In the jobcentre

When the DWP email you, asking you to make an email account – story featured in The Guardian

Below is the original text sent to Frances Ryan, Guardian journalist and author of the column “Hardworking Britain”.

The article published as a result can be found here.

I’ve been left to starve by the DWP after six weeks of trying to get on benefits after my contract as University staff ended. My bank loans are running out, my credit score is going to pot, and I’m facing making a claim for the fourth time on Friday – although I’m probably just going to go down to the jobcentre and refuse to leave until they see me, now. I’ve had enough.

I’ve been flat out attending job interviews since the start of June. I made a claim for benefits on 17th June.

The website wouldn’t recognise my postcode for either JSA or Universal Credit so I rang up.

Got put through to income support, got redirected to JSA, told them I believed my postcode was Universal Credit, got told to go through the questions anyway, was advised “Oh yes it’s Universal Credit”, redirected to another number, went through the questions again, got told I’d get a call back in two working days with an appointment.

Waited five working days, called back.

Got told the system had automatically closed my claim as my old address was on file – despite me giving my London address. I wasn’t going to be told about this, either.

I got told I’d need to go into my local jobcentre, fill in a change of address form, wait for the system to process that, call up again, make a new claim, and wait for a call back with an appointment. 

I asked if she was joking. She said she wasn’t, and hung up.

I was flat out with interviews for a few weeks, but took time out to go into the jobcentre last Monday.

I filled in a reassessment and backdate form – by this point, I’d had to take out a bank loan to pay for my rent that had been due – then got told not to fill in forms. “You’re meant to make your claim online,” a member of staff told me. 

Oh, if only it was that easy.

I told him the situation. He couldn’t find me on the system. “Well, we look stupid,” he told me.

I was suddenly found and redirected to another floor. Three staff flapped around, unable to find a change of address form. Suddenly I was told – after two hours in the building – that it was being sorted, and I could go home. I could call the number in a few days to make a claim.

I did so, and was told I’d received a call with an appointment in two working days.

I waited four working days, then called back. 

“I can’t find you on the system,” he told me.

I made my claim again. “All I can do is apologise on behalf of the DWP,” he told me.

“I appreciate that, but I’d much prefer an appointment.”

“OK, that’s gone through,” I was advised, after going through the questions again (Oh, and he’d been shirty with me when I hadn’t known the answer to one of them).

“I wish I could believe you, but this is the third time I’ve been told that.”

“You’ll get paid by September.”

“What do I do for money in the meantime? I can’t take out any more bank loans to cover my costs.”

“When you get your appointment, you can apply for your money to be backdated and for a loan from us until your money is in place. A decision maker will decide if you’re entitled to money.”

It’s been three working days and I haven’t had an appointment. 

My money is running out fast and I’m living off bread and jam right now.

All I can do is go down to the jobcentre tomorrow and refuse to leave until they do something.

The next day, I got a call offering me an appointment. I received an email a few hours later, advising me to create an email account.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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