Back to Stockport jobcentre for more leafleting with Stockport United Against Austerity:
I spoke with Stephen*, a man in his 50s who was signing on for Universal Credit some months after a job redundancy.
We talked about the coming election and Brexit. Stephen was shy: “normally, I’m not political.” Stephen was a Remainer. He seemed to feel he had to apologise for it – that his answer was the wrong one.
Stephen said he wanted England to stay in Europe, because his daughter and her children lived in France:
“…I’ve got different circumstances… I’ve got a daughter [who] is actually French and grandchildren who are French. She’s born and bred in France…I’ve got slightly different circumstances. My opinion revolves around my circumstances. If I didn’t have my family abroad, I might have another opinion…”
The day’s strong opinions were reserved, as they always are, for the wrecked public sector that people must rely on while Westminster frenzies over Brexit elections and drones the long route round its graveyard spiral.
There was Pam*, in her 60s, who’d made about 6 trips to the jobcentre and Fred Perry house, Stockport council’s nerve centre, to try and sort out her disabled son’s Universal Credit claim.
She said her son, who had learning difficulties, had moved into a flat several months back, but had only received about £300 in benefits, “with no housing benefit included.” Pam couldn’t use a computer, so couldn’t manage her son’s claim online:
“…I’ve been about flipping 6 times…it just started [her son’s Universal Credit claim] last week… he’s moved into a flat and he has learning difficulties, so that’s how he went onto Universal Credit… he works 16 hours…He only got £317 last week and no housing benefit included. I spoke to his work coach. He said you only get paid from when you apply – but my daughter went into Fred Perry house and they said I should come here [to the jobcentre].”
Pam also wanted to fill in an appointee form – to sign up as her son’s formal representative so that she could manage his benefit claim on his behalf. This had been no hayride. The application form that she’d filled had gone missing. Another copy had been sent electronically – not much use for someone who didn’t use a computer.
Pam was at the jobcentre, because an adviser had left a paper copy for her to collect:
“..they’ve left it for me. Everything is on the computer, but some people can’t read, or write. How can they use a computer? I’m not computer literate. They sent me an [appointee] form to fill in, so that I can speak for him. I did that. I signed it. They’ve said they can’t find it.”
Then – of course – there was the parking ticket Pam had found on her car windscreen when she’d parked in the lot next door to Stockport jobcentre. As per standard, the pay and display machine had been broken that day. Needless to say, Pam found herself paying for that:
“…the machine was out. I took a photograph of it and I went into [the jobcentre]. There was loads of people took a photograph of [the broken pay and display machine]. They still sent me a parking fine. My daughter wrote saying it was broken. They said you should go to another parking meter. I said there’s only one there. They’ve said you shouldn’t have parked there if there wasn’t a meter…”
We didn’t quite get round to talking elections. Maybe next time. I’m sure there’ll be one.
Blogging will be light until the end of the year as am finishing a transcription project of interviews, and homelessness and jobcentre meeting recordings. Still available for contact here.