Thursday, 11 October 2007

*Benefit claimants need firmer safeguards,not tougher sanctions

"Benefit claimants need firmer safeguards,not tougher sanctions" by Alan Wheatley.

David Cameron says that tougher benefit rules will help make the economy fairer. He says that jobseekers who turn down suitable offers of work should lose benefit.

This panders to the tabloid exaggerated stories of abuses by benefit claimants. Do the tabloids ever report the dismal performance of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) call centres? Last year, JCP was criticised in Parliament for leaving 44% of incoming calls for the tax year 2004/2005 unattended; that was over twenty million calls. Only 5% of calls to the help line for Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit were answered!

That state of affairs has been exacerbated by JCP's insistence that
those making fresh claims for benefit must apply over the telephone. I am really glad that when I started part-time cover-duties as a social care worker in 2005, I 'kept my claim fresh' by signing on each fortnight and submitting part-time earnings forms.

JCP, however, was so inefficient that I was left waiting more than two months on two occasions for Jobseekers Allowance top-up to my meager part-time earnings. The second of those occasions was after I resigned from the strain of JCP-inefficiencies and from lack of in-service training and other such circumstances; there was a 'sting in the tail' to my receipt of £500, mainly made up of annual leave accruals. In the time while I was waiting for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) to resume, Housing Benefits (HB) were told that I was no longer entitled to JSA and therefore not automatically entitled to HB. A telephone contact I had with HB at the Town Hall was not logged, and so in the months I was waiting for JSA to be resumed, the Council almost closed my HB file,
believing I had not responded to their earlier communication.

Regarding those who gave up benefits in going into paid work, the tax credits debacle led many families to be dependent on British Red Cross food parcels and help from other famine relief charities.

Further, I quote the following statistic:

Insecure at Work

* Half of the men and
* A third of the women

making a new claim for JSA were last claiming the benefit less than six months ago. (These proportions are similar to a decade ago.)

Alan Wheatley
GPEW Disability Spokesperson

PS: The WEEKLY 'earnings disregard' on Jobseekers Allowance is now LESS than an hour of paid work on the statutory minimum wage. That 'earnings disregard' has remained at £5 since 1988!


JCP call centre inefficiencies and other 'performance indicators' are noted at

Insecure at work

No comments: