A report from this weeks stall:
Jen had come to the jobcentre to find out what was happening with her Work Capability Assessment – but of course that is the last place that might be able to help. She has numerous health problems, including two sorts of epilepsy, but she is still waiting for her assessment, and having to organise regular doctor’s notes, because the day that she was due to be seen Maximus didn’t have enough assessors available. They told her that they would arrange another appointment, but that was April and she has heard nothing since. We contacted Welfare Rights for her and they promised to chase Maximus on her behalf. However that only addressed a part of her problems. Although she gets PIP as well as her basic assessment phase ESA, she currently has nothing in her bank account as a (now former) friend had helped themselves to her card. This is the sort of emergency that can be helped by a Scottish Welfare Fund grant, but before asking for that she needed evidence of the theft in the form of a crime number. Jen also has anxiety problems so one of our activists accompanied her to the police station to get a crime report before going onto the council offices.
Meanwhile, beside the usual ESA queries (as discussed last week) we arranged a food parcel for a man with just £5 in his pocket to see him through the week, and we talked with John, a former oil worker who had had to give up his job for mental health reasons and was just out of hospital. We gave him the link to the Scottish Government’s fund for ex oil workers. We hope they can help, though it was set up for people who were made redundant rather than those with health problems.
We also met a frustrated young man who had been told to get a letter from his GP as proof of identity before his claim could be processed. With lack of accepted documentation proving a frequent cause of benefit delay, getting the right papers can be very important. But for the many people who don’t have a passport or a driving license because they have never needed or been able to afford them, there is very little guidance about what can count. We have discussed this with our friends at the Child Poverty Action Group, who explain that there is no official list and that you can use a range of different things such as a birth certificate, paid utility bills going back a period of time, a tenancy agreement, or the GP letter stating they have known you for so many years. The DWP can’t make you provide evidence that you don’t have or that would be difficult for you to get. It simply needs to be enough to establish your identity on the ‘balance of probability’ – and if they are being difficult you can appeal.
(So many problems, and the full Universal Credit roll-out hasn’t even hit us yet. D-Day for Universal Credit in Dundee is 8 November, so a further reminder for anyone local that we will be protesting outside the jobcentre that day from 12-2.)
Thanks for help on the stall to Jonathan, Tony, Norma, Dave and Gary