From time to time I have posted blogs about the struggles I face with the Department of Workless Persecution and the stress that comes from being at the mercy of an organisation that seems to go out of its way to be tyrannical and oppressive.
This morning we came to round 76 of the battle.
Over the last few years my back has been causing me a lot of problems, the results of an injury in 2008 coming back to haunt me. This has meant I can’t do any prolonged standing or walking and no lifting heavy stuff, something that the Jobcentre seems not to understand since they tried to sanction me for not applying for a standing and heavy lifting job not so long ago.
Things got so bad that I went to a Physiotherapist and then started twice weekly physio sessions before Christmas. At the same time I reported this to the Jobcentre and was told that I should get a GP’s note and they would log me as being ill and not hassle me to attend jobs I couldn’t do.
This ran until 15th February at which point since I was and am looking at six months to a year of physio I got a second GPs note to explain my ongoing situation.
On Feb 22nd I went into the Jobcentre and sat down with one of the advisers, we talked through what was going on and I was told that I couldn’t claim any more sick time on JSA and that the best thing would be to switch to ESA, this wouldn’t stop me trying to find a job I could do but would stop the Jobcentre sending me on a work placement (which they were about to do) where they would not and could not guarantee it would be a position that I could medically do.
The very fact that they would try and force me into a work placement with a private sector company but were unable to say if it was something that I could physically do under threat of sanction if I refused says a lot about how twisted and cruel the whole system is.
Anyway the Jobcentre have been pressuring me to switch to ESA for some time, I’ve been reluctant to do so, in part because I don’t want to admit I’m that bad, but we reached the point where they gave me no choice. So since I had the GPs notes and reports of my medical condition I left the Jobcentre and walked to a phone booth to call the ESA line (the Jobcentre no longer having any phones customers can use)
20 minutes of standing in a phone booth in agony later (try bending to relieve back pain in something as small as a phone booth) and I was heading home to wait for the ESA to call me back (which was nice of a young man called Michael at the ESA).
So forms all filled in, then it was wait till everything came through which it did the following week, checked, signed and on the way back, originals of all medical evidence sent and more waiting to see when they would start me on ESA, there was some worry because the GPs note was dated 15th but wasn’t ready for me till the 22nd so there could be a missing week or two.
It turned out the ESA was started from the 15th and they will be back paying from that time. Overall the people at the ESA team have been helpful.
But the JSA was listed as having ended on the 11th which was the end of the last two week period, the missing days between then and the 15th had vanished so I checked at the Jobcentre after I got out of hospital yesterday. I explained the problem and was promised a call this morning which I dully waited for.
Phone rings and it’s a lady from the ESA team, explaining that the ESA started from the date of the GPs evidence and not seeing where the problem is, I explained to her that it isn’t an ESA problem but a JSA one so she checks my records and informs me that according to the Jobcentre my claim for JSA was, in fact, stopped on 14th JANUARY and they were listing the payments after that as recoverable overcharge ! ! ! !
I didn’t swear, I was polite, it wasn’t her fault. I didn’t shout or anything but my pulse must have gone up 10 or 15 points.
I talked to her about the coverage of the GPs notes, the medical evidence and the dates, she said the Jobcentre must have made a mistake and that with all the evidence I shouldn’t worry but she would alert them and get someone to call me.
Which they duly did, very sorry, can see all your evidence here, mistake at our end, we’ll write off the overcharge and pay you the missing days.
The man was on the phone, explained everything and vanished like a shot.
Now this was over the course of an hour this morning, but this was yet another period where I am sitting there, stressed out and chain drinking coffee while the DWP and the jobcentre plays god with my life.
As it turned out, because I had all the documentation and had sent every piece of data to the jobcentre (AND KEPT COPIES) the whole problem vanished, just like the two recent attempts to sanction me on ridiculous or spurious grounds, where I had the evidence to defend myself.
It makes me wonder, when this happens to me, just how many other people are treated like this, how many people aren’t able or prepared to fight back and defend themselves against this system. How many people would not have the paperwork or kept copies and so been unable to defend themselves when the Jobcentre comes after them for a month’s money it decided was an overpayment.
Can the DWP be this incompetent by accident, or is this simply another way in which IDS and his empire of cruelty seek to attack people who have no other recourse than to go to the state for help?
I know what I think !