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.

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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.

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PIP assessment recording: the PIP assessor who didn’t know what homelessness really was

I’ve posted below an extract from a PIP assessment recording I made.

Paul’s caravan – exterior

It shows that some Personal Independence Payment assessors have no idea what extreme poverty in our so-called modern era looks like.

It shows that some PIP assessors don’t know – or don’t believe – that such poverty and need exists.

That is a problem. These assessors make judgments on sick and disabled people’s eligibility for much-needed benefits.

They’re at a dangerous remove, because they carry out these assessments behind a desk.

They judge people’s needs by reading through a computer checklist in a room in an assessment centre.

As poverty worsens, that remove tells more and more.

I attended this PIP assessment a bit over a year ago in Rochdale with Paul, who was in his 60s.

Paul had a serious heart condition, chronic kidney disease and mobility difficulties. He’d had a pulmonary embolism.

He was also homeless. He lived in a tiny old caravan on a concrete site in Oldham.

Paul in his caravan

The problem? The PIP assessor had NO idea what such homelessness meant. I was struck by this. You can’t judge people’s needs if you can’t fathom their lives. You certainly can’t judge people’s needs if the assessment system you’re using doesn’t account for poverty.

Two things:

– the assessor expressed straight-out disbelief about Paul’s accommodation (“a caravan?” you’ll hear him ask with surprise in the audio below)

– the assessor showed a startling lack of imagination about the limits of such a caravan. He asked if there was a shower in the caravan.

He kept asking Paul what disability adaptions and aids he had in the caravan. You can see from the photos that the answers were No and None. Paul barely had four walls.

So.

I find this too often with so-called professionals who assess people in poverty for much-needed sickness and disability benefits.

Bottom line is that assessors think that people in poverty have more than people actually do. They give every indication of thinking that people are better supported than people are. There’s a sense that the default position is that people are coping.

There was certainly a sense here that people who were sick or disabled and homeless simply couldn’t fall below a certain line.

Stove in the caravan

The fact that Paul didn’t have adaptations because he was literally living in a tin can without even a bucket for a toilet in it wasn’t on the radar.

Made you wonder if PIP assessors asked the same questions of homeless people who lived in tents.

The PIP assessor even asked if social services had been around to see Paul’s caravan could be adapted.

I think the assessor wanted to see an occupational therapy report – he wanted proof that Paul needed help and should get PIP because of that.

Assessors are obsessed with formal reports and pieces of paper – the certificates and reports that cost money, require ID and are harder and harder to get for people who are pushed to the fringes.

Paul’s caravan was as basic as caravans get. It was old, tiny, broken down and cramped. The caravan was so small that Paul couldn’t stretch out on the interior ledge that served as a bed. You couldn’t lean on the walls, let alone fit a handrail to them.

The caravan had no toilet or shower. There was a toilet and shower block on the Oldham site where the caravan was parked. Paul had to use that.

I realise that questions about adaptions and aids are usually asked at PIP assessments, but I wondered what the assessor was seeing in his mind: Paul living in a nice two-deck Winnebago in which you might fit a wet shower and a stairlift?

Here’s the conversation:

Assessor: The home that you’re living in – what would you describe it as?

Paul: I’m homeless…

Assessor: Homeless. Right. You do not live in a house at all?

Paul: I actually live in a caravan.

Assessor: Caravan. Caravan…? Caravan. Now, in the home do you use any aids or adaptations that are there for you…? What are they?

Paul: If I lived in a house, then I would be needing preferably a bungalow so there are no stairs…if I lived in a bungalow, I need a walk-in shower and preferably a seat to sit on…

Assessor: Yeah, but in answer to the question that I asked. Do you have any aids at the moment…

Paul: I have elbow crutches…

Assessor: Elbow crutches. Anything else?

Paul: No

Assessor: Have you been assessed by social services… or anyone that has been around to your caravan to see if there’s anything that they could do for you…

Paul: No

Assessor: When you wash, is there a shower in this caravan?

Paul: No…There’s a shower on site, there is a shower block…

Assessor: All right. There’s a shower you use in the shower block.”

—–

Etc

—-

The post below is an excerpt from a series of covert PIP and ESA recordings I’ve made in austerity.

The transcribing of these recordings will form part of an interview and assessment collection made possible thanks to a Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust grant.

Amiel_Melburn_logo

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.

Continue reading

Get to the office today or we’ll throw you off the homelessness list: how people with mental health issues are addressed

Update 28 Feb: the council says that it is investigating this situation – to find out how someone living in one of its homelessness hostels came to receive such a letter.

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Original post:

Seriously.

I wrote a fortnight ago about Lukia, a woman with serious mental health difficulties who lives (if “lives” is the word) in a Newham homelessness hostel.

Lukia has previously been in the care of a mental health unit.

She is battling Newham council for permanent housing.

Lukia came home last week to find this note under her door:

The note says:

“You are request [sic] to come into the office in Victoria Street today by 3pm. Failure to do so will lead to you being removed from the homelessness list and you will be asked to leave your home.”

I post this to show you again the way that people with no clout are addressed by authorities.

Every contact is a threat.

People aren’t invited to meetings with council or hostel staff. They’re told to attend, or else.

The “or else” part can be the threat of being thrown off the homelessness list and out of a hostel room, as in this case.

It can be the threat of street homelessness and child removal. Whatever form the “or else” takes, these threats are heavy-handed, dangerous and unjustified.

It’s high time that councillors and MPs addressed this. A shortage of housing does not justify a shortage of decency and care.

Lukia, as I’ve written, has a history of serious mental health difficulties and of being placed in temporary accommodation so vile and substandard that she’s been moved out of it.

She feels that permanent accommodation is her only chance at the stability that might lead to an improvement in her health.

Threats of homelessness hardly help people achieve that.

Homeless mothers: we feel the ever-present threat of social services and losing our kids. That’s how they keep people quiet

Readers of this site will know that I’ve recently been interviewing Marsha, a homeless 30-year-old Newham woman who lives with her six-year-old daughter in a single room in a Newham homelessness hostel.

The two have been stuck in this temporary accommodation for over a year.

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

In the last article, Marsha talked about a concern that many homeless mothers raise. Mothers worry that council social services will try to remove their children because they are homeless. Doesn’t matter what the council can, or can’t, actually do. The threat hangs in the air and that is enough. I’ve written about this before.

In that recent article, Marsha said that Newham social services said they could take her daughter and place the child in care while Marsha “sorted herself out”:

“Social services is telling me – “oh, we can provide a home for your daughter, but not for you.”

“So I am scared.”

There’s been more since then.

On Tuesday morning, Marsha sent an email to her housing officer (Marsha copied me in). She asked for an update on her housing situation and whether she and her child could be moved to a better place than the awful hostel that they’re stuck in.

Marsha is in the dreadful limbo that so many women in poverty are.

She’s facing eviction from the homelessness hostel she’s in.

She’s studying at a local college to try and improve her chances of work and better-paid work.

She doesn’t want to have to move to a flat miles away in Tilbury (which is where the council wants her to go), because Marsha relies on her mother for mental health support and childcare while she studies. If Marsha loses that support, she’ll sink.

Marsha has no-one else to help with childcare while she studies. The jobcentre certainly won’t. Her adviser already threatened to sanction her Universal Credit for spending some of her time studying rather than all of her time looking for work.

So, Marsha sent that email to the council asking about her application for better housing. There’d been earlier emails, too, as well as the stories posted here.

Enter social services.

The next thing Marsha knew was that social services was all over her – and asking questions about her daughter’s health and wellbeing.

Marsha said she felt extremely threatened by this. A woman asks a council questions about her housing application – and suddenly, social services is on the phone demanding meetings and firing off all sorts of questions about the woman and her child’s welfare.

You have to wonder.

Marsha says that first, she was contacted by someone from the local multi-agency safeguarding hub – one of the hubs set up to track children who could be “vulnerable”:

“I literally had to explain myself and my housing situation all over again. He [the MASH officer] was really like getting a bit personal… asking me questions about my doctor, my daughter, my wellbeing, [the] school that she [my daughter] attends, her attendance… just a lot of personal stuff…”

So, there was that.

Then on Thursday last week, Marsha got a call from Newham children’s services, demanding that she attend an appointment with them that very afternoon:

“Another lady called from the social services…she said to me that she’s been given instructions from her manager to call me to arrange a meeting with herself.

I said, “what is it in regards to, because I just spoke to somebody else in the department within the social services and they are saying something different to me…”

“[She said] that she has to do an assessment with me and my daughter to do with my housing issues, and I have to come and see her and I should bring my daughter…

“I said to her – “I’m in college until 4.15pm. Then, I have to pick up my daughter.”

“She was like, “this is important and you have to come and see me. You kind of just have to find time, basically.”

“So I said to her, “okay, well, I’ll grab my daughter from school early and I’ll come and see you.”

“I was really uncomfortable…”

At the meeting, the social worker questioned Marsha and her daughter about Marsha and the child’s wellbeing:

“It is… the stuff they were asking me, Kate, had nothing to do with my housing situation. They were asking my daughter if she sleeps well, how does she play, who helps her with her homework… It’s not relevant.

“It’s almost like I’m being investigated… do you know what I mean… everyone knows that my issues is strictly around housing. I feel so uncomfortable.”

“I feel like the council is just trying to use tactics to force me into a situation…I feel like I’m being punished. I’m trying to get my voice heard and I’m speaking to people and I’m raising issues. I feel like it’s a tactical to make me go away – like they are thinking, “let’s get social services to call around.”

Marsha said the social worker told her that Marsha and her daughter would soon be evicted from their temporary accommodation. Marsha and her young daughter are facing street homelessness.

That was the first Marsha had heard about her impending eviction.

She said that the social worker was shocked to hear that the council’s housing team hadn’t told Marsha that eviction was nearing.

The bed Marsha shares with her daughter

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You see my point.

I talk to too many homeless mothers now who say they feel ever-threatened by social services.

They don’t know if councils can take their kids, but Can or Can’t is beside the point. The point is that the spectre of social services is raised at the drop of a hat. An implied threat is plenty good enough to shut homeless people up.

People worry about challenging a council offer of housing, or complaining about the dreadful state of temporary housing, or drawing attention to themselves by asking a council any questions about housing at all. I wonder how many homeless people are disenfranchised – bullied into silence – in this way.

Said Marsha:

“It’s the normal thing that I’ve been experiencing with council, with social services – bullying, threatening, saying that you have to do this now and you don’t have an option…she [the social worker] sat down yesterday and she said, “as you know there is no affordable housing, affordable properties [in Newham]… it’s just been like 18 months of ongoing like turmoil with them.”

Indeed.

I have more on this which I will publish this week.

The Newham council press office has blacklisted me and so won’t give a comment, but too bad for them. I’ll be emailing the mayor and the head of housing with this article and asking the council what the hell it is doing.

This is sick.

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.

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.

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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.