Jobcentre minus

Jobcentre Plus has driven some claimants to distraction and despair, writes Gary Vaux

A few weeks ago I asked readers to send me their own experiences of the service that was being offered by Jobcentre Plus network. Below are some of the comments I received, with little comment from me required.

  • “I am an unemployed social worker. I applied for incapacity benefit, which took five weeks to come through. I applied for an emergency payment and was told I couldn’t have one because I was not on the system yet. I had applied for housing benefit, which would not be processed until I had proof of incapacity benefit. I was fortunate that my landlord gave me some food and allowed me to stay until my benefits were sorted. I could not buy food or use public transport. I felt humiliated and the situation added to my illness”.
  • “Recently I started living with my wife for the first time after she arrived in the UK. My child tax credit was stopped because we had to make a new claim as a couple, even though as a foreign national, my wife had “no recourse to public funds” stamped on her passport. I requested an appointment at my local Jobcentre Plus office because my wife had to have a national insurance number for my tax credit claim to be processed. I had to travel 15 miles to a jobcentre in a neighbouring town because of staff shortages – but only in five weeks’ time, the earliest appointment they had. In the intervening period, I have had to support my teenage son without getting any tax credits.”

    Three weeks later, my office received the following e-mail from the same man: “We provided the required information to the Department for Work and Pensions and my wife was told that she would receive her national insurance numberÉ sometime in the next three months! I phoned the child tax credit office and explained that the DWP had failed to issue a national insurance number to my wife. Again I was told that without a national insurance number they will not process my claim. It will be next year before my application can be considered! This is entirely the fault of the DWP.”
  • “I am a hospital-based forensic social worker in a medium-secure unit in London. My client has his benefit paid into the hospital patient bank. He has been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 for many years. During July he informed me that his benefit had been stopped. I phoned the jobcentre who said that the reason for this was that the client was not responding to correspondence sent to his old address that he hadn’t been resident at since 1999. I pointed out that they were paying money into the hospital bank and in the past he had had his benefit ‘downrated’ as a hospital patient. So why send mail somewhere else?

    “On 28 September, the same thing happened again, resulting in me explaining the situation again, and again being promised that his payments would recommence. By the 5 October they hadn’t. When I phoned they agreed to restart the payments immediately. It’s all so frustrating and such a waste of time”.

    Thanks to all the Community Care readers who contributed their views.

    Gary Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council. He is unable to answer queries by post or telephone. If you have a question to be answered please write to him c/o Community Care

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