Whilst it was quite busy ootside Dundee buroo earlier this week, it was much quieter today, which suggests that us being there coincided with the Connect team being on duty inside the building – as regular readers will be aware, Dundee buroo is one of the only jobcentres anywhere, that we are aware of, where welfare rights officers dispense advice to jobcentre ‘clients’, or, as everyone else would call them, unemployed people.
We have noticed increasing numbers of cases of people being bumped from ESA and onto JSA, and this week was no exception. We met Emily, a nineteen-year-old woman with ADHD, and suffering from extreme anxiety, who had recently failed her Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and had also been refused PIP when she failed to turn up to her PIP medical assessment. Emily could not tell us precisely when she had received her award letter telling her that she had failed her WCA, so we weren’t able to advise her to go ahead with a mandatory reconsideration. Her confusion and poor memory was a sign of her anxiety, and proof positive that she has problems with coping, as was her failure to turn up to her PIP assessment. In the ‘Brave New World’ ushered in by Tory welfare reforms, however, the symptoms of her medical conditions become the basis to disallow her the help she really needs. All we could do was provide her with contact details of welfare rights, and urge her to contact them asap in order that they can investigate her case more thoroughly.
We also came across Dave, an older guy with a newly fitted hip, who suffers from meningitis. He had also been bumped from ESA, and was waiting to hear on word of his upper tier tribunal. In the meantime, he was on JSA and being forced to look for work, despite the fact that he had trouble standing for any time, even with the aid of the walking stick he was now forced to use. We could only wish him luck with his forthcoming tribunal. We came across a similar case today, again an older guy who had been bumped off ESA and who was now forced onto JSA. He explained that he could not understand why he was being forced onto JSA when he felt he could not, in all honesty, hold down any kind of regular work, despite the fact that he would love to return to paid employment rather than being treated like a scrounger. We urged him to submit a mandatory reconsideration BEFORE he applies for JSA; as a single claimant he can be forced onto Universal Credit (UC) if he makes a new claim, but if he puts his mandy recon in first he will not be classified as a new claimant, and will thus avoid being put onto UC. Remember, if you are removed from ESA, always submit your mandy recon against that decision BEFORE you make any claim for JSA. We also advised him that once he is on JSA he can get a doctor’s line for an Extended Period of Sickness of 13 weeks
Many people have complained to us that they have been unable to secure medical evidence from their GP’s to accompany their ESA, and PIP, application forms, as Dundee GP’s have refused to provide such evidence without payment of fees that most cannot afford. This is becoming an increasingly serious issue, as the number of failed ESA applications may well suggest. It is a matter that we have raised with the Scottish Government and we will be raising it again at the Scottish Government consultation on the devolution of limited welfare powers.
Finally, we came across Angela, a sixty year old woman with caring responsibilities for her three grandchildren, comprising a five-year-old child who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, a fourteen-year-old who is awaiting a diagnosis for suspected ADHD and an eighteen-year-old. Angela had been called into the jobcentre and was anxious that they were about to put her under pressure to find work. We were able to calm her down and reassure her that, as someone on Carers Allowance (CA), they could not do this, and offered to accompany her into her appointment. When Angela and the SUWN volunteer re-appeared around three quarters of an hour later they reported that whilst the meeting had went well, and she had been informed that she would not have to come back into another appointment for three years, Angela was put under an enormous amount of ‘soft pressure’, in the nicest possible manner, to sign up for ‘voluntary’ employability programs. She was having none of it, however, and informed them that, given her caring responsibilities, she has barely enough time for a couple of hours’ sleep.
All names have been changed. We would like to thank Sarah S, Gary, Sarah G, Tony, Gordon, Norma, William, Susan, Grant and Ryan for helping with this week’s stalls.