Dear readers, Thursday seems to arrive very quickly. Today was cooler with a bit of rain and I think that we all felt the difference. Many thanks to everyone that sent their best wishes to us all this morning via Facebook and Twitter. Believe me, we need it, numbers are low these days and your kind thoughts make all the difference.
I’ll list the cases that we came across today like I usually do, please note that everyone was handed a food parcel if needed, copies of our survival guide and the leaflet from Unite Community. I also checked that everyone was ok and if needing signposting we signposted them.
I arrived five minutes early and there was already a queue for the food parcels. I had a chat with everyone asking how they were and if there had been any updates with their situations. Sadly no one has a magic wand and local organisations help but the specialised services that they need are either struggling for resources or have shut down. We all do our best but it feels that it isn’t good enough.
The first person that I spoke to was a young man, he had waited for almost three months for his first Universal Credit payment. Nothing like the five weeks advertised. Reasons for this vary and usually, it’s the fault of one DWP department not communicating with another or information going missing or a combination of all of the above.
The system isn’t working, their computer system is rubbish and can’t handle it and staff aren’t trained adequately. It can’t be fixed because it’s full of flaws, ever tried to collect water with a sieve? It’s not dissimilar.
As the man walked off he said to me “The government are bastards, they really are. But you are all amazing god bless you” He isn’t wrong though.
Anyway because of the DWP’s failings a young man had to wait much longer than they should have had to wait. This could have had catastrophic consequences. The government has no sympathy so there’s no point in asking for their help they won’t listen.
The next case is a very good example of how unhelpful and rude the DWP can be. Honestly, they could do with learning some basic manners etc.
An older lady walked out of the Jobcentre looking perplexed and confused. We asked her what was wrong and could we help. I handed her a leaflet and as I did so she explained her situation.
Her son who is disabled is claiming Universal Credit but the disability element. He had to fill in and return a form regarding a DWP medical. He lost the return envelope so she went into the Jobcentre to ask for one.
A simple request you’d have thought. The security guards told her that she couldn’t have an envelope, they refused to send it as well and told her that she needed to phone up a number on the form.
She had no idea which number to phone. We informed her that they should have helped her with this so she went back into the Jobcentre.
They still refused uttering words similar to “Don’t listen to them they know nowt”. Actually, we know a damn sight more than they do because at least we were helping her.
Their only help was to thrust a piece of paper into her hands saying ‘Phone this number’. She tried but it was a Welsh telephone number, no use in England.
We then persuaded her to go to the local branch of CAB. (Yes they are in my bad books atm but they can help with this). Pat took her, where she did get the help and advice that she was needing. The correct telephone number to get a new envelope.
Absolutely ridiculous. They could have helped but refused and were ill-mannered in the process. There’s no need for it none at all. And anyway security guards should not be advising people, only people employed by the DWP are allowed to by law.
I spoke to a middle-aged man who spoke poor English. He told me that he used to have a good life, he had always worked until one day he had a stroke. This has left him with memory problems and he can no longer use his left arm.
Anyway, he was told to claim Universal Credit which he is doing but he wasn’t told that he could claim the disability element. I wasn’t surprised though, they don’t like informing people correctly. I told him what to do and he was grateful that we had helped him.
His message is this “This has completely changed my life, my life is awful now. I sometimes don’t want to wake up. This can happen to anyone”
I spoke to a homeless man that said that he was being harassed to find a job. He lives in temporary accommodation, the rent is very high and until he finds permanent accommodation he’s in no place to do so. If he did he would end up back on the streets again. Do the DWP care? Not one jot, they’ve all got nice homes to go home to.
He went on to tell me that the battle to keep on top of things regarding the DWP is unbelievable, overwhelming and he’s just managing to keep it together. The government should be ashamed, but I feel that they would wear it as a badge of honour under their ‘making work pay’ banner. Only it doesn’t.
We spoke to a young man that has been informed that he can no longer see his designated disability advisor because there isn’t one anymore. You heard it right, apparently, there is no longer a disability advisor at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre anymore. So what’s going to happen when the full rollout occurs, when everyone is migrated over? That’s a lot of disabled people that are going to go without the help they require.
So the DWP no longer believe that disabled people should see a disability advisor. You heard it here.
The next case is another case where the DWP appear to be devoid of any compassion or common sense. I’ll call her Joan to make it easier, that’s obviously not her real name.
Joan is a single parent to a child aged approximately five. Janes daughter has been diagnosed with autism and struggles with busy, noisy environments with lights etc.
Joan has been told that she has to claim Universal Credit and she has to wait at least five weeks for her first payment. In the meantime, Joan has been told that she has to find a job to see her through the waiting period.
Hang on. She’s the carer of a disabled child and as such should be making a claim relevant to that and they should have advised her as such. But they didn’t.
She can’t work, she can’t leave her child on her own, nor can she leave a child anywhere that doesn’t have the specialised facilities etc that her daughter needs. But she’s told that she has to work.
Furious, and as a parent of an autistic child I can fully understand and sympathise with her situation. I advised her correctly and informed her of her legal rights being that of a parent of a disabled child. This folks is how the DWP regard people with a disability. They don’t regard them at all, they expect everyone to work regardless of their ability to do so. This needs to change and fast, but the likelihood of it changing at the moment is zero.
Last but not least I spoke to a lovely lady, another single parent struggling with the Universal Credit system. I’ll call her Anne, it makes it easier. That isn’t her real name of course.
Anne is a single parent, she had lost her job due to a fall out with her ex-boss that was also her friend, so her friend fired her, awful in itself.
Anne had been sanctioned for four months, yes four months for losing her job. Yes, they even do this when there are children involved.
Anne has now been told that they have suspended her claim but never thought to tell her this until she went to the bank to find that her payment hadn’t been made. She phoned the DWP up to find out why and they told her that she hadn’t provided all the evidence of her previous childcare costs.
But she had done. She had done exactly what had been asked to do but they now wanted more information. So that’s what she was doing today, handing in further proof of previous childcare costs.
Anne told me that Universal Credit is the worst thing ever, she hasn’t got enough money to live on and she wishes that it hadn’t been invented. I agree with her.
So Anne worked and this is the thanks that she gets. This is how they treat people, with no respect, nothing except hatred. We will NEVER forget, nor will we forgive either.
This all happened within two hours, this is replicated at almost every Jobcentre throughout the country. Unemployed and disabled people do not deserve to be treated in this manner, in my eyes it’s horrific and it needs to stop.
Many thanks to everyone that turned up to help today it means the world to me.
Thanks also to Johnathon Reynolds a local MP for coming and saying hello. He didn’t have to but he did and it means a lot also.
Please support our work in whatever way that you can, we need to continue this work it’s hard but it needs to be done. We will be back next week, regardless of health problems, Whilst there is a need and I’m able I will be there.