Got a job and a chance to earn some money. Hope the DWP doesn’t wreck it… More interviews from the jobcentre

Was back at Stockport jobcentre on Friday with Stockport United Against Austerity. We spent a couple of hours talking with people who were signing on for jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance and Universal Credit.

A lot of people were keen to talk on Friday – about benefit problems, that is. People didn’t talk much about the local elections which had taken place the day before (elections which left the Lib Dems and Labour tied at 26-26 on Stockport council, I believe, and already fighting like rampant weasels. Can’t wait to see how that pans out).

Anyway. While the political class disappears down the Brexit hole that it won’t or can’t stop digging, people in need are left to get on however they can.

That generally means trying to make sense of the haywire public sector systems that millennium politics has created (if “created” is the word), trashed and abandoned. Pity that there’s so little sense to be made. I keep meeting people who can’t get answers. They certainly can’t get the answers that they need.

Here are two examples from Friday.

The first story came from Dave*, 57.

We see Dave regularly at the jobcentre. He’s a friendly bloke and always keen to talk. He’s been looking for work for a while.

On Friday, Dave said he was in the running for a permanent job as a carer. There was probation to do and then he should be underway.

This news of a job would be reason to celebrate in a world which made sense.

Unfortunately, we’re not in such a world.

Dave was worried. He was pleased about the job and eager to start – but he’d been told that taking the job and working certain hours would stop his jobseekers’ allowance and trigger a Universal Credit claim.

The mere mention of Universal Credit is enough to crush any excitement about a job offer.

As Dave understood it (and he wasn’t sure that he understood it at all), a move to Universal Credit would mean that he’d have to:

– move his housing benefit claim to Universal Credit and wait 5 weeks and more for his rent payments to start (he’d still be several weeks’ short in rent if he did get an extra fortnight’s housing benefit). Nobody in the real world believes that migration to Universal Credit will go well

– trust the DWP to accurately record Dave’s varying weekly zero-hours-contract wages as a carer and pay him whatever Universal Credit money he was owed each month on time. This is a skill which the DWP famously does not have. I’ve interviewed part-time workers and self-employed people at Stockport jobcentre who were tearing their hair out because the DWP had literally never paid them the right amount of Universal Credit, or on time.

Big DWP cheese Neil Couling told me on twitter that Universal Credit systems for people in these situations work beautifully. People who actually use these systems tell me that Neil et al are talking shit.

Point is – the potential for disaster was weighing on Dave’s mind, with good reason.

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Actually, Neil – the Universal Credit “system” for self employed people and variable incomes is shite

To twitter, then! – where Universal Credit director general Neil Couling (or the hapless minion who runs Neil’s twitter account) tells me that Universal Credit works brilliantly for people whose incomes vary.

People who are self-employed often earn different amounts from month to month. They must report their earnings each month. The DWP is meant to adjust their Universal Credit entitlements accordingly and pay people the Universal Credit that they’re owed.

Neil seems to think that this actually happens.

I’d asked twitter what should happen to a Universal Credit claim if people made money one month, but not much in the next two (I was trying to understand if Universal Credit claims stopped if people earned over certain amounts):


Said the great man in response:

“Light touch, simple and quick” – like a 2 in 1 shampoo! Sounded absolutely fantastic.

Pity it’s tripe.

I say it is tripe, because I keep meeting self-employed people outside the jobcentre who tell me that trying to claim Universal Credit while on a variable income is a nightmare – a nightmare that they’ve given up trying to wake from.

They say that the DWP can’t calculate their entitlements correctly and/or never pay their Universal Credit entitlements on time. In fact, this was the reason that I asked twitter about Universal Credit and variable incomes in the first place. I was trying to work out wtf was meant to happen, so that I could compare that with the shambles that was actually happening.

In February, for example, I posted a discussion with a woman outside Stockport jobcentre who said that trying to claim her family’s Universal Credit entitlements each month was “a nightmare.”

She said that her self-employed husband declared his earnings to the DWP each month as instructed. The DWP had not once managed to calculate the amount of Universal Credit that the family was owed and pay the money on time.

She was not happy about this. At all:

“They [the DWP] never pay us on time… Me husband works for himself, so his earnings are up and down at the moment, so we have to declare them every month…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]…

“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.”

So, there was that.

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Can I claim benefits when I’m homeless? Getting the feeling that people can’t find clear answers to this.

I’ve recently noticed a real increase in the number of people coming to my site on search terms re: how to claim benefits when homeless.

Am thinking this could indicate:

  • an increasing number of people who are homeless and in need of benefit help
  • an increasing number of people who can’t easily get the advice on homelessness and benefits that they need

Picking out search terms is hardly a formal measure of a trend, of course, and I’m not talking a mass of visits on these phrases, but I still feel like pointing them out.

Snapshot from this week:

  • can you use job centre as care of address
  • is there a way to apply for benefits when homeless
  • how to apply for benefits when im homeless
  • should dwp tell homeless people to use jobcentres as address
  • can the homeless claim benefits do the homeless get benefits
  • homeless people and job centre plus investigation
  • how much money can you get if you are homeless
  • benefits and homeless
  • can social services take your kids if you are homeless

etc. More every day really.

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.

DWP: we don’t want you studying or improving your life. We want you in low paid work forever

On Saturday, I interviewed Marsha, 30.

Marsha is homeless and lives with her young daughter in one room in a temporary accommodation hostel in Newham. (I’ll publish her full story soon).

Marsha signs on for Universal Credit at Stratford jobcentre.

Marsha told me that she wants to study to become a nurse.

To get things underway, she recently signed up to study a module in health.

Marsha said that she thought her jobcentre adviser would be pleased with this initiative.

He was not. He was furious about it.

The jobcentre adviser told Marsha off for prioritising study ahead of jobsearch. She was threatened with sanctions for putting study ahead of her jobsearch activities.

Her jobcentre adviser told Marsha that finding work – any work at any pay – had to be her priority.

Study and increasing her chances of better-paid work were not DWP priorities for her.

“He said to me “they [the DWP] want you looking for work.”

I said to him: “how can I get a better job with more money to look after my daughter if I never get qualifications?”

Precisely.

Two things:

  • this is an excellent way for the DWP to make sure that people in Marsha’s situation never get out of such situations – that they’re kept in low paid, unskilled work and subject to Universal Credit conditions forever
  • it’s extraordinary that instead of encouraging her to study, the DWP would rather that Marsha spend her time on useless jobsearch exercises such as sitting in front of a computer applying online for hundreds of jobs that she’ll never hear about again. There is no greater waste of time for people than this – sending of hundreds of online job applications that are never responded to. Still, people are forced to do this in exchange for their benefits. I’ve written about this a lot.

This government is not interested in helping people achieve economic independence.

This government wants to make very sure that people who have nothing are kept in their place forever – desperate, stuck permanently in low-paid work and trapped by the state on Universal Credit, because they never earn enough to get clear.

The rush to throw sick or disabled people off ESA and force them onto Universal Credit goes on while the DWP talks bollocks about support…

Here’s ANOTHER example (I’ve posted two already this month) of a disabled person suddenly being thrown off Employment and Support Allowance and forced to claim Universal Credit – and left with no money while waiting weeks for the first Universal Credit payment to start.

I post this as yet more evidence that the government and DWP talk entirely fabricated tripe when they claim that sick or disabled people are/will be helped to move from disability benefits to Universal Credit.

The truth is that sick and disabled people are thrown off ESA and left to hang.

I recently spoke at length at Stockport jobcentre with Karen*, 59.

Karen had been receiving ESA, but was found fit for work at a recent work capability assessment.

Like absolutely everybody I speak to in this situation, Karen’s ESA claim was closed as soon as she was found fit for work.

This always happens. Always. There is no warning. There is no help, or even a gradual reduction of payments. The axe simply falls.

People receive a letter which tells them that they’re getting their last payment and that’s it. People who already had almost nothing are left with absolutely nothing.

It’s criminal.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard similar tales in the last couple of years.

Said Karen:

“You just feel numb at the end of it. Got to go and see the specialist now… and they’re just saying, “you’re not scoring enough points. You’re not ill… this is my second Universal Credit meeting again now… to sign on again.”

Like absolutely everybody I speak to in this situation, too, Karen was forced to apply for Universal Credit to try and get a few quid while she went through the months-long two-part process to appeal the DWP decision to find her fit for work.

She had to apply for Universal Credit. There is no other benefit available in many areas now. Sick and disabled people who are in absolute poverty and lose their ESA are forced to apply for Universal Credit.

People have no savings to fall back on while they wait (often for weeks and months) for the results of fit-for-work mandatory reconsiderations and appeals.

Karen was left without a penny while she waited the-at-least-five-weeks for her Universal Credit payments to start.

She had to apply for an advance loan on her Universal Credit to survive. That’s what happens when people have no money.

Repayments for that loan will be deducted from her future UC payments which means that she starts Universal Credit in debt.


A few facts:

1) Leaving sick or disabled people without a bean to live on in a northern winter should be a hanging offence.

2) The gulf between the support that the DWP purports or proposes to offer and actually offers is inevitably so wide that the two actually exist on different planets.

In its recent responses to Social Security Advisory Committee recommendations on managed migration from benefits such as ESA to Universal Credit, the DWP guffed on about plans to set up a fortnight’s run-on money for ESA claimants in Karen’s exact situation – for sick or disabled people whose ESA claims have been shut and who have to wait at least five weeks for their Universal Credit claims to start (see page 4 of this pdf).

If you believe that’ll happen, you’ll believe anything.

I’d also make the point that two weeks’ run-on money is hardly the last word in generosity.

A fortnight’s money will not cover the five and more weeks and months that people must wait for their first Universal Credit. Slow handclap for that one, Amber Rudd.

3) People who struggle to use computers continue to have problems with Universal Credit – a benefit which they must apply for and manage online.

Karen said that making her Universal Credit application was difficult, because she didn’t have a smartphone, or computer skills:

“I don’t have one of those phones [a smartphone]. I can’t afford to buy a phone. Then they expect you to go in and [use computers at the jobcentre]. I’m not a computer person which makes it even more difficult…”

As readers of the aforementioned DWP report will know (see pg 10) the Social Security Advisory Committee recently recommended that the DWP consider pre-populating parts of the online Universal Credit form to smooth the application process for people in Karen’s situation.

Needless to say, the DWP said No:

“…the Department believes it will be crucial that new claims are made to Universal Credit because we need to ensure data is as accurate and as up-to-date as possible when claimants move to Universal Credit…”

4) I’m calling it: the DWP and government want to force people to make new Universal Credit claims precisely because it knows that a lot of people won’t be able to.

Let’s look at this from a “politicians who want to appease a social-security-hating electorate” point of view.

One surefire way to cut the number of people on social security rolls is to make getting social security as difficult as possible.

This is an oldie, but most certainly a goodie if presenting yourself as tough on welfare is your bag.

Let us take a moment to remember the many American politicians and tough-on-the-poor mouthpieces who’ve claimed that harsh welfare programmes work, because welfare rolls drop when such programmes are introduced.

Mention at these times was and is rarely made of the fact that people in dire need are cut loose by tough social security programmes, because social security is made a lot harder to get. Call me paranoid, etc…

Back to Karen’s story.

As I say, Karen took out an advance loan on her Universal Credit claim to pay bills leading up to Christmas.

The DWP said that it would deduct repayments for this loan from Karen’s Universal Credit money when her claim began. Karen wasn’t actually sure if her full Universal Credit claim had started, because she was getting so little money.

Karen didn’t know where she was in the system. You hear that a lot as well. People have no idea what is going on, because the bureaucracy is so torturous.

“I just don’t get it… I got an advance loan just before December… I was told that I would have to pay £40 each payment when I got my money [when her Universal Credit claim begins]. That’s like £80 a month before I get anything… I’m trying to sort it out. I don’t really know. I’m not used to it…”

To cap things off, Karen had been called to another work capability assessment, even though she was still waiting for appeal results from her latest one.

Karen was travelling all over Stockport (on buses which cost £4 a day) between doctors and specialists to gather more medical information.

Her doctor insisted that Karen wasn’t fit to work. Her doctor gave her sick notes to give to the jobcentre to excuse her from jobsearch activities.

Karen said:

“I’ve got a sick note from my doctor because I’m waiting for a specialist now, but I know when I go on Tuesday [to the second work capability assessment] and go through it all again and then wait for a decision that they’re going to make… then they’re going to come back again no points scored it’s just like being bounced [from one place to another].


This “system” is a pig’s ear (yep – unfair to pigs).

I’ve said it several times already this month and I’ll say it again: I’m talking to person after person – all sick or disabled – at Stockport jobcentre whose ESA claims have been shut without warning and who have been left with nothing while they try to start new claims for Universal Credit.

People are being ground out.

The DWP, meanwhile, continues to puff out fantasy reports in which it asserts that it tailors support for sick or disabled people who struggle to move from benefits such as ESA to Universal Credit:

Says the DWP:

“We are committed to providing tailored support for all claimants, including those who have restricted access to technology. Each individual’s circumstances are different and therefore their barriers to work and the support needed must be tailored to these needs,” blah blah blah (pg 14)

Can I say at this point that I just love that phrase “tailored support.”

The DWP has been bandying that phrase about – claiming to offer “tailored support” to sick and disabled benefit claimants, while doing nothing of the kind – for years.

Readers of this site will know that the phrase “tailored support,” and variations on it, has historically been trotted out by DWP when it has launched its various assaults on unemployed sick or disabled people.

For example: we heard a lot about tailored support when the DWP cut specialist Disability Employment Advisors from jobcentres (from about 2014 to 2016).

The DWP would send me (and everyone) press statements which claimed that sick and disabled people with support needs were being provided with a “tailored” work coach service in lieu of DEAs.

The DWP made such claims – even as I sat in Kilburn jobcentre with disabled people whose benefit claims were erroneously closed by advisers who had no training in sickness or disability and who freely admitted that the DWP’s claims of a tailored service were rubbish.

Paragraphs from the DWP’s latest writings on managed migration to Universal Credit look very much like a cut and paste exercise from press statements and reports that the DWP has been sending out for years.

Etc, etc. You see my point. This “system” is an absolute pile and has been for ages. It’s even more dysfunctional than Brexit. More practice, I guess.

*Name changed

From May, pensioners will have to claim Universal Credit if they have a partner below pension age

Paul Treloar circulated this on twitter today:

Government announce that old-age pensioners will now have to claim Universal Credit from 15 May if they have a partner below pension age. Absolute cowards sneaking this announcement out today, to be drowned out in Brexit debate tomorrow

from 15th May 2019 https://t.co/QY39DLHnY6— Paul Treloar (@PaulieTandoori) January 14, 2019

For god’s sake. Who else can they target?

It’s bad enough watching government throw sick and disabled people off employment and support allowance and leaving them with nothing while they try to apply for Universal Credit. God knows I’m seeing that again and again.

Now they’re going for pensioners.

The full statement on the start of this change is here:

Made by: Guy Opperman (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions & Financial Inclusion) HCWS1249

…”In 2012, Parliament voted to modernise the welfare system to ensure that couples, where one person is of working age and the other person is over state pension age, access support, where it is needed, through the working age benefit regime. This replaces the previous system whereby the household could access either Pension Credit and pension age Housing Benefit, or working-age benefits.

Pension Credit is designed to provide long-term support for pensioner households who are no longer economically active. It is not designed to support working age claimants. This change will ensure that the same work incentives apply to the younger partner as apply to other people of the same age, and taxpayer support is directed where it is needed most.

I set out to Parliament last year that this change would be implemented once Universal Credit was available nationally for new claims. Today I can confirm that this change will be introduced from 15th May 2019.

So much for Amber Rudd’s compassionate Universal Credit. If you buy into that woman’s bleeding heart routine, you’ll buy into anything.

Every member of this government is a sociopath.

Read the rest here. Thanks to Paul Treloar for the tweet and links.

Amber Rudd’s fake Universal Credit news

I don’t usually bother to react when politicians guff on in the mainstream, but here’s an exception that has stirred me: Amber Rudd’s claim that there have only been a few bad Universal Credit experiences.

I swear to god.

Let me remind Amber how Universal Credit rolls.

As I said to Trev in the comments on my previous story (Trev mentioned Amber’s fantasy Universal Credit world):

I stood outside Stockport jobcentre for an hour on Thursday.

In that single hour, I spoke to four people whose lives had and/or were being screwed by Universal credit:

They were:

– a woman with small children whose husband was self-employed. The couple had never been paid their Universal Credit on time. Not once. The DWP could not properly process the varying amounts the husband was earning. This made trying to survive almost impossible. The woman was pushing her buggy around Stockport trying to sort out Universal Credit problems at the jobcentre and associated housing problems at Stockport Homes. She was not happy.

– a 59-year-old disabled woman whose ESA was stopped after a fit for work decision (I’ll post a longer story about this interview this week). She’d been forced to sign on for Universal Credit, because her ESA was stopped as soon as she was found fit for work. She had nothing to live on while she appealed that decision.

She had to take out an advance loan while she waited for her Universal Credit to start. She wasn’t sure if her Universal Credit was up and running properly, because so much money was coming out of any money she had from the DWP – for the loan, presumably. She was very confused and couldn’t find any support (so much for Rudd’s claims that people get help from DWP work coaches. Don’t make me laugh. People are left to hang).

This woman had been called to another work capability assessment, even though she is still waiting for an outcome to her mandatory reconsideration request on the last one.

– a young woman with a child who went without any money for four months last year because the DWP did not seem to be able to process her Universal Credit claim.

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

That was in one hour. JUST ONE HOUR.

I’ll be going into this in more detail this week. The DWP and Rudd literally say any old shit when they’re talking about Universal Credit and so many in the mainstream press just publish it.

That gives the DWP and Rudd all the space in the world to tell out-and-out-lies. Which they do. Rudd’s version of events bears so little resemblance to the reality I see week in and week out that she needs to be called on it.

She’s lying. Don’t print her shit.

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..”

DWP already chucks people off JSA and ESA and forces Universal Credit claims. So much for managed migration

And I’m back.

Went leafleting at Stockport jobcentre with Stockport United Against Austerity yesterday.

I wanted to note this:

Since full Universal Credit rollout started in Stockport in November, we’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been pushed off jobseekers’ allowance, or employment and support allowance, and told to apply for Universal Credit – for spurious reasons if you ask me.

People say they’ve been left with nothing to live on when their JSA or ESA is stopped and while they sit out the weeks they must wait for their first Universal Credit payment.

For example:

We spoke at length yesterday with a woman whose ESA claim was stopped at the beginning of December.

She’d been without money since – aside from a Universal Credit advance loan which she’d had to take out. She’d already spent that loan on bills. She’ll have to pay the loan back when (if) her Universal Credit payments start.

The woman said that as far as she was aware, her ESA was stopped because she’d gone on a four-day trip to see her sister who’d just had a baby (this trip had been paid for by a family member for a surprise, by the way. I say this to head off twits who want to moan in the comments about benefit claimants who dare to indulge in minibreaks).

The woman said she told the jobcentre that she would be away, because the trip coincided with a jobcentre meeting. She had to ask if she could change the meeting date.

When she came back from her trip, the woman found that her ESA claim had been closed.

She had to apply for Universal Credit.

She’d applied and had still not received a payment. Yesterday, she was making her third trip to the jobcentre to try and finalise her application.

She said:

“Four days… it [one of the days I was away] was the day I was signing on, you see, and I came back and they told me I had to sign on for Universal Credit.”

She’d been without income since:

“It’s the time waiting for this Universal Credit [that is the problem]. I got no money. I came down here to fill the form in and he was really nice the lad down here [the jobcentre adviser she saw at Stockport]. He was really nice.

“I came down to show me ID and now I’ve got to come down again.

“I don’t know why they can’t do it all [activate the Universal Credit claim] in one go. Got no money….they gave me an advance payment, but that’s gone on all my bills. I went [on the trip] at the beginning of December and they gave me an advance just before Christmas, but I’ve got more bills to pay.”

So.

We’re finding this too often: people who’ve been thrown off JSA and ESA, and left with nothing while they try to get their Universal Credit claims going.

It was news to me that requesting a new date for a jobcentre meeting counted as a change in circumstances that would mean someone had to make a new Universal Credit claim. Doesn’t matter anyway: the point is that people are left without money while they must make a Universal Credit claim.

I’ll tell you this – such conversations do not give me confidence re: the already-weak managed migration protections that government claims will shield people who must move from existing benefits to Universal Credit. Do me a favour. If you believe that the DWP is inclined or even able to shore up the incomes of people who must move to Universal Credit, you’ll believe anything.

The facts are that we’re meeting people who’ve had their JSA or ESA stopped and have been left in the shit. They must then go through the form-filling and meetings nightmare that is trying to start a Universal Credit claim.

The hell with this.