Universal Credit system is not working

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Universal Credit system is not working

Post by Admin on Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:27 pm

swims post on um

Swim wrote:Anonymous jobseeker: Why the Universal Credit system is not working


https://commonspace.scot/articles/2853/anonymous-jobseeker-why-the-universal-credit-system-is-not-working
One jobseeker, who wishes to protect their identity to avoid any potential consequences for speaking out, details the struggle with the government's new Universal Credit benefits system

'I am registering my feelings about this abhorrent system in the event that my experiences and reflections will have some form of impact before the system is rolled out further to families or vulnerable individuals.
Universal Credit is a new type of benefit designed to support people who are on a low income or out of work. It will replace six existing benefits and is currently being rolled out across the UK. The new system is based on a single monthly payment, transferred directly into a bank account.

I UNDERSTAND the supposed benefits of Universal Credit. I realise that Jobseekers’ Allowance was sometimes not flexible enough to accommodate modern working practices and patterns. I realise the value of a benefit that allows the claimant to pick up occasional work and seasonal roles.

I do, however, have several issues about the current system and its procedures. I will illustrate my feelings about Universal Credit via examples of interactions with my adviser, Trisha* at Clydebank Job Centre, outlining my issues with, what I can only describe as an ideological assault on welfare claimants.
The first point to address about Universal Credit is the initial wait for benefits money. This wait is up to seven weeks. The claimant is not entitled to money for the first week of this delay as this is classed as a waiting period.
So, after seven weeks with no income, the claimant receives money for only a portion of this time. The reason for this wait is apparently due to the fact that claimants need to learn responsibility, and in "real jobs" one might expect to wait up to six weeks for one’s first payslip.
The perceived responsibility imbued in these monthly payments is fairly patronising: it suggests a top-down understanding of what it is like to meet one’s day-to-day expenses on a miserly income, with no real relation to the types of jobs that are available to claimants.
It is not the role of our welfare system to reflect the fallow pay periods of the private sector. The point of welfare is that it is designed to support citizens where the market fails. It is very sad that the DWP are aiming to mirror the practices of a poor employer.
Of course, the DWP are not monsters. No, there is a discretionary fund that one can apply for should they need to, say, pay rent or buy food while they wait seven weeks for their benefits to trickle in.
A discretionary fund which is, in fact, a loan, which the 'successful' recipient will have to begin paying back as soon as they receive their first Universal Credit payment.
The terminology employed throughout the Job Centre is a point of interest. My meetings are termed 'interventions'. My interventions are generally an unhelpful process where Trisha treats me with a perfect combination of suspicion and derision.
During my interventions, Trisha has twice tried to push me towards unsuitable work. As outlined in my job description, I am looking for full-time (35-40 hours) work in my field of experience.
At my first intervention (note: six weeks before any money was due to enter my account), Trisha pushed information on a jobs fair towards me, printed on the Job Centre’s signature thin porridgey-yellow-grey paper.
"Maybe you could pick up some work while you wait for the benefits to come in," she said.
I politely declined, outlining that the 12-hour retail role that she was ushering me towards would be a waste of my time and theirs, and that I would prefer to continue on my own job search.
If real jobs pay every five weeks, then I would still have to wait a significant time period for my first paycheque according to the DWP’s logic. So working in the meantime would be detrimental to my current circumstances with no income to cover travel and incidentals.
This particular interaction made me question the general competence of my adviser, and the effectiveness of the system as a whole. Trisha seemed to have little understanding or respect of my existing experience. Her attempt to push me towards a part-time retail role (which was unsuitable for me for many reasons) demonstrated the inefficiencies of a target-driven system.
This process is unhelpful for both employer and employee, pushing unsuitable candidates into unsuitable roles, no doubt contributing to high turnover and thus high HR costs for businesses.
My 'interventions' have thus far had no evidence of any sort of informed support. I am fortunate enough that I am able to conduct my job search alone and that I do not need any help from Trisha, because I’m certain that this support would not exist if I were to seek it.
The current format of job-hunting under Universal Credit requires claimants to treat their job hunt much like a job itself, evidencing 35 hours of activity a week. The proof of this job hunt has to be recorded via Universal Jobmatch, a government website which has a characteristically bureaucratic log-in process.
The user log-in consists of a 12-digit number, to be entered alongside a case-sensitive password. These login details have to be obtained via a lengthy registration process, with one half of your log-in being sent to your email address, and the second texted to your mobile phone.
The Universal Credit process already presupposes that claimants have access to email and SMS, which may not be true of everybody, and that claimants are computer literate to a moderate degree.
Even if you can use it, Universal Jobmatch is not a perfect website. The search algorithm produces hundreds of results, many of which may only have tenuous links to the original search keyword. This means that claimants have to sift through tens or hundreds of often unsuitable roles in order to find the few that they can apply for.
In the Universal Jobmatch user agreement, the website even states that the jobs have not been verified, and that there may be inaccuracies in the description. In my personal experience, I have found that it is simpler, and more effective, to jettison the Universal Credit website in favour of more specialised websites where job search results are more tailored to one’s needs and experience.
However, despite spending the requisite number of hours a week searching for jobs on suitable platforms, I continue to be treated with suspicion from Trisha. Recently I attended an interview for a role in another city. I had to travel to and from the 90-minute interview, and including time spent at lunch this took the majority of the day, almost seven hours.
In my next intervention I was asked why I hadn’t performed a job search on that day, which I hadn’t conducted due to being exhausted from travel, interview preparation, and the tail end of a head cold. Apparently it was not sufficient enough to have attended the interview, but that I had to somehow supplement this activity with an online job search.
In my initial meeting with a male adviser, I was told that, in theory, a variety of activities can contribute to the 35-hour job hunting quota. In practice, however, my adviser Trisha would have preferred that I had stayed at home and evidenced my job hunting activity online instead of attending my interview.
There seems to be more time spent focussing on evidencing activity than to the actual quality or effectiveness of the activity itself. Opinions on what constitutes appropriate jobseeking activity changes from adviser to adviser, meaning that the claimant is at the mercy of the subjective whims of their allocated DWP employee.
Furthermore, Trisha asked why I had not logged in over a particular weekend to perform a job search. I pointed out that in my first appointment, with the male adviser, I had been told that I could spend five days a week searching and take weekends off, or spend fewer hours searching across all seven days.
Indeed, as long as a full 35 hours a week are met, the claimant is able to structure their job search to a manner that suits them, which may involve 'days off' due to other commitments or care requirements.
This is not the case, according to Trisha, who expects the claimant to log in every single day, including weekends, to record their job search, regardless of the hours spent searching midweek.
There seems to be a disconnect in this logic: the claimant is expected to treat their job hunt like a job in itself. Payment is withheld from the claimant for up to six weeks to reflect the situation that one might encounter in a real job. The claimant is expected to learn responsibility from their monthly payments, and budget accordingly, like they might in a real job.
But that’s where the employee-employer relationship ends, because the claimants are not afforded the real job perks of weekends or time off, which are fairly crucial to one’s mental health.
As a point of feedback, if the DWP would like claimants to act like employees then they must be afforded some reciprocal respect. Claimants should be entitled to time off and should not be treated with suspicion should they not perform a job hunt every day.
Since my local library is not open on a Sunday, I would be very interested to know how someone without internet access might be expected to perform an online job hunt over a weekend. Indeed, if initial payment of Universal Credit is to continue to be withheld for up to seven weeks, then it seems more and more likely that the claimant may be unable to cover phone or internet costs at home.
In my personal experience, I do not find the Universal Jobmatch website useful, and therefore I do not log in every day, as my time is better spent on other forms of job hunting. I feel that it is unfair to expect claimants to evidence their job hunt solely through the online service.
There needs to be an element of trust afforded to the jobseeker, who may choose other avenues that differ from the DWP’s fault-laden online service.
I tried to raise my concerns about Universal Credit at an early date after noting on the DWP website that I could register a complaint in person, over the phone or in a Letter. After noting that the required phone call to the Universal Credit service centre was as 0345 number, and therefore would cost money, I decided to raise my concerns in person.
Trisha, however, told me that I was mistaken and that complaints could not be addressed in person, 'in person' meant over the phone and all complaints had to go through the service centre, which is only accessible by phone.
A week or so later, after I had cause to contact the service centre for another matter, I decided to log my concerns 'in person over the phone', as directed by Trisha. After an excruciating encounter with a voice-recognition phone system (a request for 'travel expenses' took me to the department that deals with the registration of deaths) I eventually had the opportunity to register my complaint with a human voice
At this point I was told that, no, I could not complain over the phone, but would have to do so in person. At this point I lost my patience and firmly explained Trisha’s instructions to complain in person over the phone and asked them to explain what the next step could feasibly be in this bureaucratic farce.
After a pause it was suggested that I compose my thoughts into a letter and hand it into the job centre - the letter which you are currently reading.
I foresee accessibility becoming a huge issue as the benefit is rolled out, especially when Universal Credit covers a wide range of needs. Logging a complaint should not require this amount of effort, and it calls into question the extent to which ordinary complaints and concerns are noted or listened to.
My main point is that I don’t believe that the system is working. I don’t know which evidence base the policy was built on, but in my personal experience I believe that it is ineffective, and will result in very hollow 'rewards' as it continues to be rolled out.
Every encounter with the job centre, and specifically Trisha, has left me frustrated, deflated and defeated. In our last meeting, due to a mix up in the appointment times, which change every fortnight, Trisha informed me that our meeting was "eating into her break".
My first meeting was at 9.50am, which I assumed would be true of all subsequent meetings. But my next was scheduled for 9.20am, and the next at 9.40am. I genuinely suspect that Universal Credit is structured in this way in order to maximise sanctions, when confused claimants fail to make it to their meetings on time.
There has been little evidence of compassion or support with those who I met with at Clydebank Job Centre, and the target-driven culture within it will only serve to fail potential workers.
Universal Credit claims to offer the opportunity for responsibility but its structure does little to afford the claimant any respect in return for their efforts.
To offer a contrast, countries that offer a fair wage to their unemployed citizens experience little turnover and see claimants go into long-term roles after a short period of unemployment.
As evidenced with trials of a Citizen’s Income, a strong welfare system means that employers are pressured to offer better roles and conditions for workers, with less likelihood of workers being pushed into exploitative positions.
At time of writing, it will be another three weeks before I receive my first Universal Credit payment. I first registered my claim on 18 September 2015. I expect to receive my first payment on the week beginning 2 November 2015.
In this time period my salaried friends, who are paid monthly, will have enjoyed two pay-days.
I am registering my feelings about this abhorrent system in the event that my experiences and reflections will have some form of impact before the system is rolled out further to families or vulnerable individuals.
* Names have been altered to protect identities, because the author wouldn’t wish Universal Credit on anybody else. Even 'Trisha'.'
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Re: Universal Credit system is not working

Post by Admin on Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:28 pm

[quote="Caker" post=10672]......I would like to add that, in regard to making a complaint in writing/ in person / by 'phone, it appears that the claimant has been lied to and passed from pillar to post. I very much look forward to someone bringing a discrimination case. Being unable to make a complaint 'in person' is discriminatory in 2 ways:-

1) It discriminates against those not able to articulate a complaint in writing.

2) It discriminates against those with no access to a 'phone or sufficient funds to obtain 'phone credit.

In the circumstances (if I was this claimant) I would be making a complaint about Tricia* having provided inaccurate and misleading advice. :angry:[/quote]
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