The Work Programme may be winding down, but Triage seem determined to continue to toy with and torment those still completing their two-year stints. When we met Jane and her son at this week’s stall, she told us that Triage employees had even come and chapped on her door to inform her that until his time on the programme came to an end they ‘owned’ her son. She was actually less concerned by this dangerously warped thinking and intrusive behaviour than by the fact that, while he was stuck in the useless clutches of Triage, he was not allowed to go to other organisations that might be able to provide him with some real help in his search for work.
John informed us that he had been sanctioned for missing an appointment due to being at a job interview. He had even gone to the jobcentre to warn them, but been told they were too busy to see him. He was no longer that bothered as he was about to start a job, but we tried to persuade him of the importance of still appealing the sanction decision. Not only should he get the money that he is due, but he also should avoid the risk that if his job doesn’t work out and he is back unemployed again, his sanction could continue. Ed, on the other hand, was determined to appeal his sanction. He had been late for an appointment as the road had been closed due to a traffic accident. He had brought the clipping about the accident from the local paper as evidence.
Demands to prove ID seem to be a growing problem and a source of major benefit delays. (See our earlier blog for examples of what counts.) James was full of well-focussed indignation at a system that had forced his severely disabled wife to come to the jobcentre to prove who she was so that his claim could be processed.
We haven’t put up a stall report for a bit, but looking back at notes from the last couple of weeks, I find that we seem to have encountered a clutch of problems from people who were carers. George had been receiving Carer’s Allowance for looking after his father, but since his father’s death he had put in for this to be changed to looking after his mother instead. When the person you are caring for dies, Carer’s Allowance should continue for a further eight weeks, but his payments had stopped after three weeks, and the transfer to being a carer for his mother had still not been processed. We suggested he ask for a Scottish Welfare Fund grant to cover the gap while everything got sorted. Andy was receiving Carer’s Allowance but was being put under pressure to apply for Universal Credit instead. There may be particular reasons why in his case this makes sense, but we advised him not to do anything without getting welfare advice and a benefit check, as the jobcentre are only too keen to get everyone signed onto UC. For Mark there was no choice. He had been getting Carer’s Allowance to look after his father, but his father had had to move into a care home. Mark had no option but to move onto UC, and was now struggling to pay back the advance he had had to take out to see himself through the initial delay, as well as paying the bus fares to visit his father. He had already received two Welfare Fund grants but we suggested he might also be able to get some help with his heating and electricity from Dundee Energy Efficiency Advice Project. The low value put on carers and care work is a real indictment of our society.
And finally, a more pleasant surprise. Robert emerged from the jobcentre unusually happy. He had just been informed that, since they could see from his UC online account that he was doing what was requested to look for work, he only needed to come in monthly.
Thanks for this week’s stall to Norma, Gary and Dave.