CHARLOTTE HUGHES uncovers the appalling story of a young mother punished for avoiding a violent partner, and exposes the tricks used to rob jobseekers of their rightful benefits.
I REGULARLY campaign outside my local jobcentre in Tameside against benefit sanctions, and at a recent demonstration I was approached by a young woman who had a baby with her.
She was clearly distressed and she had a very sore black eye. I asked her what was wrong. She was a bag of nerves. She went on to tell me that she had just escaped from the clutches of her very violent boyfriend.
The police had to rescue her from her home. She left with her baby, his clothes and the pram. She was shaking.
She is now staying at the local women’s refuge, a haven for women escaping violence.
She should be able to recover now, you would think. But she couldn’t.
She went on to explain that she had previously been attending a jobcentre in another town and was supposed to attend an interview at that jobcentre.
She couldn’t attend. Why? Because it’s the town where her ex-partner lives and she has to keep away due to the risk of violence to her and her baby.
She did the right thing and phoned the jobcentre, and they agreed on the phone that she didn’t have to attend — but they stopped her money.
She phoned the Department for Work and Pensions on their expensive number and it informed her that she had been sanctioned because she didn’t attend.
So that is why she was at my local jobcentre that day. She wanted advice.
I gave her some advice and a leaflet and she went inside the jobcentre.
I was shocked. The poor woman has gone through hell and is now paying the price for escaping. I hope that she is OK and manages to heal.
This made me feel sick to my stomach. I had to walk away for a minute to compose myself.
A man who I speak to on occasion walked over to me and started chatting.
He’s homeless and has problems, but he’s a nice bloke and I always take the time to speak to him.
He was a bit angry on this occasion. Our local council has cut its funding to the homeless organisation in our town, and in a small town nearby.
I had heard word of this last week, so was prepared. He was upset, he couldn’t understand why they would do this.
I agreed. I said neither do I. He said there’s nothing more important to him and what would he do now?
I told him that I would do my best to help.
There are no real homeless shelters in Tameside. There’s a few drop-ins and foodbanks but nothing at all to give them a bed for the night.
Homeless people have to travel to Manchester to get help, and that’s not easy. My local authority doesn’t have any duty of care towards the homeless and neither does it admit the real level of homelessness in the area.
Another man walked over to me. He was also angry. Jobcentre advisers told him to use a computer, but he physically couldn’t do it.
The DWP had put him on a course for a day but he still couldn’t do it. We gave him some advice, and he went in for his appointment. A little while later he came out. The jobcentre had offered him a job for £2.47 a hour — way below the legal wage.
He’s forced to do this. If he doesn’t then his money will get stopped. Workfare is wrong. It hurts my heart to see people in pain like this.nI am continually hearing new stories of how DWP workers try to trick people into receiving a sanction.
If you haven’t heard of these tactics in your area please watch out for them.
Here’s a few to read and note. These aren’t unusual but it’s good to highlight them every now and then.
Applicants are told to “only apply for jobs that you know you will be successful in getting on the universal job match website.”
Now we know that most of these jobs are fake jobs but, yes, this was a nugget of advice given out at my local jobcentre.
If you apply for jobs that you won’t get then they will sanction you. It’s a no-win situation for the client.
Don’t fall for this one, folks. Unless you possess some kind of clairvoyant ability then how would you know if you are going to get the job or not?
Being sent to a job club that doesn’t exist. Yes, this is a newish one.
I saw this happen where a DWP adviser scribbled down an address on a piece of paper and told the client to get round to a certain building in half a hour.
They run round trying to find the non-existent building, couldn’t find it, so went back to the jobcentre and they were sanctioned for not attending the appointment.
It didn’t exist. Try to check if the place exists before trying to find it. It could save you a sanction.
The non-existent appointment. Yes, they are still trying this trick.
Not sending you a letter for an appointment then sanctioning you for not attending. They like to use this one a lot because often they go unchallenged. What’s the point in fighting when it’s your word against theirs?
People on universal credit who have worked all week have had their top-up wage sanctioned while on a zero-hours contract. Why? Because they failed to look for work for a further 35 hours that week.
Why? Because you were working and you had to sleep. Your adviser says: “Tough” — the jobcentre comes first before anything else.
There have also been cases where the jobcentre has imposed sanctions then refused to hand over a hardship form, saying the client is not entitled to one.
This is very wrong and they have been warned about this in Parliament. By law they have to give you one.
Demand one. Don’t make the mistake of saying: “Bollocks” under your breath. This will ensure that a G4S security guard escorts you out of the building.
They also often threaten to sanction people’s housing benefit if they don’t comply — but they cannot do this.
Go straight to your local council offices and apply for housing benefit on a zero-income basis if this happens.
These are just a few of their lame tactics and they are predictable. Always question them and always ask for everything in writing. Remember over 85 per cent of sanction appeals are won, And don’t give up.
The above article is from Moring Star. Click here for the original.