AnonymousRelative was working for a college teaching English when – just before Christmas – the college was closed and he found himself out of work. He started applying for work: teaching jobs, admin jobs, any sort of job. With his savings fast running out, he signed on for Jobseeker’s Allowance to help him, well, seek jobs. In his neck of the woods, it costs nearly £20 a day to go up to town to look for work. So three days trawling around with CVs pretty much wipes out a week’s JSA.
It took a few weeks to sort out the paper-work but eventually ARelative started getting Job Seekers Allowance. Then, in March, he got a few hours work at college covering a teacher on compassionate leave. He also was given a few hours serving and washing up in a café. When he went to sign on, being an honest kind of cove, he declared the work. Which had now stopped because the teacher who was covering had come back. And the café had flooded and closed and didn’t know when it would be re-opening.
The Job Centre asked to see copies of the payslips and, in the meantime, the JSA was stopped. That was back in March. It is now May and he’s not had a penny since.
He phones twice a day holding on for hours for the chance to explain that he has no money. Among the various reasons for the hold-up, he’s been told that:
- They haven’t got the address of the college (it was on the back of the payslip and they hadn’t turned it over.)
- Oh, now they’ve turned it over and yes, there was the address.
- They now haven’t got any evidence that AnonymousRelative did any hours in a café, other than him actually telling them he’d been doing so.
- Oh, there’s a bank statement he’s provided. They’ll courier it over to the pay-office.
- Oh, they’ve couriered it over but it’s been lost.
- Oh, they’ve asked for another copy and – many days later – were emailed a copy but the computer won’t open the copy so they’ve asked for another one.
- Oh, and there have been Bank Holidays.
- Oh, it’s the system and that problem is someone else’s job.
Prompted by our disbelief that it is possible for anyone to be left so long without money, AR asked if there was any provision for Interim Payments while various officers try and get their acts together. There used to be an Emergency Payment Fund, apparently. But Cameron did away with it.
As it turns out, AnonymousRelative is not having to haunt the local food bank because he’s part of a family who are able to put a roof over his head and help him out until he gets back on his feet. Which, of course, he will.
But, it occurs to me, what if? What if AR and his relatives didn’t have the wit and capacity to deal with a system which appears designed to have a default position of leaving you stranded? What if he didn’t have the facilities to hold the phone for the twenty minutes it takes to speak to anyone; to scan and print things; the English to say “have you turned the bloody thing over?” What if he had a gas bill to be paid, rent to find, kids to feed? How can you look for work if you are hungry, or can’t launder your clothes or pay the twenty quid to get to an interview?
It was suggested that AnonymousRelative might want to make a complaint. He was given the website address of the complaints page. He’s tried it. The link doesn’t work.
I’ve got OtherAnonymousRelatives. One is having to find the money to pay the bedroom tax rather than take the risk of putting her fragile young daughter (sclerosis of spine, yearly operations to lengthen rod) in the same small bedroom as her extremely bouncy younger brother.
So, am I worried about the further £12bn of welfare cuts we are told are planned for after today’s election?