It’s not easy being a claimant at the jobcentre. Before you even get past the front desk, which is adorned by G4s staff intimidation and fear seems to be the lifeblood of the place.
A claimant is met by a first set of doors. These open automatically and there you see another set of doors. There used to be glass in these doors, but they saw fit to cover them up with a mirrored covering. They don’t like people looking in. You try to open these doors and they are extremely heavy. A person without any physical disabilities struggles opening these doors. It’s been the same for years, I doubt they want to change this. They like it as it is.
When you get to the small reception desk you are greeted by one or two Dwp staff members and two or three G4s security guards. They are there I’m sure to make you feel insecure. This is a place that no one enters by choice.
You then are told either to wait in the appropriate area of if you are 10 minutes early for your appointment you are told to go outside and wait. If the staff are running late that doesn’t matter, they don’t get sanctioned do they.
There are signs everywhere telling you that you can’t have any “hot” drinks in the building indeed a claimant who had brought a warm drink inside the building had it taken off him and placed in the door entry for anyone to take. It’s ridiculous, and also he could have spent his last pennies on this drink.
Neither are you allowed to use a mobile phone or device. If you are seen using it, even to just type a job search they threaten to take it off you. There’s no point in the WiFi being set up in that building, because you aren’t allowed to use your phone inside.
You are then left waiting for your appointment. The g4S guards watching you. Jobcentre staff laughing and joking between themselves. They often run late, many have no regard for the claimants.
Single parents are told not to bring their children into the jobcentre also which is certainly not in any rule book.
There are no toilets that claimants can use, neither is there a lift available for disabled claimants to use.
It’s then down to luck. If you’ve got a nice advisor, which is getting rarer by the day, or your advisor is in a good mood then you might be OK. But if not you are left feeling belittled, intimidated and desperate. It’s no surprise that many people attempt to commit suicide either just before an appointment or just after. The stress is too much for many.
It’s not exactly easy is it? Walk a mile in a claimants shoes before you judge them.
At 10am on Thursday I was met by a disabled lady who had been declared fit by the gods of ATOS. Yes despite the Tory party trying to appease the public, they still do assessments. This lady clearly wasn’t well enough to work. I informed her of her right to appeal, and signposted her to welfare rights. She said that she was certainly going to appeal. The poor woman couldn’t even open the door of the jobcentre.
I was then approached by several working people, working part time whilst claiming universal credit. They are devastated about the changes to universal credit being introduced this month. They are also all very upset about being told to do 30 hour job searches despite working. Yes we are challenging this so expect news on that front soon. We don’t feel that it is right to be doing this. These people are already working, so why should they be penalised.
A claimant stormed out of the jobcentre after being treated very unfairly by a jobcentre advisor. This advisors name keeps popping up and they have a reputation for being awful to claimants. The claimant was furious so armed with a piece of paper and a pen a complaint was wrote out straight away. After we had informed them of their rights they felt empowered. You do have a voice and they won’t be seeing that advisor again.
Also too many women with new born babies are being called in for “benefit reviews”whilst I’m sure that all of these advisors aren’t horrible, I’ve got no doubt that the DWP do this to keep the thumb screws on so to speak. Make sure they know their place, make them feel intimidated. Just the thing you need to deal with when you have just had a baby.
We handed lots of leaflets out, offered help and guidance and provided a shoulder to cry on for any claimant that needed it. We shall continue to do this every week. Please come and join us between 10-12 every Thursday Ashton under Lyne jobcentre, old Street.
It’s getting worse folks, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s hard work. We really would like your support.
Many thanks to everyone that turned up and supported us. To our regular supporters who were too poorly to attend get well soon!
The confiscated cup of coffee.
By the way Ashton Under lyne Jobcentre, please get your computers working properly. You expect claimants to use them everyday but they keep breaking down. It needs sorting out.
Note to G4s security guards. You have yet again forgotten that you are nor allowed, under the data protection act to handle claimants personal details or ask them for any information. We are watching you. You keep forgetting!