Mentally ill man left penniless by DWP is arrested at job centre for cracking a joke.

No wonder people get wound up. I think all of us know what that’s like. You’ve been promised your payment for Friday, but it doesn’t go in. You have DDs and standing orders going out of your account; you’re stressed out because you’ll be charged if they bounce. The DWP promise that it will go in, but it doesn’t; some discrepancy or the computers are down. You then have to wait until Monday, meantime you have no electric, gas, or food in the house; you are too embarrassed to tell your family or friends.

When you do receive your money, you’ve been charged £75 for each bounced DD; that was your food and utility budget for the fortnight gone. You decide not to pay a bill so that you can eat. You received threatening letters from the housing association and water company. The next time you receive your money, you’re owing 2 payments on your rent and water; that was your food money for the fortnight: this goes on and on, the debt spiral continues.

People become more desperate, not knowing where to turn. Some DWP officer will end up getting hurt if people keep being pressured like this. If they were just treated like people with feelings, who get hungry, who get upset, who are just like you, then you could forgive and oversight here and there, but they’re treated with complete contempt and lack of empathy. Not all DWP officers are like this; I’ve known some brilliant ones both at the local office, and on the telephone, but it seems there are just too many people who lack emotional intelligence when dealing with vulnerable people nowadays, and unfortunately, from my horrific experience last week, you can count social services in with that now.

Benefit tales

Many of us have had the experience of having no money arrive when it us due, or being sanctioned, when we are already barely surviving.

One of our members, Herbert, went in to the Job Centre last Wednesday to find out why his ESA had not been paid. He was promised it would be in his account that afternoon – that his allowance was being “amended”.

Between 2-5pm he checks and checks, and nothing. He goes in the next day, and has to make the call to Belfast again. This time, they decide they need to know his bank Sort Code which they have never asked for before, so he has to go and get it. During a heated argument on the phone where Herbert is told there is no emergency payment that can be made, security staff think it is their job to ask him to quiet down, Herbert…

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