Posted below is a transcript of another interview with an older woman who signs on at Stockport jobcentre.
I made this interview at a Stockport United Against Austerity leafleting session at the jobcentre just before Christmas – about three weeks after full Universal Credit rolled out at Stockport.
It’s another example of the bullying that the DWP engages in to move people from jobseekers’ allowance and employment and support allowance to Universal Credit.
It’s also another example of people’s utter powerlessness in all of this – of the fact that people who must live with Universal Credit have absolutely no voice in it at all.
That grates more and more.
This woman had two complaints. She said:
- the DWP was forcing her to make a joint Universal Credit claim with a male friend who had moved into her flat for somewhere to live. The woman insisted that the man was not her partner. The DWP insisted that he was.
- the DWP was going to force the issue of the joint claim by closing down the man’s ESA claim so that he would have to apply for Universal Credit with the woman. If he didn’t, he’d have no income at all.
Needless to say, the woman was furious about both of these things.
“Now they’re going to phone ESA and put a stop to his money – so he’ll have to go over to Universal Credit. It’s wrong,”
“They’re trying to make us go on a joint claim for Universal Credit. He’s got his own claim for ESA, but they’re saying… we’re a couple, but we’re not a couple…”
She was utterly disenfranchised. Everyone is. It’s always the DWP’s word over yours.
Universal Credit really does sweep through like the plague when it arrives.
We’ve really noticed this in the anecdotal sense since full Universal Credit rolled out in Stockport six weeks ago.
When you talk to people outside Stockport jobcentre, you get the strong feeling the DWP is rushing to move people from JSA and ESA to Universal Credit.
People don’t want to move to Universal Credit. They want to hang onto their existing JSA or ESA claims as long as they can. They must make entirely new claims for Universal Credit and they don’t want to. Claiming JSA or ESA was hardly a picnic, but Universal Credit is something else again.
People know all too well about the delays to first Universal Credit payments and the weeks and months without money. They know they are powerless on other fronts, too. Objections to issues such as the DWP’s interpretation of personal living arrangements are swept aside. If you’re a benefit claimant, you’re a liar by definition. End of.
Resistance is pointless. If you don’t close your JSA or ESA claim and move to Universal Credit when your circumstances change (and even when they don’t, in some cases), the DWP will close your claim for you and leave you to hang. Too many people report this sort of bureaucratic strongarming.
Never forget that poverty means powerlessness. People who must claim benefits are just pushed under the latest juggernaut. There’s no negotiation, or concern.
I hate authority as it is. Unchecked authority is something else again.
A bit more from that discussion:
“My friend has just come to live with me… they’re trying to make us go on a joint claim for Universal Credit. He’s got his own claim for ESA, but they’re saying… we’re a couple, but we’re not a couple. We just look after each other. We don’t sleep together. We have separate beds, but because he’s in my property, they’re forcing us to make a joint claim for Universal Credit where I think it’s wrong…
“He gets ESA. I get Universal Credit, but because ESA is stopping and everybody is going over to Universal Credit, they’re saying that he has to come over to my claim. But it’s not going to be a joint claim, because the money is going to get divided between two of us… which I think is wrong.
“I’m sick and tired of going in there [into the jobcentre]. Three times in the last fortnight I’ve been in there now, because he has refused to go over to Universal Credit on my claim, which I don’t blame him [for] because he’s an individual, you know.
“I just told them that he won’t go over to Universal Credit on his own. Now they’re going to phone ESA and put a stop to his money, so he’ll have to go over to Universal Credit. It’s wrong.”
“…so what they’re going to do is they’re going to stop his money and send him a letter telling him that he has to go over to Universal Credit. That’s the only way to do it..”