And I’m back.
Went leafleting at Stockport jobcentre with Stockport United Against Austerity yesterday.
I wanted to note this:
Since full Universal Credit rollout started in Stockport in November, we’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been pushed off jobseekers’ allowance, or employment and support allowance, and told to apply for Universal Credit – for spurious reasons if you ask me.
People say they’ve been left with nothing to live on when their JSA or ESA is stopped and while they sit out the weeks they must wait for their first Universal Credit payment.
We spoke at length yesterday with a woman whose ESA claim was stopped at the beginning of December.
She’d been without money since – aside from a Universal Credit advance loan which she’d had to take out. She’d already spent that loan on bills. She’ll have to pay the loan back when (if) her Universal Credit payments start.
The woman said that as far as she was aware, her ESA was stopped because she’d gone on a four-day trip to see her sister who’d just had a baby (this trip had been paid for by a family member for a surprise, by the way. I say this to head off twits who want to moan in the comments about benefit claimants who dare to indulge in minibreaks).
The woman said she told the jobcentre that she would be away, because the trip coincided with a jobcentre meeting. She had to ask if she could change the meeting date.
When she came back from her trip, the woman found that her ESA claim had been closed.
She had to apply for Universal Credit.
She’d applied and had still not received a payment. Yesterday, she was making her third trip to the jobcentre to try and finalise her application.
“Four days… it [one of the days I was away] was the day I was signing on, you see, and I came back and they told me I had to sign on for Universal Credit.”
She’d been without income since:
“It’s the time waiting for this Universal Credit [that is the problem]. I got no money. I came down here to fill the form in and he was really nice the lad down here [the jobcentre adviser she saw at Stockport]. He was really nice.
“I came down to show me ID and now I’ve got to come down again.
“I don’t know why they can’t do it all [activate the Universal Credit claim] in one go. Got no money….they gave me an advance payment, but that’s gone on all my bills. I went [on the trip] at the beginning of December and they gave me an advance just before Christmas, but I’ve got more bills to pay.”
We’re finding this too often: people who’ve been thrown off JSA and ESA, and left with nothing while they try to get their Universal Credit claims going.
It was news to me that requesting a new date for a jobcentre meeting counted as a change in circumstances that would mean someone had to make a new Universal Credit claim. Doesn’t matter anyway: the point is that people are left without money while they must make a Universal Credit claim.
I’ll tell you this – such conversations do not give me confidence re: the already-weak managed migration protections that government claims will shield people who must move from existing benefits to Universal Credit. Do me a favour. If you believe that the DWP is inclined or even able to shore up the incomes of people who must move to Universal Credit, you’ll believe anything.
The facts are that we’re meeting people who’ve had their JSA or ESA stopped and have been left in the shit. They must then go through the form-filling and meetings nightmare that is trying to start a Universal Credit claim.
The hell with this.