A difficulty with claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance

Dear Mrs Holdsworth,

I have just come off the phone from discussing my claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance with one of your advisors. From what he was able to tell me, it seems that your staff responsible for processing my claim are either incompetent or persistent liars. Over the last month I have gone through an absurd process of bureaucracy in an attempt to get reinstated my claim which was cancelled in error from 10th June. I am now told that there is no record on your system of any attempt cover the missing weeks.

Upon attending my regular signing appointment at Westfield House Jobcentre on 10th June I informed my advisor that I would be unable to make my next signing as I would be at the Glastonbury Festival with a ticket purchased prior to the start of my claim. I had hoped to be able to rearrange my signing for the day before, but expected to be told to sign off and start a new claim on my return. Instead I was told that I was entitled to ten days of holiday that I could take any time during my claim. I was given a form to fill in giving details of my holiday within the UK, and told that provided I returned it to the Jobcentre before leaving for the festival everything should be fine.

I believe I returned my holiday form to the Jobcentre on 22nd June, two days before my next appointment was due. The staff on the front desk were helpful and friendly, and gave no indication that I was doing anything incorrect or unusual. They told me that I should come back to the Jobcentre on 6th July, the first weekday after I got home, and tore a reminder slip from the holiday form that I was told to present when I returned. Other than that I was given no receipt or acknowledgment of the form I had handed in.

I duly presented myself at Westfield House on the required date, and turned over the reminder slip I had been given. My appearance clearly caused some confusion, and it was some time before I was called forward to see an advisor. I was finally called to a desk where I spoke to one man and one woman who told me that the holiday form I had brought in prior to my departure had been lost somewhere between the front desk and the team who should have put it on the system. My claim had been cancelled as I had, the system recorded, missed my regular signing date on 24th June. They advised me to return home and phone the helpline, asking to make a rapid reclaim, and to request that my claim be backdated to the date my earlier claim had been cancelled in error.

Following the advice given by the Jobcentre advisors precisely, I returned home and called the helpline. I asked to make a rapid reclaim, and was put through a process that could not by anyone be reasonably described as rapid. The gentleman I spoke to appeared to have no access to the details of my previous claim, and was unable to look up basic facts you would think might help in a “reclaim” process, such as the date my prior claim had been cancelled. Nor was he able to simply duplicate the details of my claim, and I was forced to answer a tedious volley of irrelevant questions, the answers to which you must already have had on your system, as not one detail of my situation had changed since my previous claim.

At the end of that call I was instructed to attend Westfield House again, for a starting interview, on 10th July—by which time I had been without income for one month. At this interview I was told that the only way I could hope to have this outstanding period covered was to complete another form requesting that my claim be backdated. I spoke to another helpful lady who, unlike the telephone advisor I had spoken to before, was actually able to look up the details I needed to complete the form accurately. She again admitted that my claim had been cancelled in error by the Jobcentre, and told me that there were notes to that effect on my record. She informed me that my case would need to go before a specialist decision maker who would have authority to issue the JSA covering the missing month. I wrote out in full on the form what had happened to my claim, and how I had been repeatedly told to expect that money. The advisor said she would also give full details, officially recording for the benefit of the decision maker that I was owed the money due to a Jobcentre Plus error.

Prior experience has shown me that one can not expect to receive anything in JSA before your first regular signing date after the initial interview. So I waited until after my next signing on 22nd July before expecting anything further. On 27th July, I finally received a payment of £156.16. I waited a little longer, expecting to hear something by post that would state the result of the backdating decision, and how much regular benefit I could expect going forward. As of today I have not received any written acknowledgement of this current “reclaim”. Slightly bemused as to what period that £156.16 was supposed to cover, I rang today to ask for clarification and also to ask what had happened about the backdating decision. I was told that the payment was to cover the period 6th–22nd July. Before my claim was erroneously cancelled I was receiving £64.30 per week, so that works out correctly. However, I was also told that there is no record on my account of any attempt to claim for the period 11th June–5th July.

Clearly, this should not be true. I can therefore assume only that either Westfield House have lost a form relating to my claim for the second time in as many months, or that I have been repeatedly lied to, and that none of your seemingly helpful staff ever had any intention of passing my documents through the relevant channels.

Ultimately, I assume, this is probably a failure of the system rather than of any specific individual. I am told that you do not have protocol for the restoration of a cancelled claim. This is patently absurd. I can not be the first person ever to have suffered a claim being erroneously shut down—people do, after all, make mistakes. It does leave me rather angry that a month after discovering the error I appear to be back at square one. I hope that, following this letter, you will be able to take some action to expedite my receiving the missing month’s allowance.

6 thoughts on “A difficulty with claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance

  1. I met a Jobcentre plus supervisor on a course recently. He was saying that things are so bad that there are literally rooms of boxes of paperwork that hasn't been processed and that basically if you don't kick off you don't get anything dealt with. I got the impression that there is a 'hope' at a senior level that young people who are refused JSA or have their JSA cancelled won't be bothered to complain (ie. they are lazy/don't really need the money) and won't burden the system. Keeps the statistics lower too if you think about it doesn't it?
    Bloody awful. When they tried to mess me around me after I had George, I wrote to Marsha Singh and he got it all sorted very quickly… Sarah

  2. And I was worried I was being overly cynical implying that was the cause… I've gone overdrawn as a result of this, so I fully intend to pursue it.

  3. I once went to the Glastonbury Festival, also during a signing-on period, so I told them I was going away looking for work. I filled-in the relevant form and they arranged for me to sign at the Jobcentre in Street, Somerset (the nearest Jobcentre to Glasters). All went ok and I signed without hassle. Had a giro waiting for me when I got home. Thatw as in 1998, arranged through Huddersfield Jobcentre. As for Westfield House, Bradford, they don’t seem to know their arse from their elbow, and recently they closed my claim by mistake for no reason whatsoever! Tossers. I seriously think the Jobcentre staff need to watch their backs nowadays, as surely it is only a matter of time before someone recognizes one of them off duty and takes revenge. I recently saw one of the bastards in TESCO and immediately felt like killing him.

  4. When i had to do a rapid reclaim nearly a month ago, someone at the job centre (advisor) had put contribution based insted of income based, it then took 2 weeks for a letter to come through telling me i couldn’t have it as i haven’t enough n.i. contributions, so i sorted it all out with the housing people not a problem, then i recived a date to attend the jobcenter, went to the for mentioned date to go through my declarations, and to confirm no change to my circumstances, and was given a signing on date, so another week and a half more i attended and as my job advisor went to put what was needed on his computer so if get paid, he looked at me and says ™ohh it looks like someones put you down for contribution based insted of income based™, it’s the 10 th tomorrow and I’ve to sign on again, and do you know what he said, ™ohh your a survivor™, and ™you might not get any money this week either™. The last payment i recived was on the 22nd of December and it’s affecting my health now along with my hygine, no money no electric no washing machine no hot water, you know how it goes,. I said to him i can’t carry on for one more week without any money, is there a crisis loan i can get?, and he said yeah but they only give you about a tenner for electric. So i don’t know what to do, this cannot be legal?, any advice would be, well pretty much life saving, all the best, Craig smith, Colchester Essex

  5. Hi Craig,

    Every indication seems to be that things have got considerably worse since I originally posted this letter. I get that the sanctions regime was intentionally designed to screw people over, but it does seem remarkable that they appear to have no process whatsoever to resolve a problem when a member of staff makes an honest mistake. It’s outrageous that people can do everything that’s required of them, and still be stuck with nothing to live off for two months.

    I’m afraid I don’t know a great deal about loans. The most relevant one I can see is the budgeting loan, but you need to be receiving an income-related benefit to qualify, so they may very well fob you off. I’d get suggest getting in touch with your local CAB, or your MP. Probably both.

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