DWP: if you don’t close your ESA claim and move to Universal Credit, we’ll shut your ESA down anyway

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.

She said:

“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,”

and:

“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..”

56 thoughts on “DWP: if you don’t close your ESA claim and move to Universal Credit, we’ll shut your ESA down anyway

  1. Bloody hell, the shambles continues. Saying that Universal Credit should be “paused and reviewed” is just not good enough, the entire bollocks needs to scrapped asap. The Tories have deliberately wrecked our Social Security system, people are suffering, and it’s high time Labour recognized that fact. The whole sorry mess is a disgrace. the system is impossible to deal with and doesn’t function, at all.

    “I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve”, then some Tory twat says “it’s not a documentary you know”. Jesus Christ.There are many ‘Daniel Blakes’ out there. In fact it It occurred to me that there most likely is someone, somewhere, claiming Benefits, whose name actually IS Daniel Blake. Imagine that in the Jobcentre when they call out his name!

    • If I hear Pause and/or Review or whatever one more time I am going to blow one of my few remaining functioning valves

  2. Hi It triggers a Change of Circumstances regardless that’s why many will be caught out by not understanding rulkes. Seek welfare advice promptly before making any changes

    • Yep. Point is exactly that – it’s tough shit for people by the time it happens and also – DWP is in my view using the opportunity presented by people having to make new claims to call people’s circumstances into question. The old “change of circumstances” ruse with new UC claim is being used as a great opportunity to poke around in people’s details and find them “lying” on some front or other…

      Getting advice in advance of presenting with a change in circumstances is a real problem. Once you’re caught in the net, you’re not getting out. You have no voice. Which is the other point. People who must live with this shit just have to wear it. Does my head in.

    • Moving house is not enough of a change of circumstance to trigger a move to UC unless you have moved into another area and have to claim your HB from another council, or if you weren’t claiming housing benefit before. But they shouldn’t have to claim as a couple if they aren’t a couple regardless.

      • Am very much starting to think they’re getting into “Any Old Shit Counts As A Change In Circumstances” territory

      • I’ve heard of someone who moved within the same street, four houses along to a more accessible property, and this triggered the transfer to UC.

  3. They only paused managed migration because they are worried the legislation might not pass but that is irrevelvent really when the are using every trick in the book to push legacy claimants onto UC .

    Yesterday I noticed a weeks worth of JSA had gone into my account and thought my claim had been closed turns out it was a glitch for many on JSA so worth checking bank Trev lol

    • Precisely. There are formal ways of pushing people off benefits and forcing them to make a claim for a new one, and not so formal ways. Either way your claim is ended and it’s up to you to make a new one and hope you get some money at some point.

    • Oh shit! I checked my balance a couple of times over last few days at the atm and I thought it was odd that I seemed to have more money left than what I should have, but I just thought I must have got mixed up with it having been Xmas etc. so I’ve been drawing money out and spending it, as you would. I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m now really overdrawn, or that I now somehow owe money back to the DWP. WTF?

      • I’m on ESA, and my fortnightly payment isn’t due until the 12th Jan, but a week’s money appeared in my bank on the 5th, which freaked me out a lot, since we’ve just gone live with UC here in Ceredigion, and I don’t trust the DWP not to stealth us into changing to UC somehow 🙁

        But when I went onto FB, I saw that others had been getting the same all over the christmas period – you would think that, by now, they would have fixed the ‘glitch’ wouldn’t you? 🙁

        I’m now beginning to wonder if this IS another sneaky way to force us on to UC, somehow 🙁

        • Yeah same here, my JSA is due in Bank on11th but unbeknown to me half of it went in on either the 4th or 5th. I think it’s just another exampleof DWP arse/elbow confusion rather than anything more sinister.

  4. i was moved from jsa to uc( renamed unworkable cr*p), i worked from september for 6 weeks and earned over £7000,-, paid in october, so no money for november, ut because i earned so much it carries through to december which means reduced payment, i’m also not allowed to have more than £6000,- in assets (£16,000,- on jsa) and they pay 3rd class ni stamp ( 1st class on jsa), so i get punished for working, as a lot of money goes on digs and travel as i work all over the country and abroad but as a contractor the work is short term.

    • That’s where the system is far more inflexible than the old supposedly complicated system that everyone and their dog understood.

      Sure there were silly anomalies such as the utterly stupid 15 hours and 59 minutes rule which meant if you actually worked for sixteen full hours and you were making a claim you should have signed but the reporting system using Form B5 seemed to work pretty well, and there were no carry overs from month to month if you’d already received your pay.

      I can remember the sense of foreboding and criticism that accompanied the introduction of JSA in 1996, and though for the first time the notion of conditionality had been introduced, the net effects were pretty mild as the test contained within JSA was pretty easy to satisfy – and the whole system was much more supportive, with plenty of opportunities for going on training courses and receiving an extra £10 a week for attending – even when it was a mandatory course. UC is a whole different scenario, where JSA may have introduced a bit of mild anxiety UC is out and out terrorism.

      Horrible though that is, I think it could ultimately be the undoing of UC as we know it, as it will create so many quite sick people made that way simply due to the stress and anxieties that just being on UC causes.

      Labour are acting like farts in a trance over Universal Credit, and their half-hearted campaign to ‘pause and fix’ just isn’t good enough.

        • Not mine sadly, I ‘adopted’ it too. Saw it in someone’s comment on Facebook on Saturday and that, ‘Yeah, that’s about right!”

          • LOL, ,its a good one tho. By the time the fog clears it’ll be too late, we’ll all be dead & the Tories will have been re-elected. Labour remind me of the lotus eaters.

      • Labour are not going to do a single thing about Universal Credit. But the delayed UC roll-out is going to put them right in the spotlight on this. In 2022 there will still be at least a year left to complete it, probably more. So Labour will have a straight choice. Campaign on the basis of doing something about Universal Credit, and put this in their manifesto.
        Or finish off the Tories dirty work for them.
        ( That is is they can even get elected, which on their current disastrous ratings seems less and less likely).

    • I signed it, but I doubt it’ll do much good as it will just be ignored. The only way I can think that would stop these horrendous assessments would be non-violent direct action, such as accompanying people en masse and perhaps occupations of the the buildings. That would of course involve the police, (who are overstretched and short of resources) and in Labour areas could be used to pressurise local politicians to show their true colours. They might be aggressively inactive over WCA but if put on a spot they could be shamed into coming out against these insulting and degrading tests. The point being is that if they think they can save money by denying people their benefits we just make it hugely expensive for them to do so.

  5. We can expect to see a lot more of these covert transfers to Universal Credit.
    Now 6 years delayed, the full Universal Credit rollout put back to 2023. The Brexit fiasco taking up all parliamentary time for the forseeable future. The DWP know they will be lucky to get the regulations on migrating claimaints to Universal Credit debated and passed. At my local Jobcentre, they are now trying the softly softly approach. Asking claimants if they are aware of ‘how much’ Universal Credit could help them in their jobsearch. And that they would be able to be so much more ‘flexible’ once they were on it. Flexibility seems to be the buzzword here, ( like some kind of employment yoga ).
    Well , if you were a Work Coach sitting in a Jobcentre all proudly decked out in Universal Credit white & blue. Posters on the walls of smiling workers opening up the warehouse doors etc, and your manager breathing down your neck about transfer rates, wouldn’t you try it on as well ?
    My advice ? Remain celibate, don’t move house and never be late signing-on.

    • I constantly wonder where their union, the PCS is in all this. All through the introduction of UC they have been worse than useless in opposing it. I used to think that USDAW represented the most useless trade union in the UK, now I’m having my doubts. According to SUWN, the PCS is hiding behind Thatcher era anti-union laws for their inaction. Whilst those laws do out some restrictions on what unions can do, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to take very effective action and stay within the law.

      What PCS members are doing is effectively assisting the UK government, through the DWP in systematic human rights abuses of a serious nature that is causing stress, anxiety, malnutrition, homelessness and death.

      I’m sure that there are many DWP staff who feel they are forced to do things they feel are wrong, (and there is evidence that DWP workers are complaining of symptoms of what is probably something akin to PTSD after having to recommend a claimant for a sanction at Christmas time – a clear sign that they know what they are doing is wrong). The PCS should be offering support to those workers with misgivings, not effectively condoning DWP policies. PCS members could legitimately refuse to implement those policies because of the negative effects they are having on people.

    • Employment yoga? Is that where you bend over backwards to get your dole? Might do my back some good, I’ll try the double dog-down whilst doing my jobsearch.

  6. We’ve just become live for Universal Credit. I’m helping someone with dangerously deep depression who has failed his work capability assessment again. Every year he fails and every year he gets put into the support group at tribunal, but the DWP doesn’t learn. The letter the DWP sent told him his ESA was stopping and he should go to the jobcentre to sign on for JSA. No mention that this would trigger a change of circumstances resulting in an application for UC and the resulting 5 week minimum delay before getting anything at all. To my mind this is entrapment. Once he’s made the application to UC there is no going back, even though this is the DWP’s mistake. Fortunately he came to us before going to the jobcentre and we’ve put in an appeal. If he fails the Mandatory reconsideration he will go on to ESA assessment rate until the Tribunal, and his housing benefit remains unchanged after a phone call to the council. He is therefore better off even with no ESA but with housing benefit than he would be if he had done what the DWP had told him to.

    • This is an important point.

      This is exactly what happened with another case that you excellent people helped out with – a man found fit for work when he absolutely should not have been and told by the DWP in the WCA letter to signon for JSA without giving him any indication that when he approached his local jobcentre, he’d have to sign on for UC as he was in a full rollout area. He had learning difficulties, spectrum issues and mental health issues. His housing benefit was cut straight away. He was desperate.

      Entrapment is the word all right. He had no idea or indication that this would happen and it took absolute months to sort it out.

        • They need to pasture Corbyn back out to the allotment with his beans. Maybe he’s already dead. Who can really tell. This is hopeless.

        • Having just seen TheresaMay giving a Party Political broadcast on tv I feel physically sick – “we’re creatinga country that providesopportunity for people to reachtheir potential…blah blah fucking lie…”. Is there anelection imminent? Useless as they are, for God’s sake VOTE LABOUR!!!

  7. Corbyn lacklustre as usual on PMQS. May still managing a strong defence.
    It’s common-sense turned on its head.
    Labour have got some real thinking to do here. So many people have been turned right off them by the Corbyn / Momentum movement.

    • Perhaps McDonnel would be better, at least he has called for Direct Action against any Tory MP who dares to show their face in public, and seems to be more up for a fight against the Tory scum. I don’t have a problem with Momentum though, they are keeping the Blairite types at bay., and helping to ensure that Labour stays on a truly Socialist direction instead of veering off into neoliberal faux Socialism again. Don’t get me wrong though, I would still vote for Corbyn, and hope to see him in no. 10

    • I’m turned on* by JC. I joined Labour because of him. I’m disappointed over Labour’s stance on Brexit, but as I see it, the only way to save the lives/homes/health of many benefits claimants is to oust the Tories, and only Labour has a chance of doing that. I wish Labour and the Greens and maybe the Lib Dems would consider a coalition…

  8. More Benefits/Universal Credit shenanigans/U-turns…..

    Benefits freeze likely to end in 2020, says Amber Rudd

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/11/benefits-freeze-likely-to-end-in-2020-says-amber-rudd

    Amber Rudd to Make Universal Credit, ” more compassionate and individual”.

    “Today I’ll be setting out my ambitious vision for #UniversalCredit.
    A compassionate and fair system that helps people into work, gives quick and effective support where it is needed and improves life chances.” – Amber Rudd

    https://intensiveactivity.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/amber-rudd-to-make-universal-credit-more-compassionate-and-individual/

    “Universal credit: U-turn on two-child cap on benefit”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46827301

    • Yes, that was an intriguing claim from Rudd.

      I stood outside Stockport jobcentre for an hour on Thursday and spoke at length to four people whose lives had and/or were being fucked up by Universal credit:

      – a woman with small children whose husband was self employed. They’d never been paid their Universal Credit on time. Not once. It was fucking up their lives.

      – a 59 year old woman whose ESA was stopped after a fit for work finding. Had to sign on for UC. Took ages to get it. Now having the loan deducted from payments. Had been called to another WCA while still waiting for appeal to process on the above one.

      – a young woman with a child who went without any money for four months last year because her UC claim didn’t go through properly

      – a young man who said he tried to get thrown back in prison rather than cope with this “system.”

      That was in one hour.

      Maybe Amber needs to get out more. She certainly needs to get away from whatever computer is guffing out her press releases.

      • Yep, it’s the same story in every town & city across the country, That’s why foodbanks are working flat-out to feed people and Councils, Housing Associations & private Landlords alike are running-up Millions of £s in rent arrears, in case Ms. Rudd hadn’t noticed.

      • The DWP were so intent on social re-engineering claimants they forgot they were also social re-engineering staff and now practically the whole department is manned by Lawful Evil bastards.

        Many problems people face are due to staff ignorance lack of training and empathy they do have discretionary powers but fail to use them.

        The clue they know UC is so fucked up is that the pilot will not be mandatory and legacy claimants will be only be “invited” .
        So if everyone “invited” said fuck off and that would be the sensible thing to do imo then what ?

        Resistance is never futile fellow travellers cling on to legacy or there be dragons.

  9. Pingback: Amber Rudd’s fake Universal Credit news | Kate Belgrave

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