So I went to the cinema yesterday with my partner to see I, Daniel Blake, which is Ken Loach’s new film. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in case you didn’t already know that. Please go and see it if you haven’t already, it’s a really great film and portrays what real life is like in the UK for thousands of people. The whole cinema were bawling their eyes out, it was strangely kind of nice because we were all in solidarity together for a few minutes, a cinema room of strangers united in our sadness. And not just sadness, but anger, anger at the clear injustice of the UK welfare system that frankly fails to provide welfare for vast amounts of its citizens.
I have been a benefit claimant in the past. I’m actually waiting to hear back about a claim right now, and I’m in the process of completing the hefty application for another, and my partner has just applied for one too. He is unemployed and has been for about 3 months now, except he got a job offer after the first month, but due to the bureaucracy he’s still not able to start it. We’re currently living off my student finance which is a mixture of loans and grants. We moved house about two months ago which was astronomically expensive and we have a few different bank accounts between us but all in all after our rent is paid later this week we will be left with a combined bank balance of approximately £500 to last until…well, until whenever he manages to start work. Luckily we have two accounts with overdraft facilities, and I have parents that can lend us money – in fact we already owe them £600, so technically we are actually on a balance of like -£100. But luckily there is no pressure to pay them back urgently so we can wait until we have the money but God only knows when that will be. It is likely we will have to loan money off them for next month’s rent, the way things are going.
It is really stressful applying for benefits. The forms take hours and hours in some cases (PIP, I’m looking at you). A few weeks ago my partner tried to apply for JSA. We did about half the online JSA app each because it took about an hour and a half. Someone was supposed to call him within 2 days but nobody did. Then about 4 or 5 days later, someone finally called, whilst he was out at a job interview. They left us an answer phone message saying they would call back again and if they couldn’t make contact they would end his claim. They did call back – AN HOUR LATER. When he was obviously still out at the interview. They ended his claim! He called the DWP as soon as he got in a few hours later and found this out, and the apologetic fella on the other end of the phone told him that there was no trace of his claim anywhere at all – it had (erroneously) been completely erased from their system, and so he would have to start all over again with an application if he wanted to pursue it!
About a week after that we thought we’d look at other options. My partner phoned to try and claim Income Support over the phone. He was told he was eligible to apply for Income Support after some initial questions, so he started the claim over the phone which took awhile. The fella arranged an appointment for him at our local JobCentre Plus about a week later. He went to the appointment, only to be told he wasn’t actually eligible for Income Support at all, and that he’d instead have to apply for JSA, but this would have to be a joint claim with me, and that they couldn’t exempt me and we’d both be required to come into the JobCentre EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to sign on and look for work even though I’m a full-time student and work a part-time job and so am obviously not looking for work. This information is not only ridiculous but is WRONG! My partner has claimed JSA before and I was exempted from the job-seeking due to being a full-time student. It’s a pretty straightforward job but it seems some of their staff are so poorly trained they’re not even aware of their own protocols!!
The DWP are just ridiculous tbh.