Let’s go back to Stockport jobcentre, where I spoke at length recently with Pat, who was in her 40s.
Pat was manic: pacing and talking non-stop. She’d just been released from prison. Pat said that she was from Manchester, but been dropped at a halfway house of some description in Bredbury in Stockport:
“I don’t know where I am…I thought it was in Stockport, but it was in Bredbury. I was put there.”
Pat had to make a claim for Universal Credit at the jobcentre, but had no idea how to begin. She said that she didn’t have money for food.
I meet too many people in such situations at jobcentres: confused, clearly in need and reeling outside a jobcentre:
Said Pat (she was confused and spoke fast):
“I have to get… I usually have a [support] worker with me, but I’ve left it too late. She’s gone off now, because it is a bank holiday, yeah… I’m just come out of prison recently and … you get like £300, or whatever, but they… they dropped me here… I’m… from… Bredbury…
“I didn’t have… on my life, [I was] crying… come out [of prison] the day before. Everything was shut. I couldn’t get me doctor. I couldn’t get… I was sat in the stupid house where they put me… so finally my probation – they came and got me…I just got a ticket. I had to find [my] here [to the jobcentre]. I had nothing to get out with… in [prison] for 10 months…
“I get scared and I don’t want to walk around where I don’t know where I am…I thought it was in Stockport, but it was in Bredbury. I was put there. I’m from Manchester. I went into Manchester jobcentre, but they wouldn’t help me. They were saying – “Oh, because you’re living in Stockport…[we can’t help you in a Manchester jobcentre].
“It’s in like a bail house – a bail hostel in Bredbury. I’ve just come out of there. No bus ticket. No money and it was Easter when I got out. She [the support worker] did bring me a bag of food.
“I had to beg people. She [the support worker] did come up to me with a bus ticket, so I thought right – I’m just going to have to go and find it [Stockport jobcentre] It’s very hard for me, so I’m quite proud that I actually found it…
“What am I going to say [to staff at the jobcentre]? I’ve got a make a claim. Never done Universal Credit. I was on PIP and ESA when I went away, but obviously now I’m….it’s all changed… so it’s going to be Universal Credit now, so I think I make a claim and like [ask for] an advance payment [for food money] yeah… if it gets a bit difficult, I’ll come out and get you…”
Next up was Dennis, who was in his 50s.
Dennis was disabled. He was sitting in his wheelchair outside of the jobcentre.
Dennis said that he’d been moved from his one-bedroom first floor flat to a ground floor flat – he found the first floor flat too hard to get to.
Unfortunately, the ground floor flat had two bedrooms. That meant Dennis had to pay the bedroom tax for the “spare” room. He’d had one discretionary housing payment to cover the extra cost. That had finished. Now, Dennis was trying to work out what to do.
“I was in one bedroom upstairs flat and I had to go [because of my disability]… they put me into a two bedroom [ground floor] flat. I’m now paying each fortnight for the bedroom tax. One of the bedrooms can’t be lived in…. so I’m paying for that.
“I was in the old place for about 30 years. I had to go to the ground floor flat…I still have to pay [the tax]… the reason for moving was the mobility.
“I’ve got a flat in Reddish. When I went to get the paperwork and all that – they’d given it to somebody else. It was the same street and same number. They got the names mixed up…”
And so on.
You get the picture. It’s chaos out here. Nothing makes sense. I keep meeting people at jobcentres who are just plain bewildered. On and on and on it goes.
It’s hard to see a time coming when Brexit is pushed aside and this mess is addressed.
Posting as usual should resume next week.