What do you do if you have job interviews coming up for the kind of ‘front of house’ jobs where a neat appearance is absolutely essential, but you have no appropriate clothes or the money to purchase them? When Mark had posed this question to his so-called advisor, she casually replied, ‘just go like that’, before informing him that no clothing grants were now available for job seekers in his position. Needless to say, he was not best pleased with his advisor’s cavalier attitude, and, when we spoke to him, he was becoming worried that two forthcoming job interviews, on Friday and Sunday, would be compromised.
We offered to do a little research to see what help, if any, was still available for clothing needs, as this is a problem that unemployed people often face when searching for work. We contacted the local Welfare Rights office who informed us of two sources of help. The Dundee Clothing Project is based at Dundee House in North Lindsay Street. Those seeking help should approach the Dundee House reception where they can collect a voucher that allows them to select items of donated clothing from the project’s store at the Methodist Church, 20 Marketgait West, on Monday’s between 10-12pm and Thursday’s between 1-3pm. Help with clothing can also be sought through the Scottish Government funded Community Care Grant, for which you can apply by phoning the Scottish Welfare Fund on 01382 431188, but applicants are advised that there is a fifteen working day turn around for this grant.
In addition to our own researches, Mark made further inquiries at Dundee Jobcentre, and was informed by another, more helpful, staff member about the Flexible Support Fund. Guidelines for this fund are set locally. In Dundee it can provide jobseekers with a voucher for £64, comprising £30 for shoes, £20 for trousers and £14 for a shirt, which can be used in Matalan. We had also spoken to the CPAG advice line to draw on their expertise, but they didn’t initially find the Flexible Support Fund, despite a fairly extensive search of the internet, which underlines the considerable efforts that the DWP go to in order to conceal the full range of benefits that are available to those who are making every effort to get back into work. (An undercover report by Channel 4 actually exposed this as deliberate DWP policy) The Flexible Support Fund, as the name suggests, can be accessed for a wide range of requirements, including for things like travel expenses and training courses, as well as clothing for interviews. Here’s a link to some more information.
Mark’s was not the only major case we dealt with this week, although the stall was, thankfully, not as busy as the previous week. We also met Karen, a young woman in her twenties who is on Universal Credit, and who had just left her job because her working hours had been reduced from fifty to two hours per week – although there were also other issues relating to her treatment at the hands of a line manager who she believed was bullying her. Karen had just emerged from the Jobcentre where she had been told that they would not deal with her problem because she did not have appropriate identification. We advised Karen that she may well face problems as she will be viewed as having voluntarily left employment, and urged her to contact Welfare Rights asap so that they could take up her case. We would remind readers that whilst JSA claimants have the right to refuse jobs that offer zero hours contracts or very low working hours, those on UC are expected to accept such jobs and to continue to claim Universal Credit to make up their wages.
We also met John, a young man in his twenties who claims JSA, and who informed us that he has been paying the DWP back £18 per fortnight, from a £200 loan he had received from the DWP over two years ago. He strongly suspects that he has paid well over the odds, which, given the state of admin chaos in the DWP, would not be very surprising. We advised him to approach Welfare Rights in order to investigate whether he DOES still owe the DWP money; and, if he is still in debt, to complete an income/expenditure form, which would detail his available income and thus enable Welfare Rights to re-negotiate the scale of re-payments – because £18 is far too much money to be paying back from the pittance of £73.10 that JSA claimants receive. We also advised John to request Welfare Rights conduct a benefit check on his behalf in order to ensure that he is receiving the full range of social security he is entitled to.
In addition to these cases, we dealt with a number of other less serious inquiries and problems on the stall, but we have also been kept busy with telephone and internet inquiries – including three on Monday, starting at 8.30 in the morning. These are not only from various parts of Scotland, but from as far afield as Nottingham.
Thanks to Norma, Jonathan, Davey, Gary and Duncan with helping out at this week’s stall.