. That cut no ice. When we met in February, Linda’s JSA claim had still not been restarted. She still had no income.

Linda had also received a letter from Camden Council which said her housing benefit claim had been suspended (housing benefit claims were stopped by councils when JSA claims were closed). Linda’s rent had not been paid. She received warning letters about eviction.

Linda was not able to fix these problems herself.

She struggled to follow DWP and council instructions to fill in forms and send emails to restart her benefits. She would get very angry and say that jobcentres and councils were stupid.

She waited for someone at the jobcentre to help, or to explain. Nobody would take that initiative. Nobody wanted that responsibility. I attended several meetings where advisers simply told Linda to restart her claim herself using an online form.

After weeks without money, Linda, or someone (it may have been Eddie), made an appointment for Linda at the jobcentre.

By chance, that was the week I called.

I said that I’d attend Linda’s meeting with her to find out how to restart her JSA claim.

——–

The meeting should have been straightforward – but it was not. That morning at the jobcentre was dreadful.

It was dreadful, because Linda was still ill.

I thought she might even have been dangerously ill. I was shocked when I saw her. She’d lost weight and her face had an unnatural grey tone to it (her pallor was so alarming that jobcentre staff commented on it. “I can see that,” an adviser said when I told her Linda was ill). Linda couldn’t breathe properly. She cried. I felt a bit frightened when I saw her. I thought she should go to hospital.

The trouble was that Linda had to make a difficult decision that morning. She had to decide whether to prioritise her health, or her benefit problems. She needed to see a doctor, but she also needed to go into the jobcentre and find someone to help to restart her JSA claim.

She still had no income and still couldn’t pay her rent.

You can see the distress that decision caused her in the video above

———

You can see from the transcript below that Linda ended that trip to the jobcentre with nothing.

She did not get medical treatment.

Her benefits were not restarted.

Linda finished the morning where she started it: outside the jobcentre in tears.

———-

Transcript: Kilburn jobcentre 26 February 2016 [this transcript has been edited. There are extracts from this transcript in the video above].

I went into the jobcentre with Linda that morning in February and recorded events covertly.

Two jobcentre security guards headed towards us the moment we entered the jobcentre. Jobcentre security was and is heavy. The jobcentre manager came over as well.

Linda was weeping. I got to the point:

Me: Linda here is supposed to do a rapid reclaim [a process to restart recent JSA claims], because she’s been ill, but she’s very unwell…Her claim was stopped about a month ago, because she was…[sick]… She’s very unwell as you can see.

Jobcentre manager: She wants to make a rapid reclaim…?

Me: There’s an appointment now [with a jobcentre adviser] to do it, but look at the state of her. I thinking we should get to the hospital.

Linda: [Cried] I can’t…[go to the hospital] I have to try and do it… [restart the JSA claim]. I can’t breathe. [Linda wept].

Jobcentre manager: What is the name?

Linda: [Gave her name] I have to sit down quickly.

Jobcentre manager: You can sit down. The appointment will be on the first floor.

Linda: I need to sit down.

Me: She’s had no money for a month.

Jobcentre manager: If she can attend the appointment…I don’t know what…if you want to have a seat now, have a seat.

[They left us].

Me: This is appalling

Linda: [Cried] I don’t know even what it is.

Me: I’m actually thinking that we should get an ambulance here. Do you want to go to the hospital?

Linda: They stopped my housing benefit as well [cried]. I dunno if I can even get to the first floor.

Me: I’m thinking that we should get you to the hospital.

Linda: Yeah [Linda looked over at one of the advisers]. It’s that woman that stopped my payment. She didn’t give me the phone number [a phone number that Linda could call directly to inform advisers if she was not able to attend a compulsory jobcentre meeting].

Me: This is not very good at all. We’ll give it a minute and then we will get you to the hospital.

Linda: [cried] I got no energy. They don’t give a shit, these people. They stopped my housing benefit and everything.

It’s that woman over there – she didn’t give me the phone number… When I was ill, I couldn’t get hold of her. They don’t give a shit. Oh. I thought I was going to pass out in the bus… if I leave it any more [if Linda didn’t fill in the forms to restart her JSA claim], I won’t get any money, will I? What’s bad is that if you’re ill, you can’t help being ill. But they don’t give a damn [Linda wept]. I’m shaking.

[Linda stared at the jobcentre adviser who had closed her claim].

That one over there is evil.

——-

We had to do something. It was clear that Linda could not walk to her GPs’ surgery. I asked the jobcentre manager to call an ambulance crew in to check Linda over at least.

———-

While we waited for the ambulance, I tried to find someone at the jobcentre who could restart Linda’s JSA claim and put her mind at rest about that.

I thought I could start the claim if someone told me how to.

I couldn’t find anyone to help. Advisers said they couldn’t restart the claim if Linda left to see a doctor. Nobody would take control of the situation. Jobcentres were and are often like that. Advisers didn’t want to be drawn into problems. They wouldn’t meet your eye when someone needed attention.

They weren’t all cruel, necessarily. Some were. The rest were detached. Malaise was the notable feature of these places. The generous view would be that by that point in austerity, there were a great many people in Linda’s situation and not enough time, resource, or energy for staff to easily volunteer to spend hours with people who needed help to get their JSA and housing benefit claims back. Everything everywhere was and is always at a kind of standstill.

Which didn’t help Linda.

——-

By chance, I had the mobile number of Kel [name changed], the woman who’d previously worked as Kilburn’s Disability Employment Adviser [the jobcentre had cut and changed that job, so Kel wasn’t on site each day. In October 2015, an adviser told me and Linda that there was a months-long wait for an appointment with Kel and that Linda could try and join the queue, but shouldn’t get her hopes up].

Kel knew Linda well. She’d been helpful in the past. I called her. I thought Kel might be able to tell me how to restart Linda’s JSA claim, so that Linda could receive even a small amount of money soon:

Me: [to Kel on the phone] I’m here with Linda. She had her claim stopped about a month ago. She hasn’t had any money since. [The jobcentre] said she had to come in today – but she is so ill. Everyone here is shocked [at Linda’s pallor]. She is really worried that if she doesn’t do this rapid reclaim today, there is no money. Her housing benefit has been stopped as well. Is there anyone you could call at Kilburn? Is there anyone we could approach to get this claim underway, so I can get her some medical attention? She is going to drop on the floor here.

Kel asked me which advisers were at the jobcentre that day. She described a jobcentre adviser who she knew. She told me to approach that adviser and give her the phone so that Kel could talk to her.

I did.

That adviser was extremely unhelpful. She was short with Kel on the phone. She dismissed the idea that we could restart Linda’s JSA claim that day.

I held the phone out to the adviser and said:

Me: I’ve got Kel [on the phone] who is [sic] the DEA. Can you talk to her? I’m going to have to get an ambulance for this woman over here.

Jobcentre adviser: Which lady is it?

Me: [I pointed to Linda]. Sitting there with her hair tied back. She’s having problems breathing and her colour is awful.

Jobcentre adviser: I can see that.

[The adviser spoke into the phone]. Hi Kel. It’s May [name changed]. Yes, this lady is not well. [No] There’s no point in doing [a rapid reclaim to restart Linda’s JSA claim]. There’s no point in going through any claims at the moment. The lady’s unwell…Bye.

[The jobcentre adviser turned to me].

Jobcentre adviser: In terms of her claim, there’s no point in actually discussing that until her health is met [sic].

I was taken aback by this. Linda had no money to live on. She was in rent arrears. Couldn’t someone at the jobcentre restart Linda’s claim?

I rang Kel again.

Me [to Kel on the phone]: The ambulance is going to come for Linda. She’s very concerned about this claim. Could you tell me what to do [to restart the claim] and we’ll do it? We can start it online.

She hasn’t got any money in the interim. She had a sick note and sent it in [to the DWP], because she’s obviously been really ill. They didn’t receive it, so they actually stopped her claim. They didn’t sanction it. They stopped it. She’s been trying to get the claim restarted. That hasn’t worked, so the jobcentre made an appointment today. She’s not in a state at the moment to [fill in forms to restart the claim].

I just want to reassure her.

———–

Everyone on the ground floor of the jobcentre must have been aware of Linda’s problem by then. Nobody offered to help restart Linda’s JSA claim.

In the end, Kel agreed to meet me the following Monday, so that we could fix Linda’s claim and make sure she received some money.

Me [to Kel on the phone]: If she’s in hospital, is a home visit possible? I’m happy to make whatever adjustments myself…

That was the last discussion Linda and I had with jobcentre staff that day.

—————

The ambulance crew arrived.

I thought the crew was a little offhand with Linda – not cruel, or unprofessional, but a bit distant. The crew mentioned stress at the jobcentre as a reason for Linda’s ill-health. They said her vital signs were okay.

I was thinking about the personal touch. I had some experience of ambulance crews at that time, because my husband was unwell and needed several ambulance trips to hospital. The ambulance crews were fabulous each time: concerned, talkative and witty. Things weren’t quite the same with the crew at the jobcentre. Luck of the draw, perhaps.

Here are some recording excerpts from that part of the day:

Ambulance crew member [to the two other crew members when they arrived]: There’s some ongoing stresses [at the jobcentre for Linda].

—-

Linda’s partner Eddie had arrived at the jobcentre.

He sat with Linda as the crew checked her. He kept saying that Linda had been ill for some time.

Ambulance crew member: [Read out Linda’s heart and blood pressure stats]: She’s also complaining of chronic weakness… some vomiting three weeks ago. Her left leg is swollen and tender… normal to touch… no medication…blood pressure fine. Probably give a GP referral…We just do emergency… if it’s a long term thing, weakness, it would probably be best to see the GP.

How long have you been weak for, Linda?

Linda: A few months.

Eddie: And your leg is swollen.

Ambulance crew member: How long has your leg been swollen?

Linda: A couple of months.

Ambulance crew member: Is it just one side compared to the other?

Eddie: It’s too much. Then you have to come here [to the jobcentre] and they’re shouting and fighting with each other… coming here makes you ill. It makes you ill…For months she has been ill.

——-

Ambulance crew member: I’m just going to do a wipe [Linda was resisting a skin blood test]. This is just a wipe… Oh, you are a nervous person, aren’t you, my dear. Just a little prick…

Linda: No, no, no, no…

Ambulance crew member: Just keep your hands still. Keep your hands still.

——–

Eddie: …These places [jobcentres] just make you more ill…[you are] so stressed out the day before and having panic attacks. They should give her money today. Why can’t they just do that? It’s ridiculous.

Linda: I haven’t had any money for four weeks, because I’ve been ill.

Eddie: Surprised we’re still here…some days you feel so fed up, you feel like disappearing and never coming back.

Me: If they [Kilburn jobcentre] still had the Disability Adviser, it wouldn’t have got to this stage.

Eddie: It’s wrong that they stopped her housing benefit. They should give her some money now and not wait until Monday or Tuesday. People have problems now and then they mess you up. They should have done it today…

——

The ambulance crew called Linda’s GP and explained Linda’s situation.

The crew left.

——–

Linda, Eddie and I left the jobcentre as well.

There didn’t seem to be much else we could do.

Linda had missed her meeting. She had to wait until Monday to fix her claim.

We stood outside the jobcentre for a time.

It was obvious that Linda couldn’t walk to the GPs’ surgery. She could only take a few steps before she had to stop to catch her breath. Her colour was still bad.

And she still had nothing. Linda, as I said, ended the morning exactly as she started it. Her JSA claim had not been restarted. Her housing benefit claim was still suspended. She could not get to the doctor. She was in the same position she’d been in when she left her flat hours earlier.

This sort of “nothing’s been fixed” experience was and is so common for people who relied on these services.

So many people I accompanied to jobcentre or housing meetings over the years ended a stressful morning at the jobcentre, or the council, with this sort of non-outcome.

We’d attend a meeting to try and fix a housing benefit problem, or a benefit sanction, or even a homelessness issue and leave several hours later no further ahead.

We’d be told to come back another time with another piece of paper – another medical certificate, say, or another bank statement. We’d be told to queue at another council department in another part of the borough. We’d be told to come back another day when a certain staff member was in. The DWP would tell us to go to the council. One council would tell us to go to another council (councils were particularly keen to send people away if those people had been housed in their area by another borough).

The queues were long and the waiting-times often seemed eternal. The subtext was always clear. Staff wanted people in need to leave the building – and not to come back.

———–

Sometimes, staff would concede that they’d given up trying to fix problems.

They said that they knew people with support needs were sinking – they could see that happening in front of them – but that nothing could be done without the resources that had been removed.

About a month after the morning the ambulance crew visited, Linda and I attended a meeting at Kilburn jobcentre where an adviser told us straight out that people in Linda’s situation had no protection from sanctions and claim closures.

This adviser said there was no doubt that people with support needs were falling through the net now that Disability Employment Advisers had gone.

We had that conversation at a meeting in April 2016. Linda’s JSA and housing benefit claims had still not been restarted.

I recorded that conversation:

I said to the adviser:

Me: Is there any sort of replacement for that disability adviser?

Jobcentre adviser: Unfortunately, no… it is quite an issue, because the most vulnerable can’t cope with the complexity of the system.

Me: Those people are being left behind.

Jobcentre adviser: For sure. You can’t deny that…people who are ill…It’s a serious issue. But until eventually it gets to the top…what they do need again is a Disability Employment…a DEA. As you can see, they have cut the role and the more we need it… it doesn’t make sense. This [situations such as the erroneous closure of Linda’s JSA claim] is where they come into their own…

They [people with support needs] haven’t disappeared. The need is still there, but…

Me: The service isn’t.

Jobcentre adviser: Until people from up high decide to reinstate them [Disability Employment Advisers], we’re going to have a lot of people falling through the net.
———-

The DWP, meanwhile, insisted that people with support needs were well catered-for at jobcentres.

This claim was so blatantly false that I stopped asking the DWP for comment on the topic after a while. I really did have better things to do and I didn’t see why I should use my site to promote the DWP’s fabrications.

I couldn’t take the lies. I knew that services for people in Linda and Eddie’s situations at jobcentres had been decimated. I witnessed that destruction myself.

Here’s an example of the sort of line that the DWP emailed me. The department would say that disabled people and people with support needs:

“have access to dedicated Work Coaches, who are trained to provide tailored support specific to their individual needs.”

I wondered how often the DWP press office went to Kilburn jobcentre.

EXCERPT ENDS

182 thoughts on “Behind the scenes with frontline service users in austerity: excerpts from interviews and covert videos and recordings

  1. Somewhat related to the subject matter:

    “Universal Credit plunges Huddersfield people into debt … and food bank into crisis”

    https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/universal-credit-plunges-huddersfield-people-14613281

    The situation in Huddersfield is fairly typical and indicative of what’s happening all over the country, but with one exception, Huddersfield is also (below Southend, Essex) at the top of the league for Low Pay. This is due to the demise of Industry and the lack of quality jobs:

    https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/huddersfield-workers-among-worst-paid-14604553

    This situation has not arisen over night and has been the case for quite some time yet the DWP, however, remain in denial and have continued to trot out their usual lies:

    “Jobs market in Huddersfield said to be ‘buoyant’ – Jo Ledgard, of Huddersfield Jobcentre Plus”

    https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/jobs-market-huddersfield-said-buoyant-14038531

      • Before my 51 year old Son died suddenly of a heart attack, I was his Appointee for Benefits as he had learning disabilities and the cognitive ability of a six year old. Without my support as his appointee, he would have found himself in exactly the same position. Every person should have someone to act as their appointee otherwise they will endure the same fate. They are, in the main, unable cognitively to speak and fight for themselves. For them to try to cope with the benefit system under this government, is like sending a lamb to the slaughter.

        • Yes and the people referenced in this article will be moved to Universal Credit soon, where they’ll be expected to navigate the whole thing online. It’s a disgrace. Groups of like the Kilburn Unemployed Workers group have done an exceptional job supporting people but those groups can’t be everywhere.

          • Not to mention the more complex conditionality of Universal Credit. A much stricter system where they will be at increased risk of compulsory workfare etc. Can be ordered to take any zero-hour or part-time job. All under the draconian repayable, sanction system.

    • I think the Sun readers, and they are predominantly working-class Tories, have begun to realise who will be most affected by this dreadful system. Not the Tory upper-classes they so admire. They couldn’t care less, and they don’t need to.

    • Hi Terminator. Thank you for this. We have a few visitors to the food bank who are nil income at the moment, just get by and don’t want to sign on. They get HB, but once UC is implemented they will be under conditionality to get the housing element and will have to sign up to a claimant commitment with the potential sanction implications. More people losing their homes.

      • Yes indeed. I was shocked to discover this myself. As a 63yr old woman, denied her pension by the govt, I have been on/off JSA and ESA for the last 2 years, just trying to scrape by until finally at 66 I should get my pension. When told I would have to go onto UC, and all the futile job-searching conditions that requires, I said that all I want is Housing benefit and that, for the sake of my health and sanity, I was prepared to survive (just) on the £28pw I earned from employment but was told that this would no longer be an option. Anyone claiming HB HAS to get it via Universal Credit once the system is fully rolled out in their area, the ability to just claim HB is not an option. My daughter, who works for St Mungo’s housing charity, has also told me of the problems this causes when trying to place homeless people into housing and obtaining housing benefit for them. People who are homeless and often not in a position to claim JSA/ESA precisely because they are homeless. It’s a catch22 situation. I’m a reasonably intelligent and capable woman but even I have been reduced to tears, despair and sanction by the unrealistic demands of the jobcentre. Being sick for example, which you are allowed to be whilst on JSA, but apparently even then, with a sick-note, still have to fulfill exactly all the same jobsearching and signing-on requirements!

        • Irena, I survived for years on Housing Benefit only, while I sued my former employer, cared for my late mum and lived on the payout I got from said employer. So it is a sad thing indeed for me to hear that this is no longer an option. What a mess!

          It’s too demanding to go through the Employment Tribunal/mediation/endless delays process while at the same time fulfilling the Claimant Commitment – and I was far too unstable with mental health problems anyway, but I had no idea I qualified for the sick (thought I wasn’t that bad). How are people supposed to hold their employers to account if they have nothing to live on while suing for Unfair Dismissal? The government does not regulate hiring and firing, so it is left to the victim to try to bring the employer to book. No wonder employment rights are dropping like a stone!

          It’s ridiculous to expect families in full-time work to sign on at the Jobcentre if they need a little help with the rent! For a start, when would they be free to attend the Jobcentre? It doesn’t open in the evenings or on weekends.

          Are people supposed to go through the whole conditionality regime just to claim Child Benefit?

  2. Thank God at last we are seeing official criticism of Universal Credit. so this may achieve something. But UC is only the most visible part of a benefit system deliberately designed to force compliance with hardship and distress.
    Iain Duncan Smith, his right-wing extremist friends, and all the other arch-Tories in this, have caused all this wretched poverty and despair. Aided and abetted by the clowns in the Liberal Democrat Democrats that would have sold their own mother into slavery for a ministerial briefcase. And worst of all, a gutless, compliant Labour Party under Miliband. Who thought he could geek his way into power by copying the Tories. People have killed themselves rather than take any more. They have jumped from Motorway Bridges and taken overdoses, over unemployment benefit ! We need to have a serious discussion about all of this as a society. Before any more people die.

  3. And where the hell is the Rt.Honourable Jeremy Bernard Corbyn in this ?
    Because I don’t see him doing very much, or even saying very much about Universal Credit and the rest of the benefit system.

    • Agree with that. And now Debbie Abrahams has gone. She at least got some of this in the mainstream press.

      • It looks like she was sidelined because she wouldn’t keep quiet about the Universal Credit roll-out. And who did she show up with her determined attacks ?
        Comrade Corbyn and his honour -guard of failed left-wing radicals.

  4. 83 Labour Peers Who Defied Jeremy Corbyn On Brexit !!
    Well done my noble lords. Just like Magna Carta all over again.

    • I don’t give a toss about Brexit, I wish Labour would concentrate on opposing Universal Credit and forcing the Tories to sort out the mess they’ve made of our Social Security system, which I feel is more important and urgent.

      • Very true Trev. I think a lot of people feel that Labour have got a responsibility to sort out the benefits system. They started it with the WCA, Jobseekers Allowance, stricter conditions and all the rest. Then Miliband basically said okay to Universal Credit by supporting the 2012 Welfare Reform Act. It’s really not good enough for Labour to look the other way in the face of all this suffering.

          • But he’s still in there on £77K, plus expenses.
            They should make him eat a bacon sandwich every day for the rest of his life.

        • Agreed… the cases I have assisted with thus far have compelled me to attempt to start a political party with disability informing our central proposed policies. It is my intention to help the many and strive for a country run on the basis of equality. Anybody interested in helping our aims to be realized, please have a look at joining our group. Owing to our infancy we are using Facebook only at the moment but it is my hope that a more open platform can be developed in the longer term. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1349035641867426/

          Whilst this may seem exceptionally ambitious, a party does not need to be in power or even especially large to impact the government that holds power; so whatever your personal alignments are, to combat the appalling systems currently in place, I ask you to consider joining us.

          Thank you,

    • For that it has pleased your lordships, spiritual and temporal to halt the intemperate ambitions of those who seek to disturb the peace of this Great Realm.
      To divide those who should be united, and to break asunder the union of nations in which until so lately, our Blessed Isle was both leader and ornament.
      We give our humble and most respectful gratitude.

  5. We need a system of volunteer appointee’s to act nationwide for those unable to cope with the increasing demands of dealing with the DWP. This should preferably be a relative or a trusted close friend. It only entails filling in a form and then you do the talking, form filling and even the legal challenge, if they are eligible for legal aid. You handle appointment keeping, phone calls and generally be the persons Advocate in DWP matters. The DWP tend to back off when there is an Appointee.

    • That’s an excellent idea Christine. There are so many people who don’t have any help at all. Much needed.

      • It’s very telling that there doesn’t seem to be a UK wide network of organisations that does this. I can think of situations where even the most able of us need the help, support or reassurance of a ‘friendly face’ when dealing with the ‘Camp Guards’.

        I hasten to add, that they are nowhere near being as bad as the notorious SS camp guards, but I think the OTT analogy is apt, as this situation we find ourselves in is teetering on the very edge of that slippery slope, and that perhaps, with this kind of caveat, an OTT analogy could serve as a timely reminder to workers complicit, i.e. ‘just doing their job’ that there is no Nuremburg type defence.

        When I recently accompanied a friend to their Jobcentre Plus appointment, it made a very obvious difference. The advisor was very obviously perturbed by my presence, and asked, on several occasions why my friend had brought me along. The advisor was also uncharacteristically polite and understanding, which was something of a revelation to my friend – they hadn’t realised how much of a difference having someone accompanying them could make. My friend isn’t usually someone who is afraid of authority, having been heavily involved in fighting the Bedroom Tax in their area, and who certainly isn’t backwards in coming forwards when challenging idiots wherever they find them. This just goes to show that even the most articulate of us, who know the rules and aren’t easily cowed by the system sometimes also need the support of someone else. For those who find even the completion of a written form a challenge the system must seem very frightening indeed.

        I would suggest that the reluctance amongst Jobcentre Plus staff to go the extra mile and help out Linda and Eddie would be down to the micro-management they are now subject to from line managers who pressurise staff to conform to the rules. There is nothing in writing, it’s all verbal, but it definitely comes from the top, as we know, the overriding concern is to cut expenditure on welfare, and those who can’t fight back or resist are ideal targets. There is nothing arbitrary in this. Hence my analogy earlier in this comment.

        Whilst reading this piece, the descriptions of staff indifference, and reluctance to assist reminded me of Edmund Burke’s statement about all it taking for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. And it is about good people, doing nothing to stop all of this, that allows such a situation to develop in the first place. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves questions like whether the introduction of a ‘welfare’ system like this would have been tolerated in 1979? There was considerable opposition to the introduction of the Jobseeker’s Allowance in 1996, but the conditionality imposed by that now seems very light touch indeed, and relatively easy to challenge as, to be quite honest, the expectations were minimal indeed. I disagreed with the changes at the time, and even went on demonstrations where we emphasised how the system was gradually enslaving people.

        I greet the news that even the Sun is now clambering aboard the bandwagon in opposition to UC with caution, and suspicion. Will the Sun now attempt to divide and rule by setting the ‘deserving’ i.e. those in low paid work, against those with no work? I’m sure there is some mileage in that, until those in work realise that the goal posts change, and that it is they who are once again being targeted.

        I have faith that things will get better, if only because some of the Tories realise that, in order to save their own skins, they have to let up and bring in more humane reforms. But I think it’s going to have to get worse before it gets better. It won’t be welfare reform on its own that will bring down the system but a combination of welfare reform and the chaos of Brexit (I’m not going to get into the rights or wrongs of leaving, but the way that the Tory government is dealing with this is just stupid, stupid, stupid, and won’t be good for ordinary people) as well as increasing precarity of work and the housing crisis will combine to bring the system to the point of collapse, where even the Tories will be at a loss to retain control, especially as they have effectively been undermining themselves for so long… No adequate police force, and no adequate army to protect them…

        • It’s interesting, the Tory attacks on the police and army. They’re usually good at building those forces up by way of protection.

          I think the balance might begin to tip to an extent when people who receive tax credits are moved to Universal Credit.

          • It’s going to be the dumping-ground for everyone who needs state support in any way.

          • That is strange Kate. But Theresa May was always at odds with the police when she was Home Secretary. Remember when they had that big police conference a few years ago ?
            Half of them turned their backs on her, as she came onto the stage to speak.

          • Yes I remember that. The police federation speech. Went down very badly with the coppers. That may well come back to haunt her.

  6. The Jobcentres treat people like shit and the DWP routinely lies through it’s teeth about everything like some Nazi Propaganda machine. Meanwhile people continue to suffer, and die. Recent TUC research has found that there are one million more people in poverty than in 2010, but the MSM don’t seem interested in reporting it.

    • MSM is increasingly state propaganda. It doesn’t report this for similar reasons that it didn’t report that Labour won over a thousand more seats than the Tories did in the recent council elections in England. It doesn’t suit their narrative.

      That leaves us with a problem. How do we counter their propaganda with our own?* You mentioned TUC research, but you didn’t include a link. That’s not a criticism, by the way, and anyone really interested could always search for it, but we are talking about ease of access, which is why MSM is so effective, it’s very easy to access. Including links to items of importance or interest eases access for the more recumbent of us.

      *Propaganda has a negative connotation, (which is why it’s now called PR) but it hasn’t always had this association, and gained it, understandably, during the 1930s. It also doesn’t have to be based on lies, (which is a weakness of all Tory propaganda) in fact, it’s better if it’s based on truths.

      DWP propaganda is easy to spot, as it relies in endlessly repeating the same lies. It’s not even sophisticated enough to fool a two year old, such is the contempt with which the Tories hold us.

      • Oh they certainly won’t mention that. IDS & his cronies howled with laughter when Dennis Skinner berated them in the House over all the suicides they’d caused, absolutely pissed themselves laughing.

  7. Well, they’ve done for the disabled, immigrants and the unemployed.
    Now there’s only those Silver Skivers left.

    • I wonder how long it will be before we we start seeing a DWP campaign to try and encourage people not to retire, and just keep working for as long as they can ?

        • Indeed it is. For I am one of them. See my reply under the comment by “Terminator” further up the thread.

      • Pension on condition that you are doing everything you can to find work.

        The cost of assessing them for health would be astronomical: just about every pensioner would/could qualify for benefit without conditionality on the basis of sickness anyway.

    • I dream of living long enough to become a ‘Silver Skiver’, it’s my main goal in life. At the moment I’m a Middle-aged Malingerer, or perhaps a Balding Bystander, a JSA Jockey. In Bradford there is a suburb called Idle, where there is a Working Mens Club, yes that’s right, you can actually become a card-carrying member of the Idle Working Mens Club! There is a long queue for membership 🙂

      • So that must be were the idle rich and idle poor hang out then, not as funny but all the jcp shut down round here and rolled into one massive super giant so they had to change the twitter account to jcpinotts made me chuckle at least.

  8. I’ve managed in numerous public sector organisations. The waste is ridiculous. They are so inefficient . If the public knew what goes on they’d go nuts. Seriously!. The jobs they do the needed but every department needs to review. The end of year spending spree (the march emails asking if anything is needed so not to lose the budget) the short term strategies and inefficient working practises. The use of unions to prevent business improvement.extentsive cuts are wrong but it goes both ways. Reward efficiency in public sector.
    Then you look at partnership working which on most occasions is 3 organisations and 3 charities using tax payers money to do duplicate things.

  9. It’s government by contempt. The Tories don’t actually care what anybody thinks about their policies.

  10. Pingback: Linda’s story | Benefit tales

  11. I promise you Ushanka, that whatever hats I see,
    You’ll always be the one that means the world to me,
    I’ve seen a lot of other hats, broad-brimmed and round and wide,
    With velvet trim and bows of coloured ribbon tied,
    And cheeky caps for jaunty days,
    Sou’westers for the rain,
    But never one like you my love,
    My furry Russian Queen,
    So still, so quiet, so regal,
    So beautiful and serene,
    To me you’re much more than a hat,
    When I put you on, I’m taller,
    And all the problems of my day,
    Somehow seem smaller.

  12. I’m doing my jobsearch, desperately trying to find something, anything, that I can apply for, just to keep the Jobcentre happy and avoid getting Sanctioned, when I come across this on UJM:

    Inner City Cleaning
    Industrial Cleaner
    Job ID
    26251394

    “PLEASE ENSURE YOUR CORRECT CONTACT DETAILS AND YOU ARE WITHIN TRAVEL DISTANCE TO LEEDS 12 ARE AVAILABLE FOR US TO CONTACT YOU…… OTHERWISE WE WILL INFORM THE JOB CENTRE THAT YOU ARE APPLYING WITHOUT CONTACT DETAILS”

    The cheeky bastards! I don’t recall ever granting Leeds City Council permission to share data with the DWP. Besides which, when you apply via UJM your CV is attached and sent, which normally does contain your contact details!

    • What a cheek ! Talk about Claimant Contempt.
      Personally I never use or recommend UJM.
      Deny the DWP access to your account.
      Use other jobsites.
      Turn up fortnightly with a written old-school jobsearch, with printed
      application confirmations. Nothing they can do about it.
      Lot of people doing this now at my Jobcentre.

      • Better yet if on JSA just tell them verbally what you have done, 3 steps per week everything else is your business.
        A step can be lots of things such asking family and friends, shop window, speculative phone call, you cannot evidence those steps but all they all count.
        3 per week and your actively seeking employment.
        Once you step into the realms of steps which can be evidenced there be dragons.

        • It shows that the employer is sick of people applying for jobs only because the Job Centre told them to. It’s a pain for the rest of society when the government does things this way. I went on a course a few years ago and I got fed up with people being there but not really wanting to take part. Why should taxpayers pay for people to go on courses when they’re just going to be a drag on the rest of the class?

          • This is it why waste money mandating people to attend courses and drag the eager beavers down.

            They should accept some people are not comfortable in group environments.

            Any course mandated should be tailored to the individual according to the DWP.

        • Not a good idea Paul. I know someone who was sanctioned for trying that on. What you say isn’t proof of a Jobsearch. If you go down the route of not letting the DWP see your UJM account, then it is up to you as the claimant to provide proof of job applications.
          This means Application Confirmations, letters from employers etc. Strolling into the Jobcentre and trying to bluff it out with a load of cobblers isn’t going to work.

          • Not a good idea Paul. I know someone who was sanctioned for trying that on. What you say isn’t proof of a Jobsearch. If you go down the route of not letting the DWP see your UJM account, then it is up to you as the claimant to provide proof of job applications.
            This means Application Confirmations, letters from employers etc. Strolling into the Jobcentre and trying to bluff it out with a load of cobblers isn’t going to work.

            Jeff it is not bluffing anything those steps are laid out in most claimant commitments and job seekers agreement.

            The rule to be actively seeking work is in the jobseekers regulation 1995
            More than 2 steps per week and in some cases less.

            6 years on JSA and never had a doubt raised let alone a sanction.

          • It’s appalling, really, that some people get a sanction for filling in the wrong form or arriving 2 minutes late, yet they are really trying and really do get a job in the end.

        • Paul, when was the last time you went into a Jobcentre, 1976 ?
          It’s a lot more than 3 steps a week. It’s whatever is in the Claimant Commitment. As Trev will tell you, he has to do a lot more than 3 things a week.

          • I am on JSA at the moment the claimant commitment is a scrap of paper as far as the LAW is concerned

    • It’s just fishing for sanctions Trev. Makes you wonder how much information they are illegally sharing with the DWP about your applications ? What if you apply and they don’t think you were keen enough,are they going to tell the DWP that as well ?
      Very wrong.

    • Just seen another job, on CV Library, for a Packer. The job description says that you will “be required to work at an extremely fast pace, at a pace set by the machines”. It pays minimum wage. They actually expect people to work as fast as a machine. FFS it just gets worse.

          • If me having a point of view is considered looking for trouble, guilty as charged.
            But your argument is a fallacy you meet some anarchist trouble makers therefore all anarchists are trouble makers.

      • it popped up in a CV Library advert that appeared on my screen while I was looking at vox political blog, obviously a cookie target.

  13. And in this case it’s the Council that are threatening to get people Sanctioned! Well that’s bloody clever isn’t it? Then those people will apply for Hardship payments….paid by the Council! And they will be unable to pay their Council Tax. It’s all contributing to the overall problems of poverty & destitution, foodbank use, & possibly potential homelessness too. Idiots.

  14. Obviously I know what the conservative view is on WCA and conditionality but actually where does labour stand on this issue, I remember sometime ago it was in a pledge to end sanctions but how can we trust pledges if they are made to be broken as history tell us ? and do both warring sides of labour agree on a single benefit strategy ?
    and if they do what is the hell that strategy?

    • I don’t have a clue, not sure if anyone does, other than to “pause & fix” Universal Credit (which I translate as scrap & abandon). I just figure vote Labour and hope for the best, it’s the only way to get rid of the Tories.

      • So according the pledge they will,

        Scrap the punitive sanctions regime
        Scrap the Bedroom Tax
        Reinstate Housing Benefit for under-21s
        Scrap cuts to Bereavement Support Payment.

        Scrap the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers. Labour will end the privatisation of assessments.

        Not bad really IF they Keep the promise on sanctions but this holistic approach thing sounds a bit iffy.
        https://labour.org.uk/manifesto/social-security/#second

        • overall that doesn’t sound too bad, but they also need to increaseBenefitsto the correct level, i.e. 40% more than what they are now. And of course scrap UC. And scrap mandatory back to work schemes. Also lower Pensiona

          • They should scrap Universal Credit, scrap back-to-work schemes and use the money saved to raise our benefits by 40%. They should lower the retirement age to 60 with the option of early retirement on a reduced pension from 55. They should also take the money David Willetts wants to spend giving £10,000 to every 25-year-old and use it to reduce the cost of tuition fees and maintenance loans for students.

  15. Jon Jones goes into the Jobcentre to sign-on.
    Work Coach: Good morning Mr.Jones, and how is your Jobsearch going ?
    Jon: Well, I keep going with it.
    Work Coach: But no actual job offers so far ?
    Jon: Not really, no
    Work Coach: Still we musn’t give up. A new job for you could be just around the corner. Remember, it’s not how many times you fail, it’s how many times you try.
    Now, as I see you prefer us not to have access to your UJM account, I must ask you for evidence of your jobsearch.
    Jon: I don’t really have any.
    Work Coach: I’m not quite sure I understand you Mr.Jones. Did you make a jobsearch over the past fortnight ?
    Jon. Yes, but I didn’t keep any records it’s all in my head
    Work Coach: I see, so you have no actual evidence of any jobsearch at all to support your claim for Jobseekers Allowance ?
    Jon. I made an application for factory work at Perkins Ltd.
    Work Coach: Do you have any proof of that ?
    Jon: Not really, I just went round the works and asked.
    Jon: And I made another application for shift-work at Atkins & Co.
    Work Coach: But do you have any actual proof of that Mr.Jones ?
    Jon: Well, not as such no… not now you mention it.
    Jon: But I made another application for bakery work with Travis & Sons
    Work Coach: Do you have any proof of this application ?
    Jon: No, but my mate Baz is sitting back there, ( turns to point) and he’ll tell you I made the application in the library. He was with me at the time.
    Work Coach; And do have some actual proof of this application Mr.Jones ?
    Jon: Well… I would have, but the library printer jammed and so I couldn’t get it.
    Work coach: Do you have proof of any other job applications. that you can show me, to support your claim for Jobseekers Allowance ?
    Jon: Well, I suppose if you put it like that. Then not really… no.
    Work Coach: Then I am sorry to say Mr.Jones, that you leave me no option
    but to sanction you for failing to provide sufficient evidence of you jobsearch.
    Really Mr. Jones !….. Security !!

    • Do you understand the phrase uncorroborated evidence?
      You cannot evidence most steps you take and do not always get a response.
      Writing them down does not make them any difference at all.

      Mr Jones error was mentioning a step that can be evidenced.

      • You cannot be sanctioned for presenting you job search verbally and you satisfy the secretary of state actively seeking employment if you take 3 steps or more per week.
        Sometimes less due to your circumstances.

  16. Paul, your Claimant Commitment is the law as far as your JSA claim is concerned.
    It’s not doing anyone on here, like Trev, any favours to be making false statements.
    If Trev doesn’t meet all the conditions of his Claimant Commitment he could well be sanctioned. It won’t do him any good to say, ‘But Paul the anarchist told me my Claimant Commitment had no authority.’

      • A claimant commitment or jobseekers agreement have no legal grounds they are just a roadmap of what could be regarded as suitable steps given the individuals circumstances,

        • I refuse to be dictated to by another human being when I have a choice, the Law protects me from the DWP as it does many others the DWP are finding to their costs they are not beyond the law.

          • To reply to your later comment without a reply button:

            Yes, Paul, it does sound like DWP have accepted you have more than a few barriers to employment. It sounds like they don’t make the same demands of you that they make of everybody else.

            Before you started claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, did you have a job? Or were you moved from Incapacity Benefit onto Jobseeker’s Allowance after a fit-for-work decision?

          • Before I started claiming JSA I was a single parent for 19 years. I have never claimed nor ever will sickness benefit.
            Barriers are my age, not worked for 25 years, lack of transport,location.

          • I don’t recommend anybody lies on their CV. If you get a job and the workplace finds out you don’t know what you say you know, you will be fired. Then the Jobcentre can say it’s your fault that you lost your job and you can get a long sanction.

            How are you going to do the job if you don’t really have the knowledge or experience it requires? It won’t be long before you get fired for incompetence!

            Most jobs require certificates of GCSEs and vocational training. You have to show the original certificate at interview.

            Please be honest! It will serve you well in the long run.

          • You do not have to tell me the implications of lying, it is the providers and JCP who say lie to improve my CV !

        • You must have very extenuating circumstances, then, Paul! No evidence of any job search necessary; work coach recommends course but you can say no because you don’t like a room full of people. They must think you’re not really fit for work.

          • I said no to the course as it the same rinse repeat crap.
            My CV alone has probably cost £2000 to the tax payer and says nothing about me or my life it is based on lies.

            I have barriers to finding work they never help me with overcoming those barriers, they just put up more barriers.

      • Paul, the tribunal decision says the claimant did what the Jobseeker’s Agreement said. The DWP found some funny reasons to sanction him anyway: he didn’t go to the Jobcentre twice a week and the DWP decided in retrospect that the jobs he applied for weren’t “suitable”, but neither of those things were mentioned in his Jobseeker’s Agreement. So the tribunal was right to uphold the appeal.

        • The questions to be asked where it is alleged that someone is not actively
          seeking work are those following from section 7(1) and regulation 18(1), not from the
          agreement. They pose three questions, to be answered by the claimant’s actions that week:
          (a)
          Should the claimant be expected to take at least three jobsearch steps
          that week, or is it reasonable that only one or two be taken?
          (b)
          What steps were taken?
          (c)
          In the light of that reasonable expectation and those findings, were the
          steps taken by the claimant “such steps as he can reasonably be expected to have to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment” (section
          7(1))?
          If the steps by the claimant taken meet that test, it is irrelevant that the claimant did not also take some other step, whether or not it is in the jobseeker’s agreement.
          http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Sanction%20Busting!%20-%20Workshop%20Notes.pdf
          Just to summarise,
          “If the steps by the claimant taken meet that test, it is irrelevant that the claimant did not also take some other step, whether or not it is in the jobseeker’s agreement.”

  17. The DWP have everyone running around like headless chickens hiding the real truth, people get sanctioned because work coaches have also been fooled along with decision makers.
    People feel they have no chance of appeal so just accept it, yet they could have it overturned in 5 days or less if they challenged it and asked for a mandatory reconsideration without any disruption to income.

  18. Utter nonsense on here again from Paul. I have worked in welfare advice in the voluntary sector for the last 10 years. The Claimant Commitment and it’s associated conditionality, are a basic requirement in making a claim, either for Universal Credit, or a legacy benefit such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
    It represents a contractual agreement between the claimant and the Department of Work & Pensions. If a claimant does not initially accept their Claimant Commitment, and by implication all the conditions specified, then the claim is closed, and cannot even begin. Once a claimant agrees and signs a Claimant Commitment, then they are bound by the conditions of that agreement.
    I have personally seen Claimant Commitments with 20 steps, each individually listed for the claimant to perform. Failing to perform any of these steps could lead to a sanction. In such a case, a claimant would be extremely ill-advised to perform only 2 steps, and then suggest that this was acceptable.
    Half-understood advice such as Paul’s, is not only foolish, but potentially
    very damaging to a claimant who attempts to follow it.

    • Well George you may need to refresh yourself on the law ?

      And why do you presume anyone is bound by an agreement ?
      A agreement is not a contract just a requirement !

      • Well Paul, if you think a contractual agreement such as your own Claimant Commitment is not valid, I suggest a simple test. Next time you go in to sign-on, don’t perform the conditions on your Claimant Commitment, and then see what happens. Try shouting at the Work Coach that none of it is valid, and it’s not legal, and see what happens.
        That you only have to do 2 steps, and then see what happens.

        • George life is fluid circumstances change and might not even be possible to take one step in your cc/jsag but take other steps and there is the point.

          They do not look at what you haven’t done but at what you do, that is the test if you are actively seeking employment.

          • Paul. you are going round in circles here now.
            No-one is saying that , ‘They do not look at what you haven’t done but at what you do’.
            The DWP will check what you have done with reference to your Claimant Commitment. And what evidence you produce to support this.
            It’s that simple.

        • Make your mind up George is it a contract or an agreement ?
          You do know the difference I take it with your 10 years experience ?

      • Paul, that’s ridiculous. George is currently working as a benefits advisor. If anybody knows the law, it will be him. You are the one who needs an update. You’ve been quoting from a tribunal decision that is 11 years old!

        • Alison unless the ruling has been challenged, and it has not, then the case is relevant today as it was then.

          Hundreds of ase failures are overturned at mandatory reconsideration level now due to the ruling so if George is worth his salt he would know that.

          • Paul, if you’re worth your salt, you’ll go find some voluntary work yourself, to get some experience and to start to break down your barriers to employment, instead of sitting at home crowing that everybody else is wrong about everything, except you. At the very least, you ought to show George the respect he is due. He works day in and day out helping people with benefit sanctions. If what you say is true, believe me, he would know it too.

          • I volunteer my time not for profit or to further my career, I do it because it is right.

    • I would also point out that the case from 2007 went all the way to the Upper Tribunal before a judge found in favour of the claimant. That means the claimant went through the process of reconsideration by DWP and one tribunal hearing (at the Lower Tribunal) that found in favour of the DWP, and then he/she appealed the tribunal’s decision at a second tribunal hearing, this time at the Upper Tribunal. This process must have taken at least a year. I have no idea how the claimant ate or paid bills during this time. Most people on Universal Credit/Jobseeker’s Allowance are not in a position to go through years of appeals and multiple tribunal hearings. So it really is wiser to try to comply with the Claimant Commitment.

        • Paul, the ruling is about someone who did what the Claimant Commitment said but got sanctioned anyway. It is NOT about someone who didn’t do everything on the Claimant Commitment.

          • I take it the link to cpag benefit buster is wrong as well but lets agree to disagree what is impotent when it comes to signing on and satisfying ASE (jsa).
            jobseekers act 1995 it clearly states the law.

            Facts are facts until you can disprove them with evidence, I have seen no evidence to the contrary.

          • Spelling would help your job search as well, Paul. Impotent or important?

  19. The problem I see is people fake make up shit to impress/ appease the work coach and is this that gives the red flag, keep it simple as possible is the best strategy as long as your satisfying the conditions to actively seek employment.

    • I don’t make it up though really, apart from maybe sometimes putting down that I spent slightly longer on the internet than what I did but not that much, I just record every minute detail of my Activity and do jobsearch pretty much every day apart from Sundays, and apply for as many jobs as I can, that way I keep one step ahead of the game and give them no chance to Sanction me. I’m in the Library now in fact, just applied for 3 jobs (that I’m very unlikely to get). I am pretty sick and tired of doing this though, and of living this way. It takes up too much of my day and is always what I have to focus on and think about all the time, just to avoid Sanctions.

      • Trev, its up to you what you do, of course. But the facts are that as George and Jeff have both said. The Claimant Commitment does count. If you don’t do it, you are going to get sanctioned. Same for everybody. Shouting about 2 steps and what is and is not legal makes no difference at the end of the day. The DWP are running your claim, and if you don’t keep to the conditionality of your Claimant Commitment, that you signed & agreed to do, you will be sanctioned. If Paul wants to play bedsit anarchist thats up to him. But he shouldn’t be trying to get people sanctioned with his crap advice.

        • Leaving anarchism aside for one moment do you think it is reasonable that job seekers are being treated like cattle ?

          The job centre is not a place for help it is a place for suspicion and conflict, these courses and programmes are nothing more cash cows for the providers and only setup to bother folk or sanction them.

          I am not a sheep I stand up for myself and have rights like everyone else.

        • There is nothing in the JSA regulations that says you have to search each and everyday for employment.

          Nor is there any set amount of hours.

          The claimant commitment is just an agreement on what are the best steps a claimant can take.
          A agreement is not a contract their is no financial penalty for breaking that agreement if you fail to carry out any or all steps in the CC.

          The TEST is are you actively seeking employment.

          Your confusing JSA with Universal credit rules.

          • Paul, as George and Jeff both tried to explain patiently to you, the Claimant Commitment is an agreement between the claimant and the DWP. That you will take certain specific actions each week in exchange for your benefit. It is not optional, not illegal, and if you don’t do it, you will be sanctioned. It is not a general agreement for you as the claimant to do, or not to do, as you decide.
            There is no ‘Test’ as you put it , other than your Claimant Commitment. That is the only test that matters. Have you met the conditions of your Claimant Commitment or not ? And do you have sufficient evidence of your jobsearch to satisfy your Work Coach ? That basic fact is exactly the same for JSA or Universal Credit. The only difference being that under Universal Credit a specific 35 Hour jobsearch is mandated.
            You Paul are confusing fact with reality. But then as an anarchist, I expect you are used to that. If you want to live in a bomb-throwing no rules fantasy, that is up to you. But it is not acceptable to be giving your false advice to people like Trev on this blog. Though no doubt he has more sense than to take it.

          • BTW just for the record I am one of those peace loving hippy anarchist like the Jesus.

            I do not throw bombs and have respect for most human beings.

        • I’m pretty canny with them though , if I can managet o keep calm, I choose my words carefully,

          Work Coach: “Are you interested in this job?”

          Me: “No, but I’ll apply for it if you want me to”

          Work Coach: “Why aren’t you interested in it?”

          Me: “How can anyone find it interesting to put trainers into shoeboxes nonstopa day, every day?”

          Silent pause….

          That was a conversation I had on the Work Programme though, not in the Jobcentre, but you get the idea.

          • What I tend to do on the first meeting with a work coach or advisor is ask what qualifications or experience do they have in recruiting or HR.

            Pound to a penny they will say non and yet we are expected to take their lead.

            Tends to put them on the back foot from there on in.

          • Yep travel for me is also a problem poor public transport all the menial jobs are on the outskirts impossible to get to unless have own transport.

            Difficult to own anything if long term unemployed.

            Wheels to work scheme is another joke, you can only apply when someone gives you a job then it is a four week wait to see if you get accepted for the loan, which most wont, long term unemployed will have a non existent or poor credit history.
            No employer would wait that long for a menial job.

          • It’s funny because we are always told not to say we’re applying for a job because we need money when we go for interview. Yet that is obviously the truth. You’re not going to pack trainers for a profit-making company for pleasure or to give back to the community, are you? If you make up some rubbish about a personal calling to be a trainer-packer, no one is going to believe you anyway.

            Even when I go for volunteering, I do say I’m trying to get back into the daytime/work routine. Even if I didn’t, I would still get advice about training to be a professional gardener from the other volunteers.

  20. I saw Fester McVile on Question Time last night and all the time she was talking I was looking at her and thinking that she reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite pin it down as to who, not sure if it’s the Grim Reaper or Ken Dodd in a blonde wig. Anyway, let’s just remind ourselves of what she thinks about the subject of Foodbanks and Benefit Sanctions:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/esther-mcvey-dwp-benefits-welfare-stance-comments-controversial-a8149811.html

    https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mp-reminds-everyone-esther-mcvey-14131810

  21. I wouldn’t worry George, I don’t think anyone is going to take advice from
    someone posting with ”No Government, No Wars”.
    No common-sense more like.

    • Andy if anyone takes any advice from anyone in any forum or social media without question, that is lacking in common sense.

      I am sure the majority of us have enough common sense to realise that.

      If common sense means I should wish my life to be governed by others or support wars then yes I lack common sense.

  22. I am personally disabled and in receipt of ESA, PIP and volunteer at a local charity. However, I also use my free time to help people I come across who are struggling with the system and have helped several people claim PIP, ESA, housing benefit and even prevented homelessness one one occasion. Equipped with computer literacy and an MSc, I can typically assist those struggling to receive help for whatever reason but can only do so for a small few. Nevertheless, the numerous encounters I have had thus far has compelled me to attempt to start a political party with disability informing our central proposed policies. It is my intention to help the many and strive for a country run on the basis of equality. Anybody interested in helping our aims to be realized, please have a look at joining our group. Owing to our infancy we are using Facebook only at the moment but it is my hope that a more open platform can be developed in the longer term. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1349035641867426/

    Whilst this may seem exceptionally ambitious, a party does not need to be in power or even especially large to impact the government that holds power; so whatever your personal alignments are, to combat the appalling systems currently in place, I ask you to consider joining us.

    Thank you,

    • Good luck with your cause but will you not be shooting yourself in the foot if you take votes away from labour ?

      • A Pressure group would seem to me to be a better way forward and join in with others doing just that, it does seem to be working, the pendulum does seem to swinging in your favour now, it is only a matter of time when the walls will come tumbling down.

        • There are some disabledrrights pressure groups already in existence, could just join them, DPAC & Black Triangle.

        • The facebook group chose its own direction – we had the option of being either a pressure group or party and the members at the time decided party. No, I don’t believe we will shoot ourselves in the foot as we will only be targeting conservative strongholds, thereby weakening the conservative stronghold and thus strengthening labour’s hands – that is until we become established in our own right.
          We will also attempt to be disrupting the two horse race; with only two strong horses – ultimately we will always, at some point, be back under the rule of conservatives and thus back to this very same situation. And yes…. I feel the tides are changing to and public sympathy is growing, so we need to jump on that now, or we will miss the boat.
          Thank you for your comments 🙂

  23. Trev, thank you for mentioning the Channel 4 Dispatches programme about Universal Credit. I watched in on the internet.

    They showed images of a big demo against Universal Credit in London.

    There were several things that particularly worried me:

    1) Someone had his claim closed because he missed a telephone call. That meant waiting another six weeks before getting any money. I missed a telephone call from my doctor this morning because I was in the toilet. It was lucky that she phoned back and kept ringing for a while. Imagine having no money for six weeks because you were in the toilet when they rang!

    Then the same individual had his claim closed AGAIN and he had to wait ANOTHER six weeks. This time, it was because DWP sent him a text message. It instructed him to log into his Universal Credit account on the internet. The library was closed that day, so he went to the library the following day, but DWP closed his claim on the basis that he took too long to log into his account.

    Before I had a smartphone, I couldn’t go on the internet every day. I think it’s really harsh to give someone no more than 24 hours to go on the internet before removing all of their benefits!

    2) There was a single man who was working as a taxi-driver and bringing up his own children (contrary to many feckless fathers out there). Yet he lost his home and his children had to go to live with their grandparents AND he had to give up his job as a taxi-driver, all because he moved from the old system onto Universal Credit. The Jobcentre advised him to GIVE UP HIS JOB and claim as an unemployed person in order to get more money! After causing all this destruction in his life, the DWP decided they didn’t pay him enough to begin with!

    If I were a taxi-driver, I would be pretty p’d off to say the least if the government told me to GIVE UP MY JOB! Work is your life, your reason to get up in the morning. You shouldn’t have to give it up just because the government randomly plays about with some benefit rules.

    3) There was a lady with ME who tried to commit suicide because she couldn’t pay bills, even though she was a mum with a small child at home. She was trying to claim Universal Credit after she took a job in a shop and found it was too strenuous for her state of health. Another disabled lady considered suicide on a daily basis, but did hold off, only because she was caring for both her children and her grandchildren. All this puts these children at significant risk, yet it could all be avoided with a gentler benefit regime.

    • it’s all absolutely disgusting Alison, all being done deliberately. Some disagree but this is why I call it Class War because thats what it obviously is. McVey thinks it’s right that poor people be punished like naughty children.

      • There’s conditionality and then there’s psychopathic draconianism. The hoops we have to jump through today are beyond reason for the pittance we get. It was better before Jobcentres existed, “have you done any work?” – “no” – “sign here” – “goodbye”. I’d love to tell them to stick it up their arse. Can’t wait to Retire.

      • No I don’t support conditionality. It’s far too expensive and catches out the wrong people.

    • “Then the same individual had his claim closed AGAIN and he had to wait ANOTHER six weeks. This time, it was because DWP sent him a text message. It instructed him to log into his Universal Credit account on the internet. The library was closed that day, so he went to the library the following day, but DWP closed his claim on the basis that he took too long to log into his account. ”

      This is why it is wise to have your telephone number and Email address removed from their system once made a claim.

      Face to face or post saves a lot of hassle.

      • Paul, on Universal Credit, they WON’T send letters, nor deal with you face to face. You HAVE TO give them an email address.

        • Alison you do not need a email address or phone number to continue claiming UC, your talking about making the initial claim, you can use any old email to do that.

  24. Read this and see the main reasons for jsa sanctions,

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/682635/benefit-sanctions-statistics-to-october-2017.pdf

    Sanctions for not actively seeking employment do not even show up but will be part of the other section 0,2%.

    People are being pressurised by propaganda and fear ,it has a major affect on your mental and physical health and there is no reason to succumb to that pressure if you understand what they can and cannot do and why.

    Once you get off the merry go round it takes a while for trauma to subside then you get back a sense of some freedom, peace of mind and feel back in control.

    You are more likely to find sustainable employment in that frame of mind than the one the DWP try to put us in.

    • That’s interesting, I feel a bit relieved already! Doing all this bloody jobsearch all the time and con.stantly worrying about it really gets to you, I feel stressed & anxious all the time especially as signing day approaches. I’m sure all the dole-related stress of the last few years has probably shortened my life by a few years, plus living like a pauper. Poverty alone is punishment enough without all the other stress they heap on to you.

      • A lot of sanctions are not appealed people automatically assume they will not win but again if look at the numbers overturned at mandatory reconsideration stage it paints a different picture.

        It does not help Decision makers are just as unsure of the law as work coaches are

        Had a massive problem with a psychotic advisor on the work programme, he thought he was above the Law, later on he learned he wasn’t.

        Put it like this there is a civil service code of conduct, they should not lie and provide clear informed information.

        Truth is they lie and are generally ambiguous at the best of time.

        Look how they try to avoid the truth on freedom of information requests.

        If I am showing the work coach the Law and their own guidance and they continue to pressure me or bother me on the subject then it becomes harassment.
        I turn the table on them, it is them that now feel the pressure hence the breakdown.

        • Haha that’s a beauty. I’m going towwritetthat address on several bits of paper & keep leaving them next to computers in the Jobcentre & library.

          • Thanks, Paul. I had a good laugh as well.

            I fancy my skills as a bottle-collector. In real life, when they bring in the bottle deposit scheme, I’m going to go litter-picking to earn a few extra pennies.

          • Same here Alison if it turns a few extra pennies why not, not really looked at it recently but from what I saw there was machines you put the waste into and it churned out a receipt.

            Really it would be probably be better to start hoarding them now before the rush kicks off but not even sure what’s wanted and what’s not and then I think it would have to have deposit paid stamped on it to valid I would assume.

            Making bricks out of recycled plastics is becoming popular and if we all got together we could save the environment and build new homes on the cheap.

  25. There was a TUC demo in London yesterday about living standards, etc. Shame I didn’t know because I didn’t keep up with my emails – oops!

    Thanks to all those who did attend.

  26. Pingback: The rush to throw sick or disabled people off ESA and force them onto Universal Credit is on | Kate Belgrave

  27. Pingback: All you need to force the DWP to talk half-civilly to benefit claimants is a plague. Who knew? | Kate Belgrave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.