Saturday, 5 March 2011

DWP forcing Jobseekers into debt?

We have a Member, who has recently lost his job in the wave of public sector cuts. He signed on a couple of weeks ago and attended his first fortnightly Jobseeker's appointment last week.

Somehow, his employment officer has advised him to sign an agreement which requires him to look for the kinds of heavy manual work that he has not done for seven years, despite his entitlement to the following:


  • you are in the first thirteen weeks of a claim and have limited your availability to your "usual occupation"; or
  • you are in the first six months of a claim and you have restricted the rate of pay for which you are prepared to work;


Our Member is in his fifties and returned to education precisely so that he could gain a qualification that allowed him to work towards retirement, employed in a profession. Understandably, he is worried about the health implications of returning to heavy manual work, when this was the original reason for stopping it and when he has not done it for so long. 

For the last five years, our Member has been earning an average income of around £25kpa. He has an almost entirely continuous employment history, which includes working throughout his course to avoid student debt. He is neither used to nor comfortable with unemployment.

Whilst presenting evidence of looking for work last week, which included registering with relevant agencies, uploading reports, presentations and other examples of his professional expertise alongside a CV, he was told that he must apply for two jobs:

one in the profession for which he qualified, at £30kpa;
the other loading produce for little more than £6 an hour. 

If he does not apply for both, his benefits may be stopped. Currently entitled to claim on any Insurance or Mortgage Protection Cover he may have, what happens to these safeguards should our Member succeed with the second job application? Is he expected to lose his car, his home and credit worthiness as a result of these changes in circumstances?

Of course, we shall be helping to challenge how this particular agreement came to be made, but we'd really like to know if this an isolated incident, or whether there is a wider trend towards bullying the thousands of new jobseekers into applying for work which pays well below their means. Are we in an era of enforced insolvency as well as one of austerity? Please do share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

In the meantime, for anyone facing redundancy over the coming weeks and months, we suggest you visit the Turn2Us website featured in our Welfare section earlier this week so you can check all of your benefit entitlements before you claim. It is also an idea to take a copy of these Jobseeking restriction entitlements to your initial appointment.



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