Getting off benefits: the worst part of unemployment …

This morning I received another letter, in an envelope obviously from a government department. I put it on the coffee table and looked at it for a while, not wanting to know what was inside. Eventually, with a calming brew in hand, I opened it.

My Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit has been suspended.

As you know, my Jobseekers’ Allowance has already been suspended.

So, trying to stay calm, I immediately checked my bank account online to see how much money I have to survive on until my employers pay me my part-time wage or Jobcentre Plus reconsider my situation: I was hoping it would be enough to last till a get a giro next week when this mess is sorted.

Then I find £30 has been taken in unpaid direct debit fees from my benefits (for reasons beyond my understanding because everything has been paid on time).

I would’ve been better off staying on benefits.

If I were still on benefits I wouldn’t need to find bus fares to my part-time work. I could go hungry at home rather than while trying to give lectures. I could sit in front of the halogen heater and not have to venture out into the snow only to return to a permanently unheated flat.

Jobcentre Plus agreed to my working – I asked for permission before I signed any contracts – but still I’m penalised.

This is the reality of how workers are treated when they make concerted efforts to get off unemployment and to earn an income, albeit a part-time, temporary one. For trying not to rely on unemployment benefits, for trying to find work that could, perhaps, lead to getting off the dole completely, I now have literally no income.

I’m at a loss at what to do. I can’t begin to imagine what rabid Tories would suggest. I assume this would still be my fault: perhaps my entrepreneurial skills have failed me yet again; perhaps I chose the wrong two careers in journalism and academia; perhaps my qualifications aren’t the right type; perhaps I over-achieved; perhaps I under-achieved; perhaps living within my means doesn’t show enough gumption and I should invest my £67.50 per week into some money-spinning venture from which I’ll emerge richer than Mark Zuckerberg.

All I want is a job. I just want enough money to live on. I’m happy to forgo holidays, meals in fancy restaurants, new clothes, a car, a mobile phone and all the things I once took for granted. I can’t, though, not have money for rent, council tax, food, travel expenses to work.

I no longer know what I’m expected to do. I would’ve been better off staying on benefits.

Amount of money I have £21.62

Cost of travel to work: £11.50 per week

Days until I am paid: 40

22 thoughts on “Getting off benefits: the worst part of unemployment …

  1. Sorry to hear about your problems. As soon as any JSA is stopped, I believe your local authority is informed by the DWP about your change of circumstance. Get in touch with your local authority immediately and tell them of your situation. It’s best if you ask them at that time what evidence you will need to make a new claim for HB/CTB. This is important, I believe they now ask for bank statements, so get them asap. You may need to get confirmation from your new employer as to what your wage will be, and when it will be paid. With a part time job there are loads of pit falls when you try for extra help. It will depend on the hours that you work and the wage that you earn. There are very good sites online that can help you with this. The more you look into the benefit system, the more you learn. You’ll be making money writing about it soon enough. I could go further…but I won’t. I believe that the net can be used for good. So go do yourself some good. There’s your starter for ten. I hope that helps. If you’d like more info, just get in touch through FB. 🙂

  2. Since you are working part time, and you’re maintaining this blog, Have you thought about looking into Working Tax Credits and becoming self-employed? I do this part time as I am a writer of fiction still looking for that elusive publishing deal. I work about 10 hours a week as a Librarian as well and claim Working Tax Credit to make ends meet. We get part of our HB/CTB paid as well.

    • I would second this – even doing sporadic freelance work, you could get some tax credits. It wouldn’t be loads, but it might be enough to make a difference between eating or not eating.

    • Aaa, interesting blog from Kent Freedom Movement. I brought Section 187 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to the attention of my bank and was firmly told this is an old section which no longer exists and they can take money from my benefits (this is aside from the fact that they’re technically wrong to do so). I’ll look into it. Thanks!

  3. The situation is shit I know, the only reason I’m not shivering and hungry in some squat, is because I have a child, most of my friends have been to uni, work for tescos or an equivalent and have moved back in with their parents. I too am at a loss as to how to get out of my dependency on housing benefit. The killer is the rent, and it just seems like my generation are footing the bill for our parents generation’s inflated mortgages…

    • Oscar – that is a huge over-statement. I am a struggling Uni-educated 30-something with a mortgage. I obtained this mortgage when things were going very well just a few short years ago; before the recession hit. Not everyone in their 20s and 30s is reliant on HB and anyone with a mortgage just has to struggle on. Somehow. There is NO, ZERO help for those with mortgages. So, think yourself ‘lucky’ in some way those of you ‘stuck’ on housing benefit. At least you don’t run the very real risk of losing your home in tough times.

      Btw, UH, I sympathize with your plight. I did put in a claim for council tax benefit some time ago but the pen-pushing drones at county hall lost paperwork and wanted duplicate copies of the mounds of paper I’d already supplied. This included confidential stuff like bank statements, which they had somehow ‘misplaced’!! The whole process was humiliating and dragged on and on for weeks. I stopped the claim, even though based on my very small income (then and now), I should be getting help.

      My sanity and self-respect I reasoned was worth more than the monthly struggle to pay my CT.

      • I know what you mean, I’m genuinely glad I never bought those few properties I looked at many years ago. That said, I never really earned enough as a jouralist to buy property near work and friends anyway: perhaps in the very early days but that soon changed and I had no chance when living in London. It is less stressful renting from a housing association – hence our needing more social housing! – but this messing about with my Housing Benefit has led me to fear losing my home. I don’t I will, I should be ok but, like you, say it tests your sanity. I hope your struggle doesn’t last too long.

  4. They will be visiting your house soon to riffle through your underwear drawer and count your chairs. I have a ‘visit’ coming up. :- l

  5. Pingback: No union should support workfare | Edinburgh Eye

  6. Hi this is my situation. On the 28th July my Dad passed away, I had only just signed of for Job Seekers on the 18th June, and had never been on benefits before. It was decided that I was entitled to income based Job Seekers and I began to receive my benefit at 71.00 pw. I have a property that I own and have a morgage to pay on that, but was not entitled to any other financial help. When my dad passed away, I came to live temporarily with my mum, in order to support her as she is in her 80’s and was finding the emotional side very difficult to cope with. I thought I would do the right thing and contacted the Job Centre in Hounslow, and was advised that I needed to come in and complete the necessary paperwork. I did this three days after my dads death, obviously in grief, and finding the who thing a little to much to deal with. I was treated with no compassion, but hey, I filled in the forms, and added on one of them that my move was temporary, however, although previously I was able to look countrywide for a job, I was now seeking employment within a 60 mile radius of my mother in order to support her. Unbeknown to me the Job Centre passed that on to Glasgow and my benefits were stopped from the 28th July! I have been in an on going fight, as it has now be predetermined that I have two properties, which of course I dont! I went to sign on today, as i apparently have to…and asked about the situation, as depite my three calls to Glasgow no one had got back to me. I was advised I needed A64A form that Glasgow should have sent me. I advised the JC that I had now not received any benefits for 4 weeks and although I am actively seeking work, I now have no money to attend the interviews (I have 4 scheduled in the next 10 days)..I was told well you have to other wise you wont get your benefits…hello! Im not getting any now. Today it cost my £3.20 in parking to attend a useless CV exercise, before anyone says anything, I dont own the car I borrowed it, because I could use the petrol for free. I phoned Glasgow when I got back, spoke to an officious guy who told me that ‘system were systems’ and they would re-send the A64A form (which they never sent in the first place). I told him that I have NO money, not some, not a little bit, not a few coins in my purse….NO MONEY! his reaction was…..well you did move didnt you? and you have a second property we have to investigate! I did say in my upset…I didnt think people could starve on the streets of England, his reply :a little emotional dont you think’?

    Sorry had to rant..has anyone else had this happend to them. I just dont know what to do next other than wait for the form. Thank you Sharon

  7. I get treated like some criminal trying to steal money from the jobcentre. I had to leave work due to illness, I’m on ESA, the amount of times its been stopped due to Glasgow losing my sicknotes is unbelieveable! And the joke of it I’m on contributions ESA so basically I’m paying for my own benefits, they make me feel like I’m trying to steal the crown jewels when asking for ESA money!
    I hate being on benefits, its been over a year now and it makes you feel worthless and belittling. I so desperately want to go back to work, just in a decent paid job thats all I ask.

  8. I came across this blog because after working in the NHS for 13 years I was made redundent. I went to the local jobcentre and have been signing on for just over a year every 2 weeks. A few weeks ago I signed on as usual and the advisor said to me is it ok to come in at 11.45am next time so I said yes that’s fine. I then put the paperwork my card and my jobsearch book back into my signing on folder and left. I have put a reminder in my phone diary for every 2 weeks on a Sunday night to remind me to sign on. The following fortnight I attended at 11.45am and was told that my appointment had gone and it was last week I stated that it couldn’t of been as I sign on fortnightly but when I looked at the card it did stated the previous Mondays date. I appologised and stated that the advisor should of had the decency to have informed me that they were changing my signing on times from 14 days to 7 days. I had to write an explanantion for this for them to make a decision. It was declined and my JSA has been suspended for 1 month. Now I know I am responsible and some people may say that I should of checked the card but I have worked as a Counsellor for years and would have never given a client who had been coming in on the same day and period of time a different time span without explaining it to them at their last session. But besides that what I would like to know is I am £6.15 minus in my bank account so with no money for food or heating or gas and electricity meters am I entitled to go out and shoplift my food and shoplift things to sell to get gas and electric because I am under the impression that in this country benefits were brought in to stop the underprivaliged people from commiting crime I know for a fact that they don’t give out benefits from the warmth of their hearts so is this new ruling for suspending peoples money as a punishment going to increase crime levels because I would like to think of myself as a law abiding citizen but am being made to feel that I need to go and put a chicken in my bag in order to get through the next few days

  9. Just one more thing I’ve just left a comment somewhere on this page but I have just noticed that there are 708 followers so could we not all act as a body and do something about the Goverments Plans to treat people the same way as they were in the Victorian Days gone by. I’ve worked and had no choice but to sign on and get treated like shit. It used to annoy me when my own clients at work were being penalised by the system and most had no choice but to claim benefits its true they are treating us like scroungers but for many we would like to work but for the insulting rates of pay that would leave us with zero after paying rent/mortgages we still have no choice but to stay on and be thankful that we still have a poxy roof over our heads but a day will come when we are living on the streets stealing to feed our hungry bellies because its not that far off in our present day. I would think that the more people who act against the goverment even if that means standing outside the jobcentres getting people to sign petitions would be more efficiant than a single person trying to fight to get money to buy food and survive in the year 2013!!!

  10. In many ways I think it could ‘almost’ be better if the there was NO support. Obviously that would result in widespread distress, but this ‘take them on one at a time and crush them approach is destroying people’s lives. Despite the myriad of complaints, there never is a collective protest at my benefits office. And has the Work and Pensions Minister ever appeared on TV and said ‘ Oh my departments get it wrong on a daily basis, many thousands of people are denied benefits only to have them re-instated at appeal’. No- you don’t hear THAT!

    So it brings me back to my point, that if we didn’t have this cap in hand approach, maybe, just maybe we would develop a backbone and actually DO something, together, collectively.
    But of course that’s why even Thatcher never went this hard on benefit claimants, People had a living memory of collective action, of people from the War years who actually faced down tyranny.
    I am sorry to have repeat it, but I will, it needs repeating….An old boy in his 90’S explained to me and some male friends why he thought the country was in such a mess, in answer he looked us in the eye and said ‘ because men today in the main are cowards. There is virtually nothing they will do to stand up against ANYTHING any more. They threw away their rights and membership of unions that people died fighting for because they thought they didn’t need them. Iv’e seen tall men cross the road or walk around a bunch of kids on the street in fear’. My heart sunk, what person can honestly say they haven’t at one time or another.

    We’re alone, frightened and scared of our own shadow. If you raise your voice in a benefits office you will be immediately surrounded by security. I wish there would be a national day of action where every benefit recipient that is able, would meet outside their benefit offices and demand work- maybe, just maybe some people would realise that not everyone wants a life on benefits.

    I am sorry to sound so negative but this blog is just one of many otherwise silent ‘Screams’ out there. And if anyone is in employment, worried about extra taxation and that the benefits system is too easy, don’t worry; at this very moment IDS is looking for more victims amongst the poor, blind, deaf and other disabled. So the savings are being made- don’t you worry- you will be left alone. I mean a bully wouldn’t pick a real fight would he? And instead of spectators to a school bully fight shouting FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! and forming a protective barrier, to stop the guardians from intervening, now they all shout WORK-SHY! WORK-SHY! WORK-SHY!- it’s so much more effective in drowning out the cries and sobs of the poor, crippled and infirm.

  11. i am trying to sign off but when i call i keep getting all agents are busy i have not spoken to anyone after 5 attempt but my phone has been charged £2.00 so far this is disgusting is the goverment so desperate that they will squueze any penny that they can get from people who are already finacially suffering

  12. feel like a criminal myself and only been on benefits for a month most of the staff at the job center treat me like a third rate citizen i;m 61yrs old and never claimed a thing in my life

  13. I have just heard that I will be starting work Monday still on jsa until I call them it is going to cost me 45 pounds to travel to work for a month my hrs are 16 per week the wages are monthly can anyone tell me if any help out there with bus fare and money for every day living until wage I am single female of 51

  14. You should really go out there and fight for your rights. You are British citizens on the British soil. After graduating I couldn’t find a job. I was denied JSA cause I had no previous work experience except the ones I had managed to get abroad. If it hadn’t been for my parents, I would have probably been starving to death. I am now doing a part time job, doing extra teaching to make ends meet. But the people employed in job centres around the UK shouldn’t treat any one like they do!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s