I Couldn't Care Less: Benefit Lapse

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A hypodermic needle and a vial

Benefit Lapse

Last week I mentioned that I was going to sign on at the job centre. I didn't envisage giving you much more on this, really. I mean, this little space is for carer issues, things to do with my role and the fact that my wife has a disability. The job centre doesn't really need to create any notable havoc around that, do they?

Well, of course they could. But before we get to that stage, let's just get a few things straight. I'm a carer. They know this, because it was on the form I had to fill in. I have just been made redundant. They also know this because ditto. So it would have been lovely, wouldn't it, if the general message had been 'look, we know your caring role is tough and demanding, we know that you've just been made redundant and that can be disheartening and a little soul destroying, we know you must be scared about exactly where the money you need is going to be coming from now, and painfully aware that jobs are few and far between, but don't worry. We're here to support you and guide you through the difficult and scary process of finding a new job, and we will point you towards the right benefits for you until you are able to start earning again'. Well, they didn't say that, you'll be surprised to hear.

They had already phoned my wife to tell her that she needed to come with me. My wife is disabled, as you will already have gathered, and hopefully the job centre had worked that out on account of the fact that I told them I was her carer. As a disabled person, she has applied for a benefit called Employment Support Allowance, which is for people who are partially or totally unable to work, and starts with the acknowledgement that you aren't going to be looking for full time work. Well, they told Raven that she couldn't apply for two benefits. She wasn't applying for two benefits, we explained, she was applying for ESA, and I was applying for JSA (job seekers allowance). No, they said, the JSA claim was a joint one. Well, I hadn't meant it to be, I said, sorry about that. But apparently what I meant it to be was a moot point. It was a joint claim, whether I wanted it to be or not. The reason? My wife, as a non-tax payer, doesn't count.

I can't pretend I fully understood all of this. I can't pretend I understood most of what I am about to relay to you, but there it is. She has not paid taxes in the last two years. This is because she is disabled, and has been unable to work. She hasn't been signing on because she does not have enough national insurance contributions, (owing to the fact that when she was working, she wasn't working enough hours to pay national insurance) and she hasn't been claiming ESA before because I was earning too much money. So the result of all of this is, either I can be tagged on to her claim for ESA, or she can be tagged on to my claim for JSA. I can't be bothered to talk through the ramifications of these, nor bore you with the full extent of the fallout. All I can be doing with telling you is that the confusion that this caused us then caused additional confusion for the woman trying to process the claim. Several times she either wandered off to consult someone else, or got on the phone to someone else, or leaned over to talk to the person next to her. By the end of all this kerfuffle, it was decided that Raven could apply for ESA after all, and I could happily apply for JSA. Apparently, Raven's ESA claim had already been processed (even though she had not shown them anything to prove her disability, and would not receive the next batch of paperwork until the following day). I have no idea why the decision was changed, or whether the first decision was right, or the second, or possibly neither. I have never been so bewildered by the Department for Work and Pensions in all their many sterling efforts to bewilder me into submission or insanity.

So there you are. I have no idea what is going on and why. I was sent away with about a dozen bits of paper to read and some other people to contact who will help me search for work (because the job centre are too busy to do that). If we are luckym our respective benefits will be properly processed and we will be financially safe until I can find another job. If we are unlucky, well…. the day we arrived at the job centre, they opened an hour late owing to the fact their front door glass had been battered heavily. The lady who processed my claim mused about what the culprits may have wanted to steal. Personally, I think she was missing the point.

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