Jimmy Stirling’s DWP Diary: Returning to the diary after a dark period


After a break during the summer, 62-year-old Jimmy Stirling returns to the diary – and his battle with the benefits system continues with a fresh crisis at the Jobcentre

I AM Jimmy Stirling, a 62-year-old unemployed graphic designer, photographer and musician, single grandfather and social housing tenant living in Glasgow.

I receive Jobseeker's Allowance of £50 per week and have a very small pension payment of just under £25 per week. I do voluntary work for my neighbouring community and look after one of my granddaughters for two days per week.

I was recently conscripted to take part in the UK Government's Community Work Programme, where I would be forced to work for my Jobseeker's Allowance, which I see as slave labour. This not volunteering, this is not being paid a wage, this is conscription.

I am against this terrible programme and this is my experience in trying to avoid a six-month, 30-hours-per-week sentence just to juggle the government's statistics to make them look good.

Below is my latest diary update. You can read the others here.

12 October 2016

It has been quite a dark summer for me. Mentally, I had to negotiate a long curve to get back to my usual abnormality, as I call it. 

During this time, the DWP let me know that I have yet another new work coach and that I no longer need to attend the fortnightly half hour computer search.

It has been just over a year since I contested the DWP’s move to make people work for their pittance of Jobseeker's Allowance. I seem to have won that one, but I cannot rest on laurels as you just never know what they will come up with next.

However, after signing on today, my new work coach informed me that, starting in November, I will have to attend the Jobcentre once a week. The normal fortnightly signing-on will continue with one day a week to visit the Jobcentre so that they can 'help' me in my search for work. 

I asked my work coach where this command came from and he told me it was from Westminster, from the secretary of state of the Department for Work and Pensions.

So, what 'help' will I get? Will there be actual help where they do something or will it be a threat to apply for even more jobs, even if you have no experience in their fields? I will have to wait and see.

During the last two months, I have been getting emails from No Desire To Retire. They actually had some jobs in Glasgow, for a change. All with Argos and all part time over the run up to Christmas. Not exactly career-forming but, hey, it would get you off the DWP list of unemployed for a couple of months. 

On checking their website today, there is one job in Edinburgh, in a storage facility, and all the rest are down south.

The job search goes on, the lack of replies continues, the winter months near and the thermal clothing is looked out to avoid using too much fuel to keep energy costs down.

26 October 2016

My new usual work coach was on leave, so got another work coach. I signed in and was given a date to sign on again. Straight in and out again.

1 November 2016

It's the day after Halloween. I spent the weekend with friends at our music gathering up north.

On checking my bank account, online, first thing in the morning, I realised that my Jobseeker's Allowance payment had not been sent to my bank or was not processed. Slight panic.

First thing I tried was to contact my local Jobcentre. I had a number and got one of my former work coaches who went through the system to check. He told me it was slow in powering up and said he would call me back. 

I waited and he did indeed ring me. He told me that everything had gone smoothly at the Jobcentre’s end and that I should contact my bank and if not happy there, contact the Benefit Enquiry Centre.

My local bank branch has a generic number and I had to wait in the dreaded queue which said I would wait around 10 minutes. The centre must have been busy and I waited much longer. After finally getting through, my bank told me that there was no payment pending on their records, so I had to call the benefit enquiry service.

I rang the service and again, was made to wait in a queue. The service must have been busy, too, and I waited and waited. I finally got through to someone and told me that my Jobseeker's Allowance had not been paid into my bank. 

The lady on the other end asked me to hold and she would check it out. After a long period, she got back and told me that my payment was indeed made but was held up because of "cosmetic" changes to the system. 

She told me my money would go through to my bank on the day and would show up later in the day or the following morning. My allowance did, indeed, go into my bank account that day.

From contacting my Jobcentre, contacting my bank and finally contacting the benefit enquiry service it took over 90 minutes on the phone. Not the most ideal way to spend a Tuesday morning.

Luckily, I had put money aside in my bank account to cover standing orders which would have been paid on the day. Had I not, there may have been a further element of panic.

Picture courtesy of Jimmy Stirling

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