Families trying to make self-employment and Universal Credit work: “It’s a nightmare. We never get paid on time. I have to keep chasing the DWP to get paid.”

Here’s (another) one for Amber Rudd and her specious advertisements which claim that the DWP and Universal Credit help people into work:

This is a short audio from one of the many recent Stockport United Against Austerity leafleting sessions I’ve attended outside Stockport Jobcentre. We talk with people as they attend the jobcentre to sign on and so on.

In this audio, a woman says that trying to survive by claiming the family’s Universal Credit entitlements alongside her self-employed husband’s earnings has been “a nightmare.”

(The quotes below are a transcript for this audio)

The DWP is utterly incompetent. Every month, the DWP fails to record her husband’s income accurately, even though he declares his earnings from his self-employment each month. The family is literally never paid their Universal Credit entitlement on time. They risk debt each month because of it.

She says:

“They [the DWP] never pay us on time. I mean – me husband works for himself, so his earnings are up and down at the moment, so we have to declare them every month. And I tried to set up a working from home business – but even when he’s declared his earnings, they suspend our account, we still haven’t got paid a week later and then we still have to ring up [the DWP]…

“I’ve got direct debits coming out and I still have to ring them up. We still haven’t been paid… and I have to keep chasing them to get paid.

“Yeah – no, we never get paid on time.”

I ask:

“So, you’re trying to balance self employed earnings with getting Universal Credit?”

“He declares them [his earnings] on the 16th of every month, because the payday is the 23rd. He declares them, which reopens our account, but then a week later, we should get paid – on the 23rd – but every month when it gets to the 23rd, we’re never paid, so I have to wait 40 minutes by ringing them up and getting through to them… and I’ve got a three year old and a two year old as well as the baby and it’s a nightmare.

“And all my bills come out on the 24th and so I’ve got to chase it up to make sure that I get it…”

Remember this next time Amber puts out another advertisement which features another actor who claims that Universal Credit and the DWP smoothed his path into work and financial independence and a happy tomorrow, etc.

I spend a great deal of time speaking to people at jobcentres. I’ve literally NEVER seen or heard a real-life version of Amber’s ad, or even an approximation of it.

I have, however, seen and heard many people who’ve been trying to get work, improve their incomes and claim their Universal Credit entitlements, and who have reported abject DWP and Universal Credit failures like the one in this post.

I attend jobcentres a lot more often than Amber Rudd and I talk with real people there, too. I’d say that people who must use Universal Credit for real have a better grip on the facts than Amber.

51 thoughts on “Families trying to make self-employment and Universal Credit work: “It’s a nightmare. We never get paid on time. I have to keep chasing the DWP to get paid.”

  1. It’s an absolute shambles. Labour should be making more of this too, I know Brexit is obviously getting in the way of everything at the moment (and providing a convenient smokescreen for the Government) but just a few days ago my MP (Lab.) commented in the local paper (this was in relation to homelessness) pinning the blame on “Austerity”, which I suppose is partly true but it has become a kind of coverall term and I wish he would have been more specific, i.e. it is Welfare Reform to blame; the very same Welfare Reforms that Labour abstained from voting against and which they allowed to happen. The wholesale destruction of our Social Security system has caused, and is causing, hardship and poverty for millions of people. These Welfare Reforms were/are entirely ideological, and rather than being anything to do with Austerity penny-pinching have actually cost a fortune! Until Labour seriously call the Tories out on this very specific issue, the suffering will continue.

    • That’s a good point Trev – the word austerity has come to cover a multitude of problems when people need to be very specific about welfare reform and the welfare reform act. The specifics are the problem – council tax benefit cuts and huge court costs for non payment, bedroom tax and LHA caps, benefit caps, Universal Credit and specifically delays and an IT system and bureaucracy which simply don’t function. To name a few. It’s also vital that MPs start making the point that people who had no money in the first place have had to absorb these extra costs which of course they haven’t been able to because there was never any extra.

      • Yes, I often feel that the term ‘Austerity’ is in itself becoming a sort of smokescreen because by implication it reduces the argument to one of over-zealous financial necessity as though giving credence or some legitimacy to what is really vindictive and unnecessarily punitive draconianism.

        • I know it sounds like I’m being a bit pedantic but I think it’s a valid concern. My fear is that when Labour do eventually return to power they will address the effects of Austerity, restore funding to the Councils & Police etc. but Welfare Reforms may get sidelined and we’ll be stuck with them, apart from maybe a bit of piecemeal tinkering around the edges, and that’s just not good enough. The problem needs to be publicly acknowledged right now and properly addressed in due course. The hardship, poverty & suffering isn’t being caused by library closures and too few litter pickers, it’s being caused by Welfare Reforms that have resulted in the creation of a dysfunctional and inaccessible Social Security system.

          • I think that’s a very serious worry Trev. It seems to me that far too few people realise how much our whole society relies on a properly functioning social security system. We all know how this has come about, through the various divide and rule tactics used by the enemy, how people are encouraged into fragmented thinking that separates strivers and scroungers, when in the end it’ll be found that a scrounger is an unemployed claimant of benefits, and a striver someone who is perhaps an in work claimant: things like Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit allowed people to disassociate themselves from being part of the scrounger caste. Likewise many people have erroneously believed that the State Pension is a right, and not a benefit. All benefits were a right, once upon a time. One day people will wake up and realise, like over Brexit, that they’ve been massively had.

            Austerity is a word that angers me when I hear it quoted as if it were a given, that it is essentially needed. Even the most trivial amount of thought should confirm that it’s a complete lie. If Austerity were so essential, why are the rich getting richer whilst the poor become ever more poverty stricken? As you said Trev, Austerity is just part of the ideology bought into by so many. Whilst a student at Coleg Harlech all those years ago in the mid 80s we spent considerable time discussing what Thatcher was actually doing. Sure, there are many who had good reason to detest what she was doing, but it had yet to dawn on people that it wasn’t only smashing the unions and privatising everything in sight she had in mind, but changing the hegemony. People seem to have unconsciously internalised much of the thinking behind neo-liberalism which is where we find ourselves now. .

            I shudder to think what will happen if Labour aren’t returned to power, and I do really fear that there will be social unrest on a scale that we haven’t seen in the UK in a long time. It seems that our whole political system is in meltdown with both major parties facing rifts and splits. The problem for people like us is how do we get across the need for a truly compassionate and humane system of social security?

          • We certainly can’t rely on any aspect of the political establishment to get that need for a compassionate social security system across. I personally think there IS room for someone to really push the idea of housing and income for all, but they’d have to be an inspired and inspiring type to cut through decades of anti-social security rhetoric and I don’t think Jez is that guy. He looks like everyone is pissing him off as it is. I also think that anti social security feeling runs very deep. We’ve had quite a few generations now raised to think that poverty is about fault of personality rather than about a deeply unfair system, and I think a great many people really do believe that. That thinking will take some shifting.

          • That’s why we’re supposed to have the Bishops in the House of Lords, to represent and provide a compassionate aspect of Parliament but unfortunately their role in that respect is somewhat compromised by the fact that the CoE has the PWE as a fundamental core value, and therefore noses-to-the-grindstone minimum wage drudgery is what saves our souls and any resulting hardship is for our own good. The fact that the Bishops themselves, along with the rest of the Lords and MPs enjoy a fat salary and a cushy life is just a sacrifice they have to make on our behalf, and we should all be jolly grateful. It’s that hypocritical spare-the-rod spoil-the-child mentality that permeates the entire ethos of this country and has led to the demonization of Benefit claimants and the poor in general, and created a harsh rather than compassionate Society with a draconian, punitive, Social Security System. You can’t even opt out on grounds of Atheism, because as David Cameron reiterated a few short years ago, this is a Christian country, so we’re stuck with the Institutions that are in place.

          • Interestingly the work of Adam Curtis is very illuminating when it comes to dissecting how things like neo-liberalism work, as are the various films of Michael Moore. It’s just very sad that such accessible films seem not to appeal to a mainstream audience, and are largely by the already (at least half) converted.

            I agree Kate, I don’t think Jez is the person for the job. For a while he looked as if he’d acquired Pied Piper-like qualities in terms of the support he was getting from young people, support that is now probably rapidly diminishing as yet another generation is put off politics for life. Who is there who can make a case for compassion and humanity in our society? I think they would ideally not be a politician, though I would guess that if Labour were to suddenly find someone of say, the calibre of Aneurin Bevan, who made a case for such a humane and caring society, and used his withering and often vicious wit to the discomfort of many a Tory, then maybe people would prick up their ears and listen.

            It seems now that the extreme right now has open cheerleaders in the Tory Party. Not surprisingly, it’s the more vile and disgusting of the Tories who support Turning Point UK, such as Patel, Rees Mogg etc.


            Things just seem to be getting ever more nasty.

        • She co-authored the allegedly truly nasty Britannia Unchained – I’ve been trying to get a pirated edition for a while, as there is no way I will spend money for such stuff – I just want to see for myself how vile her ideas are. She must be one of the vilest of Tories, and that’s a hard choice to make.

  2. It is all premeditated neglect and official cruelty.
    Universal Credit has so many checks and balances built into it to prevent over-payment, that these payment delays were always inevitable. The DWP don’t care. It serves you right for claiming benefits when you could be working.
    Same with the five-week delay, and the vicious sanction system.
    And I’m sorry to say, that if Universal Credit stands for one thing, it is how easily most of the working-class have been persuaded to turn against the whole idea of a welfare safety net.
    Even though they as a class, will be the ones most in need of it.

  3. Oooohhhh god, having just got back from signing on I am totally drained from the mind-bending headfuck of going face to face with a DWP human robot. What a pain in the arse. WTF is wrong with these people? Fuck the Jobcentre.

  4. I’ve not heard much from Mr.Corbyn about Universal Credit ? I wonder why.
    How many evictions is it going to take for Labour to do something about this ?

    • If he does say anything he’s met with denial and fobbed off with absurd response. Theresa May’s response to Corbyn’s question about 5 weeks waiting leading to rent arrears and food poverty; “no one has to wait for money if they need it”. !

      • That’s just the problem, he, and Labour in general allow themselves to be fobbed off. They can then come back to people like us and say something along the lines of “At least I tried”. To which we should answer in loud unison, “Bollocks!”

        • I know but we can shout all we want and it seems to make no difference. Opposing the Tories is like talking to a brick wall of denial, they won’t listen, refute everything, even official Reports. The only way to hit them is where it hurts, bring Commerce & Industry to a grinding halt through a National General Strike, but that’s not likely to ever happen. It might have done if Miliband had supported Strike action a few years ago when the Tories first unleashed their agenda of hatred against us, but swayed by the likes of Ed Balls Miliband did nothing, and then abstained from voting against Welfare Reforms. From that day on we were fucked and it’s been downhill ever since.

        • I see the odious Mail On Sunday are advertising an ‘exclusive’ hatchet-job exposé on Corbyn in their rag tomorrow, portraying him as a “dangerous” Leftie. He must be doing something right if he’s irritating the far-Right so much that they see him as a threat. I won’t be buying it of course, I am stocked up on toilet paper at the moment so I wouldn’t waste my JSA on Right wing arsewipe.

          • I wouldn’t even use it to wipe my arse Trev.

            I don’t get from just where they get this idea that Corbyn is some dangerous leftie. I don’t see him as anything other than very moderate. It’s my guess it’s their version of ‘Oh, look, a squirrel!’ I wonder what their exclusive article is attempting to divert people’s attention from? Burt yes, they’re worried, probably scared that after 40 years people are beginning to cotton on that neo-liberalism is what puts the con in Conservative.

          • The Mail are Right wing extremists, don’t forget they supported Hitler, as did many of the Tories at the time.

    • Oh bugger, I tried watching it but BBC says I have to upgrade my phone to Windows 10 and gave me a link to Microsoft store, which then says “Upgrade checker is not currently available”.

    • Hey Padi, I just watched it! Thanks very much for that, and I must say what an absolute gem, that’s a piece of social history right there. I was no’ but a bairn back then and looking back on those times now inevitably seems very old fashioned, all the blokes wearing ties, the unemployed skimping on haircuts, and eating fewer onions (!) , getting by on a few bob a week. One statement that struck me was “we are alarmed at unemployment, we are not afraid of it, for the simple reason we believe in the future”. If only they knew. I suppose the early 60s could be seen as the tail-end of the post-war years, and everything that had gone before – the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution – suddenly came to a grinding halt. It was all over. Nearly 60 years ago, the dream ended. We’ve been living on borrowed time ever since, and everything since then has been a façade. All this talk now about making Britain great again, and being able to work your way out of poverty, is total bollocks, absolute horse shit. They should show this documentary again on TV, so apt for our times and in light of the current documentary about Hartlepool especially.

      • I think it was shown on TV, though when I don’t know, probably at some obscure hour of the night on BBC 4 where only weirdos like me are likely to watch. But at least it’s on iPlayer.

        I was pretty young back then in 196 3, (I was six). I can’t say I remember much about that year, apart from of course the Kennedy assassination, but more because I had mumps at the time, though that also coincided with seeing From Russia with Love for the first time, (Plaza Cinema, Bangor). Things were very much on the up, and the future was good. There was a general sense of optimism, which held up pretty well until Thatcher won in 1979, and even then things didn’t change that much for the first couple of years or so. I think it was in Thatcher’s second term that it all started to get really bad. Back in ’79 I think most of us were under an impression that Labour needed a period in the political wilderness, and only a few really understood what Thatcher and the Tories were about.

        • I think perhaps in the 1960s most people had the impression that things were on the up and were generally optimistic, or at least unquestioning, about the future, but that was because the truth had not yet dawned upon them and popular culture provided the illusion of optimism/buoyancy against an almost unnoticed back drop of decline. I remember later in the 60s when there was blanket coverage of the Vietnam war on tv news and I am haunted forever by some of those images I saw as a child, before my father usually quickly turned the tv off. Meanwhile, in my area there were still plenty of jobs, my father swapped jobs often with no problem and was never out of work. Money seemed to go further, pre- Decimalisation (devaluation) and had more value. 4 or 5 lots of fish n chips out of ten bob, that’s 20 quid ‘s worth now, not the 50p that ten bob nominally equates to.

  5. Society is falling apart at the seams, crime and antisocial behaviour seems to be on the increase while Police are over stretched. In my area it’s getting really bad, with lots of gun crime, shootings and armed raids no longer unusual, lots of low-level crime too, over the weekend my wheelie bins were set on fire, but I’m trapped, unable to move because that would trigger a transfer to Universal Credit. Meanwhile crime is rising and the cops unable to cope.




  6. Pingback: Families trying to make self-employment and Universal Credit work: “It’s a nightmare. We never get paid on time. I have to keep chasing the DWP to get paid.”

  7. Pingback: I’ve got a job and a chance to earn some money. Hope the DWP doesn’t wreck it | Kate Belgrave

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