John had been signing on fortnightly, but when he went into the jobcentre on 29th March he was told he couldn’t sign or get his payment because he had missed an appointment on 21st. Not only was this date outside his regular pattern of interviews, he had never received any information about it. When we met him, John had just succeeded in demonstrating, with the aid of his phone message records and written appointment book, and with the help of a welfare rights worker, that he had never been told about the ‘missed’ appointment. This was just another DWP error – but he had already had to resort to selling possessions on Gumtree in order to live.
Frankie had been sanctioned twice. He had had no benefits since November, when he missed an appointment, and he had been sanctioned again in February for not completing a form to say that his circumstances hadn’t changed (unsurprisingly, he had not thought this necessary). He still had another 5 weeks of the second sanction to go. He had survived up to now with help from his family, as so many people are forced to do, but they couldn’t afford to give him any more, and he had just applied for hardship payments. As he is on Universal Credit these will be a loan paid back off future benefits, so he will be expected to survive on reduced payments for many weeks to come. That’s a lot of belt tightening for both him and his relations.
David was furious to discover that when he went back onto benefits after a short time in work, and had to shift from JSA to Universal Credit, he effectively lost nearly two weeks payments, as well as having to wait to receive his money in arrears. This is actually one of the few things that the DWP has been forced into making a little bit better: there is now no longer an unpaid week at the beginning of a claim, but that change happened too late for David.
Jayne had so many problems and debts that we pressed her to go straight to the Shelter Community Hub drop-in to get things sorted out; but Tom’s difficulties were a result of the way the Universal Credit system has been set up. This systemic problem has long been pointed out, but has been left unaddressed. Tom was self-employed and running his own small business, but the change to Universal Credit had made that no longer viable. The Tories may claim to champion entrepreneurs, but their Universal Credit system presents would be entrepreneurs with an impossible hurdle.
This WEDNESDAY 18th April has been called as a national protest day against Universal Credit – the protest that had to be postponed due to the snow. We will be protesting outside Dundee jobcentre from 12 to 2. Please come and join us!
Thanks to Tony, Alison and Gary for this week’s stall