Homelessness and poverty while Brexit takes it all

Posted below are excerpts from a transcript of an interview with homeless Newham woman Marsha, 30.

I post this as an example of homelessness as so many women I interview these days experience it.

Marsha talks about common problems that homeless women with children are always up against now: the lifetime of housing insecurity, the debilitating anxiety and depression, and the public authorities that invade a homeless woman’s privacy and keep her in her place by never letting her forget that they could take her child.

Marsha talks about being trapped forever – in rotten housing and low-paid work.

Few people on the ground believe that this will change soon.

The political and media classes are completely consumed by Brexit.

There’s no time or space for people who rely on the public services that our imploding politics can’t provide.

That is disgusting. I can’t tell you how upsetting it is for everyone involved.

——-

Housing

For 18 months, Marsha has lived with her 6-year-old daughter in a single room in a Newham homelessness hostel.

The two share a bed in that room:

Marsha and her daughter in their one-room temporary homelessness hostel accommodation

Before they were placed in this hostel, Marsha and her daughter lived in temporary shared accommodation in a Newham hostel called Belgrave Court.

The two had one room. They shared a kitchen and bathroom with other hostel residents.

Marsha has lived in a lot of places like this. She grew up in shared accommodation.

Marsha’s mother migrated to England from Jamaica. She worked long hours as a cleaner. She brought Marsha to England when Marsha was 12. The two lived in shared housing.

They often had to move. Stability is a privilege that not everyone enjoys.

Marsha says:

“…when you’re renting a room… you’re sharing with all different people and there’s always issues, so we’ve always had to just kept to kept on moving, so as a teenager coming up into my adult years, I had to move…”

Marsha says that she was abused when she was younger.

She hates talking about these issues (“I don’t want all my business out there”), although council and jobcentre officers insist that she talks – again and again and again:

“The medical assessment officer, he asked if I had any issues. My issues growing up is not something I’m comfortable talking about, so I just said to him, “bottom line, I suffer from depression. I don’t need to go into the things that make me depressed, because it is uncomfortable to relive certain moments…”

Relentless interrogation by authorities

Marsha is forced to relive her past and present problems, though. Homeless women must repeatedly justify their need for housing and income help to strangers by explaining their backgrounds and experiences again and again. They must tell their stories from the start to each new officer who interviews them – council homelessness officers, MASH (multi-agency safeguarding hub) officers, jobcentre advisers and social workers.

They must tell officers everything: mental health histories, family histories, relationship histories and abuse histories. There’s no letup. There’s no privacy. There is no autonomy. Officers want details when they are deciding if a homeless woman is in need.

They want graphic details, even. Does the woman have panic attacks? How often does she have them? How serious are they? How bad is her depression? Is she medicated? Was she abused? Who was her abuser? What did her abuser do? How has her experience affected her kids?

Officers want to rate a woman’s story. They want her to prove that her problems are genuinely serious, whatever that means.

Marsha says that her medical history of depression and panic attacks (she’s been hospitalised in the past) has sometimes been dismissed in the past, because officers say that panic attacks are run-of-the-mill these days:

“They said to me panic attacks is a common thing, [that] lots of people go through it. [They said] “just find coping mechanisms and you will be all right.”

Officers say that even when Marsha is clearly unwell:

“…the sort of depression that I had at the time – I was always washing my hands. I was always doing stuff. I couldn’t take light. Even now, I can barely stand light. That’s why I put stuff over the window.”

Marsha still drapes sheets and blankets over windows to keep the light out. I visited her at about midday on a Saturday and her hostel room was in shade.

Sheets and blankets draped over the hostel window

Officers know these things, but ask about them repeatedly all the same.

Councils keep detailed files about homeless people, but don’t refer to them, apparently.

Marsha says:

“I said to him [the officer], “I’ve got my housing file in my drawer. It’s this thick. I have been complaining since I moved into this property that I have panic attacks at least two to three times a week.”

At a recent meeting with social services, Marsha had to remind the social worker of her name, because the officer wasn’t sure who Marsha was – even though she had called Marsha to the meeting.

The social worker hadn’t looked at Marsha’s file. She just brought Marsha in to question her.

———-

Always in frame with social services

Marsha worries about the effects that their cramped living arrangements have on her young daughter:

“She’s already having behavioural difficulties, because she’s stuck in a room with me. The school’s even written a supportive letter to say that her behaviour has changed, because of the pressure… and she’s going to school telling them, “I’m sad, because my mummy’s always crying.” These are the things that she’s going to school with to her headteacher…”

There is fallout from this.

Like many homeless women, Marsha must tolerate constant questioning from social services and her daughter’s school about her child’s emotional and mental health.

Marsha often receives calls from council officers who instruct her to attend meetings with social workers.

She also receives calls from her daughter’s school, when the school decides that it has “concerns.”

Marsha is always told that these meetings are urgent and that she must attend. The meetings are often same-day.

Marsha is never given time to arrange to bring a friend or a supporter along:

“I dropped her off to school as normal… I thought everything was okay. Basically, what happened after – the school rang me saying they need to speak to me about something. I said, “okay – what is it in regards to?” “They said, “well, you’ll have to come in.” My heart starts…racing now. I am like – what’s going on? What’s wrong?”

At the meetings, Marsha is asked a string of invasive questions about her daughter.

For one same-day meeting in February, Marsha was even told to bring her daughter. The social worker quizzed the child about her life with her mother directly.

Questions Marsha has been asked recently include:

“Does she [your daughter] sleep well?

 

“What time [does she go to bed]?

 

“Have you got into a routine where you get to bed in certain times?”

Officers know that bedtime routines are hard for Marsha. She and her daughter live and sleep in the same room and bed in their hostel.

Marsha tries to study when her daughter is asleep.

“It is very hard even to do essays, or homework. I have to wait until [my daughter] is asleep during the night just to spend time to do that.”

From the school:

“Your daughter says that she makes her own breakfast.”

The implication here was that Marsha abandoned her child to find food for herself in the morning.

Says Marsha:

“When [my daughter] says that she makes her own breakfast, she is saying that she helps make her own breakfast, because she is the type of child [who wants to do things for herself]… I will be putting on her clothes and she will be like, “no, no Mummy, I can put on my clothes…”

It’s hard to imagine middle-class parents tolerating this barrage of questions and veiled accusations from bureaucrats.

—–

Escape

The problem is that people in Marsha’s situation can’t escape the system as the system stands.

People who have nothing rely on councils for help with housing. They have nowhere else to go. They have to go to approach their local council’s homelessness department.

Nobody throws themselves on the mercy of a council’s homelessness section if they have other options – not in austerity, when council budgets and housing departments have been decimated, and the bureaucracy is brutal.

People go to councils because they have to. They have to get help to find housing they can afford. If people can’t find housing in cities near work and training, they’re stuck on benefits forever. If they move away from family and friends, they have nobody to help with childcare. If they can’t find housing, they face street homelessness. That’s why people hang on.

The DWP, meanwhile, makes escape extremely for people who want to improve their chances of better-paid work and freedom.

Stratford jobcentre sanctioned Marsha’s Universal Credit payments, because Marsha’s adviser decided that Marsha was spending too much time studying and not enough time looking for low-paid work.

Marsha wants to qualify as a nurse. She is studying for a health certificate which she is still working to complete.

Marsha is desperate to gain qualifications so that she can build a future and a better income.

The DWP wants Marsha to find low-paid work and to stay in it:

“…he [Marsha’s jobcentre adviser] was really angry about that [Marsha’s studying]… I’ve been sanctioned for that, for the fact that I’m not spending enough hours looking for work, so even though you’re studying…he wants me to spend my whole days just jobsearching. He said to me, we’d prefer you to work than study.”

and:

“I’m trying to gain a proper qualification. I’m trying to get educated, move forward, so that I can get a decent job. If not, I’m always going to have to come down to minimum wage… There’s nothing wrong with retail, or customer service… I don’t mind, I’ve done a bit of everything, but ultimately how is that going to help me? I’m going to carry on with this work pattern for the rest of my life on a minimal income if I don’t try to get the qualifications to get a certain job.”

Marsha’s other difficulty is that she is playing catchup.

She wasn’t able to work or go to college for years, because the Home Office dragged its feet on her immigration status. Marsha and her mother were also fleeced by one of the many dodgy immigration lawyers that slither around this scene.

Like many youngsters who moved to England from Jamaica as their parents pursued work in England, Marsha came to England on her mother’s passport.

Establishing her right to stay as an adult was a nightmare.

“My mother put through an application for me in 2005… the solicitor was absolutely appalling. She found him through the newspaper. She saved all of her money and she just wanted to sort my papers. He ended up running off with my passport, my birth certificate and my identification and my money, so in 2010, me and my mother was just sitting there thinking – well, now you’re actually getting old… you can’t go to university. You can’t work, so she was like – “let’s just contact the home office to see what is going on… so in 2010, we contacted the Home Office. They didn’t have any kind of file…”

“…then, the Home Office come back to me and they refused my application. They said you have to come [go] back home [to Jamaica].”

——

Next

Marsha and housing campaigners are pressuring Newham council to find Marsha somewhere to live near her college and near her mother, who helps to look after Marsha’s daughter.

That’s literally the only way for homeless families to beat councils back these days in my experience – to find campaigners, or a sympathetic lawyer, who will lean on a council until something gives. Weeks go by without Marsha hearing anything, but Marsha may get a place. After a great deal of pressure, local councillors said they would act and go with Marsha to look at a flat.

—–

People can’t clear these hurdles alone

Point is: telling people in these situations that they should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps is ridiculous. The hurdles are too high. Bureaucracies are too punitive, too aggressive and too dysfunctional.

I doubt that I could rise to these problems in this context.

——————-

50 thoughts on “Homelessness and poverty while Brexit takes it all

  1. God, my experience with homelessness was a cakewalk in comparison, and I completely fell apart because of it. How does she keep going?

  2. Truly awful. The Political class remains oblivious to such suffering. At least in the Victorian era there were various philanthropists and social reformers who wanted to change things but now the Westminster elite are so far detached from reality it’s like we’re living in two separate worlds. And having to re-live all your past negative experiences in order to justify yourself to these busybodies just takes the piss even more. I have suffered from disassociative panic attacks in the past (particularly unpleasant & distressing) but still wasn’t given a sick note for it, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to explain to various different JCP advisers what Borderline Personality Disorder is, all they have to do is look it up on the NHS or MIND websites, it should be enough that I have informed them once without having to repeat it ad nauseam to every Tom, Dick & Harry. I don’t even mention it to them now, it’s pointless, and I don’t want to end up being referred to the Health & Work Programme. Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I even knew someone who was slightly late for a jcp appointment and when he apologized and said he suffered from IBS the adviser put him on the spot by asking him to explain what that was – what can you say to that, it means i might shit myself? But at least i don’t have kids to care for and am not homeless.

    As for pulling yourself up by your boot straps, someone on Twitter recently pointed out that it’s not possible when the Government have taken away the boots and the straps.

    • The endless, endless questioning and repeated questions does my head in. I’ve been in on so many of these sessions. They’re not just asking questions, either. They’re asking people to prove their need again and again and again.

      • And all that fuss about the girl getting her own breakfast, big deal, I cooked my own meals from the age of 10 !

        • I’d hate to think what they’d have thought about the way my mum dealt with breakfast. I think that from the age of 8 I had to get my own, and certainly by age 10 I was cooking meals and providing care for my two youngest siblings in terms of feeding, bathing and changing them. Auden’s ‘Public faces in private places’ seems very apt. I see the need for social workers, but why can’t more be recruited from amongst the ranks of ordinary people who understand and can genuinely empathise?

  3. Perhaps telling the abused person to talk about their past experience of abuse is a bureaucrat’s means of ‘coping’? In sticking to a ‘flowchart’ what-to-say-when script, the administrator does not have to deal with a real person?

    • Nobody wants to talk openly about personal things like past abuse or mental health problems to someone they don’t know or have any trust with. It’s worse when they ask you these things in the Jobcentre where it’s all open-plan and there’s no privacy, everyone on adjacent desks or sat waiting can here all your personal details. It makes me feel very uncomfortable.

      • But isn’t that the whole idea Trev? Isn’t the purpose of all the intrusive questioning by benefit advisors, (of whom I doubt but any by a very small percentage will even understand what the various illnesses and conditions actually are) to degrade and humiliate?

        Hold all of what is happening to the UK’s most vulnerable up as a mirror of what UK society has become and I think people would be shocked. However, hardly anyone with any power or influence is doing a damned thing about it.

        When the Tories launched their Pogrom against the Poor way back in 2010 they claimed to have lofty ideals, of resetting the system that Beveridge introduced, but they lied. Anyone reading the Beveridge Report cannot be left with anything other than an impression of how utterly humane at core were the recommendations of the report. The whole idea of freedom from want was that no citizen should be allowed to fall through the safety net. In those ‘bad old days’ supporting evidence may have been required, but a doctor’s letter was sufficient in those days – nowadays it requires the use of a dubious computer program in control of a failed healthcare ‘professional’ that totally trumps, and dismisses genuine medical evidence.

        The Tories have anything but humane intentions, and are increasingly helped by Labour as can be evidenced in much of Kate’s coverage. We in Wales have long been known as a stronghold for Labour, and in parts they have been in control locally for over a hundred years, so much so that the support of Valleys communities was taken for granted. They’re still taken for granted, but I suspect this is about to change, though I don’t want to think too much about where the political allegiances, or at least the votes, will go. We have UKIP and probably the Brexit Party stalking the land, (though UKIP have been a disaster, largely to themselves in the Assembly) and possibly even worse. I wish I could say that Plaid Cymru were filling a the vaccum in the Valleys and working with those communities to create hope, but the truth is that they are proving themselves just as adept at producing hot air that has no substance. Recently a new online news site became live. So far there has only been one article published, and I’m hoping the standard will remain this high, and also concentrate on similar subject material.

        https://www.voice.wales/#/its-just-survival-up-here-anger-and-austerity-in-the-welsh-valleys/

        • Yes you’re right, they want a system that undermines the user / claimant, it’s just more of the ‘hostile environment’ ethos, destroying the lives of the poor and disadvantaged just as they are destroying communities (re: Your Wales article). It’s been the same in South Yorkshire for a long time too (another ex-mining area) and other places such as the North East (e.g. Hartlepool). Class War, I’ve said it all along. Tory bastards.

          • Indeed. And they just get away with this shit time & time again. If we had an Opposition, or a Parliament, that wasn’t otherwise completely preoccupied perhaps someone would say something, anything, about it.

          • What’s particularly damning is that it’s an area that was once solidly and unquestioningly Labour. I wouldn’t blame the people in that valley voting for someone other than Stephen Kinnock, but it’s who that other someone is that is more than a bit worrying.

            There is only really one politician in Wales who is really challenging the status quo when it comes to championing the interests of ordinary people and that’s Neil McEvoy, who is widely regarded as Marmite., but he has been a thorn in Welsh Labour’s side since he got into office. He’s both a local councillor in Cardiff, and an Assembly Member for Cardiff West, (on the list) and came within 1200 votes of unseating the current First Minister. He did this representing Plaid Cymru in an area not know for any sympathy for nationalism in an area that is solidly working class. Labour, of course, hate him, and managed to get him censured over what they claim is either bullying, or threatening behaviour towards a council officer whilst he was helping a constituent fight eviction by the council. Unless there is something that is being witheld, it seems to me that the investigating panel was all Labour and basically a kanagroo court acting politically. Then he must have upset the upper echelons of Plaid, as he’s been suspended from Plaid Cymru since early last year for basically being himself, which is, it has to be said, at times somewhat brusque, rude even, and I could see how it could upset someone who was a bit precious. He’s a bruiser, it has to be said, but he’s just the kind of politician people need to fight the Labour establishment. Even though he’s been suspended for more than a year, a couple of months ago he was campaign manage for the Plaid Cymru candidate in a local council by-election, where she won. Again, this was non-traditional territory, thoroughly working-class area that contains a large measure of disadvantage. Obviously it isn’t the notion of Welsh independence that people are voting for, they are voting for people who they know will fight their corner.

            More politicans like this are needed everywhere.

  4. The Tories obviously don’t care how many people they’ve killed…

    https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/10/no-justice-for-jodey-whiting-as-tory-government-refuses-inquiry-into-deaths-linked-to-dwp/

    Everything’s been turned on it’s head, the ‘War Against Poverty’ has become a war against the poor, when did this happen? When did Social Security become the enemy of the people? 40 years of neoliberalism I suppose.

    And whilst Brexit drags on, and on, Government sanctioned injustices continue to wreck peoples’ lives…

    https://welfareweekly.com/category/news/

    • One thing that concerns me is that there really is no system anymore – by which I mean systems that people could feasibly use to challenge things. eg I often feel that there’s almost no point asking a council to review a housing offer these days, because the chances of getting a shit decision turned over strike me as nil. I realise that people have to go through the motions if they ultimately want to go to court or whatever, but really, I understand why people decide that there is no point. So – the only way people get change or even a vague improvement is if they can hook up with campaigners which is basically a matter of luck/running into the right people at the right time and/or finding a lawyer which is something that a lot of people don’t know that they can do, or how to do. As for political opposition – well, you go onto twitter and get the impression that it’s all happening, but out in the real world you see five eighths of fuck all.

      • Yep, and that’s why many people end up on the streets because it’s impossible to engage (or re-engage) with a dysfunctional system that is so heavily stacked against you at every turn. Social Security has become Social *Insecurity*. You can no longer rely on the State to take care of you, and I guess that’s really the point the Tories are making, at great human expense, “you’re on your own loser, don’t expect us to bail you out”. But if you try to improve your chances by studying they’ll Sanction you. All avenues of help have been blocked and turned into cul-de-sacs of hostility, apart from overstretched and underfunded charitable organizations like the CAB and foodbanks, who can only do so much. We’ve got a dysfunctional and extremely punitive Social Security system, a shortage of decent jobs, a housing shortage, impending redundancies & food shortages due to the ongoing train-wreck that is Brexit, rising crime, Rightwing extremist racist/xenophobic views spreading like a disease through all levels of society, no legal aid, but they’ve got 3,500 troops and 2,500 cops on standby to stop us ransacking Tesco’s. Meanwhile the rich continue to syphon-off all the wealth. Welcome to the Big Society.

  5. Oh good, Scientists have discovered a “monster” Black Hole (breaking news on bbc atm) that measures 40 Billion km in diameter. Yeah, it’s called Brexit…

      • It’s like waiting for Godot. I think the time is ripe for a British re-make of Back To The Future, of course you’d have to substitute a Reliant for a Delorean, but you get the picture, time travelers prevent David Cameron’s parents from ever meeting…and the rest is history.

  6. Looks like the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is the way to go. Here’s another case:

    https://welfareweekly.com/homeless-disabled-woman-left-in-unsuitable-temporary-accommodation-says-ombudsman/

    Years ago I once had reason to contact the Housing Ombudsman because the landlord (an Housing Association) had failed to repair the shower in my flat which had not been working for 9 months, and there was no bath in that flat, just a shower. I had been bathing in the washbasin sink for 9 months. Eventually the shower got fixed and I was awarded £20 compensation. I kid you not, twenty fucking quid.

    • I’d have gone to the local press Trev, and totally embarrased the housing association. They really hate that, as it shows them up in front of politicians, who they are really afraid of. It comes to something when organisations like housing associations are more fearful of politicians than they are tenants, who should really be their prime concern.

      It’s a case of priorities, and I think the early 1970s ruling that withholding of rent is not legal gives completely the wrong message to housing associations. Not condoning non-payment of rent, I do think that tenants being in control of the payments directly does give them a clout they don’t have when payments are made directly to HAs from Housing Benefit. At the end of the day, housing associations are providing a service, and though, in theory we can complain, and eventually get Ombudsmen involved, we also have to exhaust often deliberately extended complaints procedures so onerous that it discourages people from complaining. Witholding the rent when vital repairs are needed is a wonderful way of focusing the attention of HAs and you’ve become frustrated with delays etc.

      With my HA the complete complaints procedure could potentially take up to a year to exhaust, and I think this is way too long, so have in the past given them a month, (in which time they’ve often not even sent me an acknowledgment) to respond and then sent them a reminder and copied in the relevant department in the Welsh Assembly… It’s quite amazing what that does, it’s almost as if the HA becomes electrified, even though the Welsh Assembly always sends back that it can’t do anything until the issue has been through the HAs complaints procedure, but that they will anyway monitor the situation. I don’t like using this ‘nuclear option’ but I also resent the existence of tortuously long complaints procedures, which is just the HA confirming an institutional prejudice that tenants are by nature ‘vexatious’ complainants. It’s not just HAs as we know that employ people with those kinds of attitudes, as we see here so regularly on Kate’s blogs.

      When I first rented this flat in 1990, it was a different, much smaller housing association that was tenant controlled. Management was approachable, and it was very community oriented, chaotic at times, and about as far from corporately slick as it was possible to be. The HAs offices were a maze-like collection of pokey offices that, whilst were far from perfect, nonetheless did the job, and didn’t involve splashing out oodles of tenant’s cash on swanky offices. Any major policy changes had to be decided by a 2/3 majority of the Tenant Shareholders, and the executive management committee was largely made up of tenants – in other words, tenants had real power. Whilst it may not have been the most slick in terms of customer service all the time, because most of the face to face staff were either themselves living in social housing, or had been brought up in social housing no one got the kind of condescending attitude that is so common theses days. And because it was a small HA (c. 800 properties) it was quite close knit, and there was a genuine community feel. It wasn’t perfect, by a long way, but it was human scale, and there definitely wasn’t a ‘them and us’ culture. And having control as tenants also gave us a sense of empowerment that so few ordinary people appear to have over their lives now.

      • A lot of Housing Associations began as local community-oriented but then get absorbed into bigger ventures and become ALMOs, they shut down the local offices and you can only contact them by email or phone via a switchboard or call centre, can only pay rent by direct debit or HB but not in cash, little direct contact with housing officers, etc. That’s what happened in Bradford with Brunel Housing / Yorkshire Housing.

        • I think it’s the general trend everywhere. Personally it’s something I regard as a very retrograde step. I’m not even convinced that it actually saves that much, or results in better run organisations. All it seems to have done is created monsters that compete with one another to see how big they can grow, which has an effect on how much CEOs can be (over)paid, and how much in terms of reserves can be built up. I don’t know what it’s like in England or Scotland, but HAs in Wales have been jacking up rents at a level way above inflation for a number of years now. Adjusted for inflation, my rent is now around 150% of what it was when I first moved in.

          It’s quite staggering to think that as recently as 1980 social rents were only around 7% of income, wheras they are now at least 30%. Maybe 7% is too low, but 30% is way too high – and I suspect that it’s even higher for a significant portion of the population. I remember in the 90s there was a disparity in what Shelter Cymru thought was an okay level for rent, and the figure considered fair by the Welsh Tenants Federation – Shelter Cymru thought 25% was okay, WTF thought it should be no more than 15%. I know which one I backed.

          The vast majority of HAs are now completely out of touch with those for whom they exist. Yet one more way in which ordinary people are being marginalised and disempowered.

  7. Amazing how this has all become an accepted part of life now. Homelessness, food-banks, destitution. People sleeping on the streets. There would have been absolute outrage about this years ago. But now it seems to be largely accepted.
    Unfortunate, but just the way things have to be. This has been perhaps the Tories greatest triumph. Not only changing the welfare system, but changing the way people think about it.

    • Agreed and now everything is absolutely overshadowed by Brexit. I’m really noticing that. I’d like to do something about it

    • I remember discussing this way back in the mid 80s by which time it had become apparent that what Thatcher and her crew were about was hegemonic change. Getting rid of the postwar consensus and championing individualism was a big part of that. How to do something about that is the hard bit, as even those who are most affected by it seem to somehow have internalised it as if somehow they deserve no better even though they know they should be treated better.

      In the UK there doesn’t seem to be any initiative to counter the nastiness of the system. In Switzerland there is a body that is actually succeeding in reversing the advance of the right, which is what we’re actually talking about, (worryingly much of the Tory ideology is based on social Darwinism). Operation Libero offers some hope that the kind of nastiness that has become so much a feature of everyday life can be reversed by holding a mirror up reflecting the way society has become. We need something like Operation Libero in the UK to remind us that we like to think of ourselves as living in a humane and caring society.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/07/we-had-to-fight-operation-libero-the-swiss-youth-group-taking-on-populism

  8. Jesus. Am just doing a spot of required job search on my phone and have just viewed an email job alert that I received from an agency for a Warehouse Picker/Packer in another city, it’s 12 hour shifts but also says “overtime available” ! What fucking planet are these people on? I’m guessing an agency worker does about 37 hours sat on their arse in an office. Let them bloody do it.

  9. In my local Jobcentre, the arrival of Citizens Advice. And Work Coaches trying to persuade people to apply for Universal Credit. ”Just go over and talk to them…no obligation….and see how much they can help .”

    • What the? Why on earth would anyone volunteer to transfer from JSA to UC !?
      As for CAB, I’ve already seen them of my own volition, not for UC but for debt advice, and they have helped me to get a DRO, and they warned me that if I get a job before the DRO is complete (12 months moratorium period) then the DRO would be revoked and I’ll be liable to repay my old debts, whereas if I make it through the 12 months with no increase to my income my debts will be written off, therefore I have taken their advice and am currently avoiding getting a job until after August, but whilst continuing to claim JSA and constantly apply for jobs I’m not likely to get. I’m walking a tight rope to follow the CAB’s advice!

      • The DWP are frustrated at the endless delays in all this Trev, That’s the main reason. It is ironic really, when you can’t pick up a newspaper without another Universal Credit horror story in it.
        It reminds me of the time that they had one of the parcel delivery firms visiting the Jobcentre. Going on about how wonderful it was to work for them as a delivery driver. At the same time, they were being investigated in parliament for not paying the minimum wage, forced overtime and other illegal practices. But not a word was said about any of this.

        • Sounds typical. Aside from my debt issues, I’m avoiding part -time or temporary jobs and am avoiding changing my address for fear of triggering a transfer to UC, and I’m guessing millions of people are doing likewise. I wish to God I could Retire but got quite a few more years to go yet (if I live that long).

      • Trev, maybe your debts were too high, but for future reference, or if you come across someone in a similar predicament, it’s worth remembering that if you have a debt that is less than £500 and you have at least two debts and a CCJ that you can’t pay then you are eligible for an Administration Order at the County Court.

        https://www.gov.uk/options-for-paying-off-your-debts/administration-orders

        But in the meantime, here’s hoping no-one offers you work between now and August. In terms of applying for jobs, as you are on JSA then the ‘two steps’ rule should work in your favour – no sense stressing yourself out over the DWPs silly rules! Even if you go for jobs that otherwise you would like, and get as far as interviews, you can allow yourself to shine, and then, when they ask you if you have any questions, ask them if the union is active… That will usually get you off the hook in terms of being in with a chance of getting the job! And it’s all legitimate too, so no sanction really possible.

        • Yeah it shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate my way through the remaining 4 months or so. Even if the Jobcentre send me for an agency job (as has happened in the past) they generally require you to complete a health questionnaire, answer yes to anything on there and you’re automatically rejected – high cholesterol, high blood sugar, hiatus hernia, arthritis in my foot, not to mention Borderline Personality Disorder!

          Mind you, many people with illnesses are deemed to be ‘fit for work’ :

          https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/15/fit-for-work-graffiti-campaigner-is-launching-a-new-legal-project-are-you-in/

          • I’m going to have to sign on to UC soon, which should be a barrel of laughs. I’ve been living on money I inherited from my dad for the past two years or so. At 62 it’s going to be interesting to see how many employers are queuing up to employ me. Hopefully I’ll find some voluntary work that will fill some of that time, but I guess that like everyone else on UC, I’ll have to get creative with job related activities. I’m doing an online TEFL course, which should take up a few of those work related activity hours.

            I know what you mean about age related issues, and I could put a few ticks in boxes for some ailments. I have always had a form of muscular dystrophy, ( a non progressive form) which I’m now more willing to roll out. My arthritis also keeps reminding me it’s there, and sometimes can be downright painful.

            It’s high time people retired at 60 and did voluntary work, and gave a chance to younger people.

            That campaign is interesting, though the stickers are a bit pricey. I hope he’s right about an election though. And I hope people see sense and give the Tories a drubbing.

  10. Tories saying nothing definite about abolishing Section 21 evictions, other than they are “consulting” on it? This was a Labour policy anyway, but unlike Labour the Tories say nothing about regulation of Rent increases, so the proposed evictions legislation would be meaningless in practice – landlords could get rid of tenants simply by hiking up the rent.

    https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/15/theresa-may-announces-watered-down-labour-policy-on-unfair-evictions-hers-wont-be/

      • Yeah, I bet only the ‘con’ bit is correct about that – I always refer to it as coninsultation when the HA does things along those lines, and have been known to send back their surveys pointing out the built-in biases etc. I fail to see how pseudo-science and lies cut it.

  11. Pingback: We know you’re homeless and dangerously depressed and anxious. Let’s push you over the edge | Kate Belgrave

  12. Pingback: Which women? | The Idge of Reason

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