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Barriers to Benefits

Mrs X first encountered the Community Job Clubs when ‘Beast from the East’ hit Fife in Feb 18. Mrs X had recently had a relationship breakdown and because of this she had to make a claim for Universal Credit. 

Mrs X had visited the Job Centre and felt they were very uninterested and was pushed out the door with a leaflet for the Job Club. She was told to visit her doctor because of the relationship breakdown, told that everything is online now, that she would need to get an email address, set up an account and the Job Club will help with all of this. “I feel Job Centre was very impersonal and uninterested in helping individuals.”  

So Mrs X wondered…. what is a Job Club! “I phoned one of the numbers that was on the Job Club leaflet that I was given by the Job Centre and spoke to a Welfare support Assistant (WSA) who was very helpful and informative. But due to the weather I had to walk from Gallatown to Town House, Kirkcaldy (a 2 mile hike) in the snow and wind to start the process.” 

Fortunately, in Kirkcaldy at that time he WSA were able to run a drop in facility because of staff living very close to the Town House.

Mrs X had never claimed benefits on her own before because she was always on a joint claim with her ex-partner. Mrs X was a single parent with 2 dependent children and 1 older child all living at home in a Fife Council property.  UC claim was made, because Mrs X had phoned in advance and brought all relevant information required to start the UC process. 

Mrs X felt overwhelmed and deflated at first because of the new responsibility of computers, emails and providing for her family on her own. Once UC claim and appointment part completed, a CV was created.  Mrs X had never had a CV before and felt overwhelmed with this process.  She had worked in the past in the local school as a playground supervisor and cleaner but this was many years ago also she didn’t have any qualifications and found this upsetting when applying for jobs with no experience.  WSA assured Mrs X that this is the start of the process and while attending the job clubs their will become opportunities to go on training to gain qualifications.  Also to look at volunteer positions and this will allow her to update her work experience on her CV.

“My first appointment at Kirkcaldy Job Centre for ID check was in the evening at 6pm which I found strange and unusual, this then turned into me being there 3 times that week. I couldn’t do ID check online and had to get face to face appointment, then agree claimant commitment and then to provide further information.”

Mrs X had to start doing job searches, she had never done this before.

“I started attending every Job Club in Kirkcaldy and the WSA had to sit with me every time at first to help with basic computers skills, checking emails and job searching online. With the support and help from all the WSAs in Kirkcaldy I am now able to start a job search, check my emails and apply for jobs on my own but still need a little support at times.”  

As Mrs X’s journey continued, her dependant son finished College and there was a change of circumstances to Mrs X income. She became worse off each month because the rent element on UC decreases and same with council tax reduction. Mrs X has to pay more towards these but receiving less on UC because son is claiming UC. This son was only on UC for 2 weeks and then he managed to find a job in the profession he was trained for in College. 

Mrs X had to declare herself bankrupt and although the process with CARF to become bankrupt was straight forward, it was trying to open a new bank account with another bank that was the barrier. Mrs X visited Bank of Scotland who were extremely unhelpful and at every opportunity showed this by each piece of evidence processed for ID Bank of Scotland found problems with.  Mrs X had no photo ID, or birth certificate and found this difficult to produce ID as required.  Mrs X financially couldn’t afford to get photo ID and became very frustrated.  WSAs at the Job Club spoke with Mrs X and suggested trying another bank. Mrs X went along to The Royal Bank of Scotland who were happy to open a basic bank account with the ID she had.  Mrs X reported this change to UC because benefit money was due to paid on the Friday this was the Monday of the same week and she had to call to make an appointment at the Job Centre. 

Each time there has been a change in Mrs X’s circumstances there is always a barrier, each week if different from housing to council with the local authority. Mrs X thinks that the only thing that there was no hassle with was the school clothing grant because this went straight into bank account without her having to claim. 

 

“Mrs X says that UC is cold, faceless and leaves you bitter about the system. You are left in debt.  It’s all online and that’s the way UC communicate with you, you get a text stating you need to read a message in your UC journal sign in your online account today and this could be about your payments, deductions, appointments, messages from your work coach or case worker”