Whatever happened to our petition?

long grass

Nine months ago we wrote a petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to make more money available to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare cuts through reassessing spending priorities and bringing in more progressive taxation. With the continued roll-out of Universal Credit threatening ever greater welfare misery, it is more relevant than ever – so what’s happened to it?

It was not until the end of October that our petition was deemed ready to be published on the Scottish Government website – after we had removed references to our blog (which could be considered to constitute advertising) and changed ‘Tory welfare cuts’ to ‘UK government welfare cuts’ (presumably ‘Tory’ is regarded as a term of abuse…). So, after allowing time to collect signatures, the petition was not submitted until 24th November.

And it wasn’t until 1st February – the day AFTER the Scottish Government agreed their budget plans with the Greens – that we got to present our case to the Petitions Committee. We also followed it up with detailed evidence. The committee asked for comments from the Scottish Government, but the Government response, which we received at the beginning of March, could have been written without even looking at our petition – as we told them. It merely reiterated what they were already doing or had already announced. We wrote a response to the Petitions Committee who looked at the issue again on 10th May, when they decided to refer it to the Social Security Committee.

This made some sort of sense as the Social Security Committee was about to look at the Scottish Welfare Fund, and the argument was made that our petition could feed into that discussion. But when the petition was included in the agenda for the Social Security Committee meeting of the 24th May, the accompanying background notes suggested that the Committee ‘for now, notes the petition and considers it again in light of outcomes from its current and planned inquiry work’. And, as suggested, the Committee agreed to leave our petition until the minister had responded to their considerations of the Scottish Welfare Fund, based on the evidence they had taken themselves in that and the previous session. There was no opportunity for our petition and our evidence to feed into this discussion at all, though Alison Johnstone for the Greens did ask for a date ‘so that we do not forget to come back to what is an important issue’.

This entire lengthy process proceeded with the utmost civility, but all that work and, much more importantly, the vital needs it represents have been decisively kicked into the long grass – and it’s getting very dark and muddy down there.

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‘Have you considered moving to Universal Credit?’

Justice for Grenfell

If you are already getting old-style benefits and have had no major change of circumstances that would affect your benefit and require a reapplication, then you do not need to move to Universal Credit until at least July 2019. But that hasn’t stopped the jobcentre from attempting to nudge people onto the new system – and causing general alarm and confusion. People have been telling us that they have been asked if they have considered moving to Universal Credit. As we have explained in the past, this is rarely a good move – so you shouldn’t have to consider for very long.

Despite this enthusiasm for getting more people onto UC, the system can’t actually manage to keep up with those already signed up. One of our activists recently had to contact them urgently to sort out a DWP error, and after waiting four days for a response on the online journal, which is how you are meant to communicate, had to ring up and listen to half an hour of Vivaldi.

And the requirement to produce more and more documentation continues to cause problems and delays. We met a woman coming out of the jobcentre who told us that every time she went, they asked her to bring proof of something else. She had applied for Universal Credit a month back and this had been her third visit to hand in written evidence of her situation. Meanwhile she was living off savings.

(Although the National Audit Office has just run a coach and horses through all the DWP’s claims for Universal Credit, don’t expect a rethink. Despite all the problems, the NAO head concluded that ‘There is really no practical choice but to keep on keeping on with the rollout.’ See the Guardian)

Meanwhile, there’s more communication confusion over how to hand in insurance lines for ESA. You used to bring these into the jobcentre, but now this process too has been moved online (https//fitnote.itsbeta.net), or to the post if you can’t manage the mobile phone thing. (The jobcentre has prepaid second class envelopes – make a copy of the note before sending it off in case it never gets there.) However not everyone is aware of the new system…

me and bannerTony

Karen 1

Besides these issues, at this week’s stall we sent a few people off for more comprehensive help from Shelter’s welfare advisors – and SUWN activists were out protesting the Westminster power grab one evening, and supporting Justice4Grenfell the next. Last week was definitely a long time in politics.

Thanks for help on the stall to Norma, Gary, Tony, Jonathan, Sarah and Kat, and thanks to Norma, Sarah, Tony and Karen for photos

Unpaid work for the jobcentre, anyone?

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Once upon a time work experience was something school pupils did for a few days to give them a sense of what the future held in store for them. And basic training was provided by your job. Today, unemployment is portrayed as a personal failing rather than a function of the economy, and unpaid work experience is promoted as a way to help a person’s prospects of finding work. In theory, it is meant to compensate for lack of experience in paid employment, which makes it particularly difficult to justify when forced on someone with a lifetime of work behind them. What has developed is a new expectation that people must earn the right to get a job through unpaid labour. This is simply exploitation. It also undermines paid work – which makes it especially perverse that jobcentre workers should be pushing people to do unpaid work in their own organisation. But that is what was happening to Irene from central Scotland, who contacted us last February. She wrote:

Irene: ‘I have been asked by my work coach to go on a lot of different placements etc. I would like to know which ones are mandatory as my work coach is very unhelpful in telling me. He asked me to do work experience at the job centre I sign on at, (I have done admin/recep in the past) to work 5 hours a day 5 days a week every week at the job centre for my JSA. I will be 63 years old this year and I also have a lot of health issues i.e. cancer, chronic heart problems and other illnesses. He also has said he is going to check up on every vacancy I apply for. He tells me I have to put a code ref no. on each vacancy I apply for so he can check it. I already put the name of the company, the web site I found the vacancy on and the name of the vacancy, i.e. receptionist etc. He also wants to check my personal e-mail account to make sure he sees what replies I am getting, Has the DWP a right to check all your personal e-mails? I have been on ESA and then taken off it. I appealed it but got refused.’

I thought I would post up our extended correspondence, because Irene’s situation echoes so many problems that keep recurring. We answered:

SUWN: Your ‘work coach’ sounds like a nightmare. If you are on JSA, a mandatory activity has to be either specified in your Claimant Commitment or given to you as a Jobseeker’s Direction, for which there is a standard form of letter. I think that they can ask for proof you’ve applied for jobs, but you can’t be made to give them access to your email account or to your Universal Jobmatch Account. Ultimately you are only expected to do what is reasonable to look for work, but you don’t want to be in the position of having to appeal a sanction. There’s lots of useful stuff hereSince you got turned down for ESA have you either got worse or got any new conditions? and is your doctor helpful?

Irene: Thanks for replying to my e-mail and the information you sent me. On my claimant commitment booklet my work coach wrote. ‘I understand my coach may require me to take part in certain schemes to help me improve my chances of finding work. And I understand my coach may require me to take other specific actions to improve my chances of finding work.’ I don’t know what that meant as he never explained it to me… They also have access to my universal jobmatch as I thought that was what the DWP was entitled to do (nobody told me any different). They also ask me to fill out my work plan booklet every time I sign on… Every time I go to the job centre they check all the jobs I applied for. When I was asked to work at the job centre on work experience I asked if it was mandatory, he told me that it would help me back into work, and to stop being negative. I was also told I had to attend Remploy and was made to attend numerous appointments. He told me I had a negative attitude, nobody has ever said that to me in my life as I am a positive person. I have been attending the doctors with poor health and all this stress is not helping. I worry about being sanctioned as he finds fault with everything I do.

SUWN: Do you have anyone who can go into your interviews with you and politely point out when they are being unreasonable? It is also possible to ask to see a different work coach. If they are telling you to do non-standard activities such as work experience or training, then my understanding is that they need to use a jobseeker’s direction for this to be mandatory. You can untick the box that allows them to see your UJM account at any time. They can’t insist on seeing it as this is covered by data protection law. They can, though, still insist on seeing evidence of you having used it, e.g. print outs or screen-grabs. And they can tell you to apply for jobs and check that you have done so. BUT the law states that you should only be expected to do what is reasonable. If your doctor is sympathetic he/she could write a note to say that you shouldn’t be made to do so much as it is damaging your health. If you think that you have got worse since you were turned down for ESA you could apply for ESA again. Did you get help filling in the form last time? It can make all the difference. If you do decide to reapply you should do so soon before [your area] moves onto Universal Credit (currently scheduled for XXX). It’s probably only worth doing this if you think you’ve got a reasonable chance of success, as if you are not awarded ESA, by the time you have to sign on again it will be for Universal Credit, which is generally worse than JSA.  Also, do you get PIP? That’s a separate application, and there is nothing to be lost by applying. I can talk this through with you on the phone if it would help 07803 052239. And you could also talk options through with your local benefits advice place: XXX

Irene: I don’t have anyone to come to the interviews with me… I am going to sign on this Friday and I am going to ask for another work coach. I was at the Doctors yesterday and have been told I have angina, and have been given medication to carry with me at all times in case I take a bad turn. The doctor is also sending me to the hospital for further tests.  I am one of the WASPI women who got less than 2 years notice of my 6 years increase in my pension, no time to make other pension arrangements as I was going into hospital for cancer treatment. Also, at the job centre because of the 6 years increase to our pension age, they do not care about women like us in our sixties who like myself who have a lot of health issues.

That next interview was cancelled at the last minute due to the snow (there are several emails where we discuss the lack of information about the closures) so Irene didn’t see anyone for a further two weeks.

Irene: Well it was even worse that time. He kept on asking me why I was not going on any
full-time work experience placements. And was very nasty to me when I told him I was not going to do them, saying it would help on your CV if employers see I was working. Also on my Claimant Commitment he wrote ‘Investigate and apply for work experience opportunities’. I never said that to him. I also think it’s wrong not to have your date of birth on CVs. Not many employers would want someone at 63yrs old. The interview or what I felt was more like an interrogation went on for over 30 minutes. I felt bullied and intimidated and I told him he was disrespectful and rude to me and also insulting. He asked me why I had reached that conclusion and I told him by his insults calling me a negative person and his attitude to me. He said he never called me negative and that and he pushes work on everybody. He kept on about my job search going through every job I applied for. I said I am doing what I should be doing looking for work, and he should not even be on my universal jobmatch. He said ‘I could make you go over to those computers for me to see all your latest entries’, and why have I not applied for jobs on the universal jobmatch site? I told him I never saw any on the site. Then he went on a hissy fit. By that time I had enough and asked to see another advisor and also the manager, who he said was not there. He also told me he would have to see the manager to keep himself right, as by this time a lot of people were looking at us. He said they were short staffed and I would have to see him the next time and he would have a manager with him,(and also every time I sign on!) Every time I go to the job centre I feel it’s getting impossible for me to sign on.

I arranged to go with Irene to her next appointment. Her work coach was very defensive: what was her reason for bringing a friend? ‘I have to ask.’  He said he had inquired about her changing work coach and it was ‘not going to happen’. As the discussion got more difficult and tense, and he insisted on Irene itemising all the last fortnight’s actions that she had already carefully recorded, I worried for her health and pointed out that the jobcentre had a duty of care. When he tried to suggest that the situation was equally difficult for him, I observed that, unlike him, Irene had serious health problems – adding quickly that I presumed he hadn’t, though of course I didn’t know. But he immediately pounced and complained that I was making assumptions about him. We then asked to see his manager, and he ended the interview. We were told to wait, and Irene informed me that her heart was beating like anything. She had already told me that after the previous occasion she had had to use her angina spray. After only 10-15 minutes we were called into a private room with one of the managers.  While she was defensive on behalf of her staff member – and claimed that he was only complying with the regulations and that they had to ‘offer’ work experience opportunities even though it was optional – and while she protested that they had very limited resources due to people being sent on Universal Credit training, she agreed that Irene could meet with someone else.

Our last email sums up Irene’s options:

SUWN: I hope things go better with your new ‘work coach’ tomorrow. I have now had a chance to talk to our friends at the Child Poverty Action Group who produce the Welfare Benefits handbook. I am attaching a scan from the handbook, which explains that you can reduce the number of hours and type of work you are expected to look for if that can be seen as reasonable in light of your physical or mental condition. You would need to provide medical evidence for your need of any restrictions and you would be advised not to ask for too many concessions  or they will say you should be applying to be considered too ill/disabled to work instead. You could, for example, try and argue, with support from your GP, that you don’t look for jobs that are more than 30 hours a week and that these should be day shifts of not more than 6 hours a day, and that you should be able to sit while working. That’s just an example. The restrictions should relate to your particular condition.

If that sounds liveable with, fine, but you should think hard if you do want to apply for ESA, because if so, you should do that now before the change to Universal Credit. To apply again after you have been refused you need to show that your condition has got worse or that you have new problems (or both). Because it is a reclaim they may say they can’t pay you till after you have been found unfit for work, and you will have to sign onto JSA in the meantime, so you should get the process started NOW so you can get through this stage before Universal Credit comes in. The risk of this route is that if you don’t get awarded ESA you will have to sign onto Universal Credit, which has a much nastier sanctions system (hardship payments are loans not grants) as well as the difficult initial delay. The one advantage of Universal Credit though is if you do get odd bits of work you don’t lose so much of your benefit.

We hope this long account will be helpful for others. And we can’t help wondering if Irene’s jobcentre would have taken such a hard line if they had been used to being questioned by welfare activists, like the jobcentre here in Dundee.

 

Warning – that SUWN woman’s coming into the jobcentre!

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Last week I accompanied someone into the jobcentre. All went smoothly, but we were amused to discover that her ‘Job Coach’ had been warned by reception that I was coming in, and offered someone to sit with him if he wanted. And, while I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the Job Coach’s belief that his role was to help his clients, I do think questions need to be raised about the amount of intensely personal information that the DWP requires people to give them. We have argued that training schemes and work experience should be voluntary and independent of the DWP, and the same should go for other forms of help and advice.

I also noticed that the Home Fundraising man was recruiting inside the jobcentre again. Doorstep fundraising is tough work that exposes people to all sorts of abuse, and no one should feel under any pressure to take this sort of job – especially from a company that has some pretty mixed reviews online, including a lot of comments about only being paid for the time on the doors and not for all the travel.

On a more positive note – a bit more advice from Dundee City Council for people needing proof of identity in order to get Universal Credit. If you are a council tenant or otherwise have dealings with your local council you should be able to get a National Entitlement Card. This website gives the details.

Thanks for helping with the stall to Tony, Gary and Norma

 

ATOS is ignoring DWP guidelines – again

Abandon hope ATOS

We have just written another letter of complaint to ATOS (or Independent Assessment Services, as they are now called), who have again ignored DWP guidelines about the role of companions accompanying people to their PIP assessment. Let’s hope they respond as quickly as they did last time. Here is our letter:

Dear Sir/Madam

We write again with a serious complaint about your assessment centre at Gemini Crescent, Dundee. Last Thursday (17th May) one of our volunteers accompanied a man to his assessment. The person being assessed has serious brain damage and had asked our volunteer to help him make sure that he fully answered the questions, and that all the difficulties he needed to raise were covered. This is something we have helped with many times before, in line with the DWP guidelines reproduced below. However, on this occasion the assessors told our volunteer that he could not speak to assist our friend, and that he would only be allowed to do so if he applied beforehand to be an Appointee. Our volunteer was not wanting to represent our friend, only to assist him, which he insisted on doing as needed. But this made the interview unnecessarily stressful and difficult. We are very concerned that this may have made it hard for our friend to receive a fair hearing, and also that others may be prevented from having the assistance that they need and that the DWP guidelines specifically encourage.

We note that there is currently a poster on the wall telling advocates that they cannot speak on behalf of the person they are accompanying, which could also be dangerously misleading in making people think that they cannot speak at all. It would be helpful instead to have some form of wording similar to the guidelines.

In our friend’s case, the situation was exacerbated by the fact that he only received your letter explaining his rights to have someone help him explain his situation when he got home from the assessment.

Further, our friend had managed, with great difficulty, to get his doctor to provide a letter explaining his situation, which he brought with him to the interview. However he was told that the assessor could not make a copy of it because the photocopier was broken. It is both incredible and inexcusable that an assessment centre is unable to make copies of the vital documents needed to support peoples’ cases.

Please can you speak to the Dundee assessment centre and assure us that these problems will not occur in future?

Finally, we note that the entrance to the reception room has now been moved half way down the corridor, so that whatever end you enter the building you are faced with a twenty metre walk without even a rail to lean on. We had hoped that with the opening of the second assessment centre in the centre of town, all people with mobility difficulties would be sent there instead, but – as we found last week – that is not the case. For people with mobility difficulties, the Gemini Crescent building is simply not fit for purpose.

Sincerely

Dr Sarah Glynn

for the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network

 

These are the paragraphs of the DWP Guidance for PIP assessors to which we refer:

Companions at consultations

1.6.50 Claimants have a right to be accompanied to a face-to-face consultation if they so wish. Claimants should be encouraged to bring another person with them to consultations where they would find this helpful – for example, to reassure them or to help them during the consultation. The person chosen is at the discretion of the claimant and might be, but is not limited to, a parent, family member, friend, carer or advocate.

1.6.51 Consultations should predominantly be between the HP and the claimant. However, the companions may play an active role in helping claimants answer questions where the claimant or HP wishes them to do so. HPs should allow a companion to contribute and should record any evidence they provide. This may be particularly important where the claimant has a mental, cognitive or intellectual impairment. In such cases the claimant may not be able to give an accurate account of their health condition or impairment, through a lack of insight or unrealistic expectations of their own ability. In such cases it will be essential to get an accurate account from the companion.

How Universal Credit can muck up your holiday

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On first glance, Universal Credit rules look deceptively promising: you are able to be out of the country for as long as a month. BUT, there is no holiday from all the things you have committed to do. And, while you might be able to argue that you can search and apply for jobs on the computer wherever you are, you are expected to be able to attend a job interview immediately. This could be a problem even if you are only somewhere else in the UK.

This holiday rule includes people who are in low-paid work that pays less than the equivalent of 35 hours a week on the minimum wage, and who have to look for more or better paid work in order to qualify for help from Universal Credit. People have been  caught out after assuming that they are still entitled to their statutory holidays. One way of getting round this, if you can afford it, is to sign off Universal Credit and then sign on again when you get home; but you not only lose the benefit for the time you are away, you also have to go through the initial waiting period all over again.

If you have been found unfit for work and have no tasks you have to do, then going away should not affect your benefit. If you have committed to do a few tasks in preparation for future work, you might be able to get your GP to write and say that a holiday would be more beneficial to your recovery.

Not telling the DWP that you are going away is always a risk – especially if you are a Facebook user! And if you have been found to be keeping things from them once, they may chase you on every detail in future.

And of course there’s still the problem of paying for a holiday…

Good luck!

(Strange how the DWP stress that being unemployed should be like looking for work, with 35 hour a week jobsearch and payment in arrears, but forget about the statutory holiday bit…)

Just another collection of problems

frustrated-computer-user-2000

Rona’s poor health meant that she missed too many college courses and lost her bursary. So she left college and signed on. But the DWP won’t give her any benefits because she hasn’t produced a letter from the college to say she is no longer a student. The jobcentre did ask her for a letter, but that was two days before she had an operation, and she had other things on her mind. So she was left to rely on her son for support. She will arrange for the letter, but she doesn’t feel strong enough to fight for any back payments. We suggested she ask the council for a Scottish Welfare Fund grant to help until her benefit is sorted.

John and Amy had had to get professional help to sort out another muddle due to the DWP using out of date information. They have been living separately for three years and had informed the jobcentre about this – but the records had them still living together and they were being treated as a couple.

Kirsty has multiple health problems and gets help from a support worker. She is on ESA but her boyfriend has moved in with her and wants to claim Universal Credit. We explained that they would have to make a joint claim, and that because that is a change of circumstances that affects her benefit it will mean a new claim in the Universal Credit system. It’s not easy stuff to explain out on the street, and we urged her to go to see a welfare advisor who can look at their situation as a whole.

Kirsty faced being moved to Universal Credit because of a change in her claim, but sometimes the Jobcentre’s eagerness to transfer people to Universal Credit causes them to overstep the mark. Bob and Gemma had been made to apply for Universal Credit without having had a change of circumstances. They were getting help from Welfare Rights in challenging this.

Outwith all these muddles, and despite the appalling system, we are aware that the Jobcentre is generally trying to treat people in a more civilised fashion than in the past. Often this is reflected in positive comments when we ask people coming out if they have had any problems. Today, though, one person responded cheerily ‘No problems – she’s a bitch though.’ While another remarked that the place should be blown up!

Thanks to Tony, Jonathan and Kat for help with the stall

Unravelling more DWP muddles at this week’s stall

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Ann had had no payments since December. They had just stopped without explanation. When we met her coming out of the jobcentre she had finally discovered the likely source of the problem. Her records still contained an address she had not lived in for 12 years, as well as her current address. Any appointment letters sent to her former home would not have reached her. It looks as though she had missed an ‘appointment’ she had never known about, and her benefit had then been stopped. Despite this being another DWP mistake, they were adamant that she would not be able to get the money back. She seemed to be pretty determined not to let them get away with that.

In addition, as she had been unemployed for more than six months, Ann was having to move from contribution-based JSA to Universal Credit. She had brought all the various documents that the jobcentre had requested in order to process her claim, but she had just been told that since they had spent her allotted twenty minutes sorting out her previous problem, the processing of the documents would have to wait until her next appointment. Ann has some savings, so is now only signing on to get her National Insurance paid, but this sort of inefficiency can cause a delay in vital payments.

Drew and Katie were worried that they were going to be seriously short of money for their growing family. Katie is pregnant with her fourth child and they are about to move in together and make a joint claim. Drew is on ESA but had been told by the jobcentre that this change would mean a move to Universal Credit, where they would be hit by the two child policy, and not get any help for numbers three and four. We were pleased to be able to tell them that this rule is not coming into play until the end of October, and that until that time any benefit applications made by someone with three or more children will be done in the old system. They photographed the relevant page in the CPAG handbook to help them make their case to the jobcentre.

Craig and Haley had also been told that they had to move to Universal Credit. In their case the only change in their circumstances was a change of address. We told them that this should not require them to change benefit, and that there was an article about a court case that demonstrated this on the Universal Credit page on our website. And we advised them to get help arguing the point.

As so often, we also found ourselves talking with people who had been found ‘fit for work’ and no longer eligible for ESA. If you are on Universal Credit while waiting the result of a Mandatory Reconsideration or an Appeal, you are very much at the mercy of your ‘work coach’ when it comes to what you are expected to do by way of looking for work. But it also helps to have an understanding GP. In Universal Credit, you are only eligible for 2 periods of 2 weeks off for sickness in a year, but you can request your GP to write and ask that you be given only restricted activities, and to include medical evidence as to why you should not do more. How the ‘work coach’ responds to this is at their discretion, but they are (as always) supposed to be reasonable. If you think they are not being reasonable you can’t appeal, but you can (with help) take the issue to judicial review.

Most of the Universal Credit problems we have helped with have involved sorting DWP muddles, but even when everything runs as it is supposed to, many people are left in serious difficulties. Recent UK statistics show a 50% rise in foodbank use in areas that have gone over to Universal Credit, and ¾ of all housing association tenants on Universal Credit are in rent arrears.

Thank you for helping on the stall to Tony, Norma, Gary, Dave and Taylor.

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On Saturday we took part in our seventh Dundee May Day march. As we observed in our leaflet:

The good news is that more people are waking up to what is happening. The bad news is that, even so, there have been no mass protests. If you think that no-one should need to rely on a foodbank in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, come and join us.

It may be the DWP’s mistake, but it’s YOUR problem

Tony speaking

Even as we did our bit for the national protest against Universal Credit on Wednesday, we encountered yet more problems with the ‘benefit’. Kylie, who has a young child, had just discovered that she had been wrongly moved onto Universal Credit. People on Income Support have to start looking for work when their youngest child is 5. In Universal Credit this has been lowered to 3, so what benefit you are on makes a big difference. But Kylie had been told that although the mistake was made by the DWP, it could not now be undone and she had to live with it. We urged her to go to the Shelter community Hub drop-in or see her MP to get the decision appealed.

People on existing benefits should not be moved to Universal Credit until at least July 2019 unless they have a change in circumstances that affects their benefits, but the Jobcentre seems extraordinarily keen to encourage people to make that change. We talked with a couple of folk now on JSA who had been told to apply to be classed as too ill for work. This now has to be done as part of Universal Credit, so people may want to think twice about making such an application, unless they feel reasonably confident of actually being found unfit to work at a Work Capability Assessment. Once you are in the Universal Credit system in a Universal Credit Full Service area there is no going back. (As we observed earlier, there are still possibilities for escaping in other areas.)

Rachel was already classed as unfit for work and had been receiving ESA. She had also been homeless, and when she had found somewhere to live and needed to get help with the rent she had been forced to apply for Universal Credit instead. She is now having to wait the five plus weeks until her first payment, and she has also been asked to supply a doctor’s line, which seems unnecessary since nothing has changed with her disability. Although Rachel cannot read or write, she is still having to manage her Universal Credit claim on the computer, and her partner has been told to help her check this weekly. Of course she would need help with any form of written communication, but having to be accompanied to a computer adds a further layer of complication.

Thanks to all who came to the protest. We got a fair number of leaflets handed out while Tony gave it laldy on the loud hailer. This was a national day of action called by DPAC, who made their presence felt down in Westminster.

18-04-19 CourierTully

In the Courier and Evening Telegraph

Sending McVey homeward to think again

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As the Minister for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, rushes back to Westminster to be in time to vote for war, will she pause to ask herself why her session with the Scottish Parliament Social Services Committee got interrupted four times by angry interventions from the public? As she clearly inhabits a different reality to the rest of us, the reasons may yet elude her, but media reports of this morning show that most observers have no problem recognising the cause of our anger.

First up and thrown out was David from Class War, who called out “you can’t get into work if you’re dead”, before asking about a woman who had committed suicide after being refused ESA. Video

Regardless of the questions she was asked and the evidence that MSPs quoted about the cruel impacts of the benefit changes, McVey insisted that the results of Tory policy had only been positive, presenting a picture of a system finely tuned to meet the personal needs of those who used it. Even when questioned about the ‘rape clause’, she tried to twist this into a positive light, claiming that having to say what had happened to them ‘could give [women] an opportunity to talk about, maybe, something that has happened that they never had before so it is potentially double support.’ This was the point where I walked out – claiming to see a flying pig out of the window. Video

We were soon joined outside by Marion from DPAC, who had told McVey just what she thought of her, and then Sarah Scott, who also asked her about benefit claimants attempting suicide.

The MSP’s kept up a veneer of politeness, but were clearly unimpressed by McVey’s propaganda, and we appreciated that the two SNP members who spoke came out to talk with us afterwards.

Glad to have been an ‘angry outburst’ (BBC).