Evidence in Rugby of the hardship and poverty caused by Universal Credit
INDIVIDUAL CASES OF HARDSHIP CAUSED BY UNIVERSAL CREDIT IN RUGBY
A claimant was sanctioned before Christmas because he could not use a computer in the time available at the Job Centre to apply for jobs, and had no computer at home to try again – 20% are not on the internet. As a result, he spent Christmas in a tent on a graveyard in Rugby because his landlord threw him out, as he could not pay his rent.
A middle-aged man with special needs had his benefits cancelled for four weeks after he accidently missed an appointment by getting his dates wrong. On the day we were leafleting he went in to the Job Centre for help completing one of their forms, this was refused and, instead, he was sent to the Citizens Advice Bureau – which was closed!
A young man with throat cancer, 30 minutes late for his appointment because he had been to hospital for treatment, was told he couldn’t rearrange the interview and would lose benefits
A middle aged woman was sanctioned, and had no income for several weeks, forcing her to pawn personal jewelry, because the DWP claimed not to have received a reply to a letter the local postman saw her post.
The recently separated man, who had moved from Coventry to Rugby, told the DWP he was keeping his two children at their Coventry schools until July, and told the DWP he had to transport them. The DWP still gave him a 9am appointment, and when he put his children first, he lost his benefits for 2 weeks
The middle aged woman who was given New Years Day as her next signing on day even though the Job Centre was closed. The DWP gave her a new date towards the end of January, but stopped her benefits in the interim. When she complained, she was told she should not have assumed a delayed appointment was acceptable, and she lost her appeal
A 50 year old woman, whose sanction included her rent no longer being paid because she failed to provide enough evidence of her 17 year old daughter’s apprenticeship even though she receives no benefits at all for her daughter. As a result, she was being harassed by her landlord. Poverty was forcing her to use the local food bank for the first time.
MAKING IT HARDER TO CLAIM BENEFITS, AND THE WAY THIS AFFECTS CLAIMANTS
The middle-aged woman, who had been made redundant from the job she had held since she was 16, and was shocked at the way she was treated – no phones to use at the Job centre, and kept being passed from person to person, humiliating her
The man with a shattered leg who could barely walk but was told, following an ATOS interview, that he would no longer be on JSA or housing benefit – as a result he would lose his home.
The young man who missed an appointment in Coventry he didn’t know he had, despite informing the DWP he had moved to Rugby, lost his benefits for four weeks although he was actively seeking work whilst working voluntarily in charity shops. As a result he had to sleep on a friend’s floor and had nowhere to cook the food he could get from Rugby food bank
The man who was told that if he could afford the newspaper he had with him, he was thus not in poverty and it had therefore been correct to sanction him and stop his benefits
A 57 year old male amputee had his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) stopped overnight by phone call informing him he had to apply for Universal Credit instead, and told he would have no further benefits until he had been interviewed. This includes stopping his housing benefit, which resulted in serious rent arrears. He was eventually interviewed: nearly two months after his benefits were stopped. He was told he could apply for a loan if he applies on-line, attends the Job Centre with proof of identity, and gets an appointment with a ‘Work Coach’. What does he live on in the meantime? And how does he repay the loan without falling into even deeper poverty?
A woman who had had a nervous breakdown was told she had to attend the Job Centre weekly and go on courses even though her doctor had written asking the DWP to give her ‘space and time’ to recover
One man, recently separated and living with a friend, was told one of his ‘Universal Credit Commitments’ was to find a place of his own or face sanctions. He was also asked to provide a sick-note from his doctor, which the DWP is now insisting he, the claimant, pays the £20 charged by the doctor!
Compiled by Pete McLaren, Secretary Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) from discussions members of Rugby TUSC have had with claimants outside Rugby Job Centre since the pilot of Universal credit in 2013.