Friday, 1 July 2011

Benefit Breakdown

Let me start this post by saying that I am glad I live in a country where there is a safety net for people like me who find themselves temporarily unable to work or earn enough money to feed their family and keep a roof over their heads. For the last 18 months I have been able to concentrate on getting my children through some tough times and relocating 350 miles to be near my family.

However government cost cutting has suddenly descended me into a very stressful nightmare. At the beginning of May I sent off a 13-14 page set of accounts showing the small amounts of money I had earned in previous tax year. Then I relaxed thinking I didn't need to provide any information for 6 months unless my fortunes changed dramatically and I started taking more than £20 a week.

So you can imagine my shock and horror yesterday when a letter popped through my door from the local council informing me that "you are no longer eligible for Income Support"  and so would not be eligible for Housing Benefit! A quick phone call to them revealed that the DWP had informed them of my ineligibility the day before...

Right I thought let's call the DWP and find out why? Is it because one of my children had creeped over the savings threshold? Typically it was strike day so calling the DWP entailed an even longer than normal phone call and the person I spoke to wasn't a normal call centre person. They informed me that as I had failed to send in my business accounts as requested they had written to me on the 24th telling me that my Income Support claim was invalid. So in the nearly 2 months since I sent the documentation they hadn't seen fit to ask me where the documents where and I had no idea they hadn't had them until they cut off my benefit...

So to get it re-instated as a Rapid application I then had to call another DWP department (at least this time a freephone number!). Another long bit on hold due to staff on strike and then the very nice man arranged for me to have a sign on interview on Monday at my local job centre. Only problem was not enough time to send me the right forms but apparently I could pick one up from the job centre today. Oh and did I want to complain about what happened? At this point not wanting to rock the boat I said no and breathed a sigh that maybe things would get sorted (albeit with a 14 day delay).

Last night was a pretty sleepless one as I thought about the consequences of losing free school meals, housing benefit and uniform grant etc. whilst it was sorted. Today I rolled up to the Job Centre feeling like it was a positive step (with 4 year old in tow) and asked for the relevant form. First lady hadn't heard of it so went to consult a colleague. This colleague went to look for said form and the message came back we used to have them but don't any more. So it was on the phone from the job centre to the DWP:
it's because you failed to send in the documents we requested

Aargh - ever feel like people don't listen to you or that they don't record previous conversations on the computer systems that control their very thoughts? Realising I needed to speak to a human being and not an autobot I asked for the number of the other call centre. 

As each attempt on that number either ended with the telephone system cutting me off, sending me to a strange tone or giving me false hope with several minutes on hold before cutting me off; my morale plummeted and with the previous sleepless night tears started flowing.

At this point I have to say how fab the Kendal Job Centre team were. The security guard gave me tissues, the first lady consulted with the senior man, he went off and got me a different form that would give them the basics to sort me out on Monday. This does give me hope that everything will get sorted when real humans are involved.

I know that there are plenty of people out there taking the mick with benefits and who have no intention of working and that is what this abrupt system is supposed to weed out. I am trying to find ways to get myself off benefits and to independence but at the moment I need the Income Support. My self employed businesses need re-building and establishing having relocated to the other end of the country. As an alterative I keep looking in the local papers etc for paid work but up here it nearly all involves evening or weekend work which is useless as a single parent.

So Mr Cameron by all means balance the books by weeding out the benefit cheats and the work shy but treating honest people like I've been treated is not at all humane. It has caused immense stress to me which has knocked on to my children who have had to witness my phone calls etc. Please treat us like human beings and not just numbers that can be axed to balance the books. Maybe if you allowed information to be sent by e-mail to back up claims then it would save money as well as the angst of things getting lost in the post.

I really hope that things get resolved for me on Monday and I've got everything back in place. Luckily for me I actually had some spare money in my account for a change so will not feel the financial bite unless it takes longer than 14 days to fix. I can imagine that for many people having their Income Support removed would lead to real financial hardship as well as the stress.


Update 20/07/11

Yesterday as it was more than 2 weeks since placing my Rapid reclaim and I had no reply I contacted the DWP. I was told that my claim was lodged with the Decisions Manager on 12th July and it was in a pile of chronologically ordered requests. All I can do is wait.

In the meantime the council want proof of the re-instatement by the 27th so that I don't lose my housing benefit completely! I also have to pay my rent on 1st August so getting nervous and I may be calling the Crisis Loan line if this goes on much longer...


  1. Really sorry to read you are going through this stress...Wish I could do something to help. Sending you a hug and hope it gets sorted quickly x

  2. Practically crying tears with you. So frustrating and stressful. Hope they get it sorted out for you.


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