‘I’m a 33 year-old man, I shouldn’t be in tears’

Breathing Space

We are worried about Stevie. He couldn’t hold back his tears as he spoke to us outside the jobcentre at this week’s stall. He had no money and was going in to request a budgeting loan. We offered to accompany him to see the welfare rights people at Shelter, but when he re-emerged, having had his request for a loan flatly refused, he was too upset and angry even to talk. We just managed to point him to the phone number for Breathing Space, the NHS call line for people with depression.

And last week, two other people came out too frustrated and despairing to stop at all. As more and more people fall foul of the increasingly Byzantine rules and the mounting DWP errors, we can expect to see growing numbers just giving up – and sometimes even giving up on life itself.

Talking of errors, this week we came across two people who should be on contribution-based ESA (now called New Style ESA) but have been put on Universal Credit. One had had to leave her job due to PTSD, and the stress of the Universal Credit system was making this worse. And we heard about another woman whose Universal credit payment had been so delayed while the DWP kept demanding further information and losing it, that her debts had become unmanageable. We suggested she got help from a welfare and money advisor.

Again and again we find ourselves having to provide basic information that you would expect to be given by the jobcentre. Last week we handed out three copies of the council’s booklet advising people where they can get help to go on line.

We always encourage the many people we meet who have been found fit for work when they are not, to appeal; but Rob, who we met last week, had already submitted his own Mandatory Reconsideration. He told us that the report from his medical assessment explained that, although his reading for lung strength was low, his technique for blowing into the tube was not good, so this should just be discounted. As he pointed out, if they had noticed his techniques wasn’t good, they should have asked him to blow into the tube again – but maybe the reason he couldn’t blow properly was connected to his COPD!

Thanks for this week’s and last week’s stalls to Tony, Norma, Gary and Jock

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