Saturday, 19 June 2010

'Oh, Your Job Didn't End in the Correct Way': Additional Challenges of Claiming Benefit

As regular readers might have noticed I am again unemployed.  Unlike last year when made redundant, this time it seemed to be that I could claim Jobseeker's Allowance, i.e. unemployment benefit without much trouble.  I am keen to find a job and I had a full set of National Insurance contributions.  Having paid such contributions is one way of being entitled to receive Jobseeker's Allowance when unemployed, the other is having too little money and being assessed on a means-tested, i.e. needs basis.  You have to prove you are actively seeking work which means not implying too narrow parameters in terms of the distance you will travel for work, the hours you will work or the type of work you will do.  You have to do at least 3 activities per week, e.g. look on websites, look in newspapers, ring an employer, etc. and apply for 2 jobs per week.  Bascially I know in my job that I have to move for work and though I said I am seeking it in a 130 Km radius of my house, I actually applied for jobs 255 Km from home so far.  I have also applied for all kinds of things in business and the civil service.  In two weeks I have applied for seven jobs so am in with the quota.  I attend my signing on time twenty minutes early and do everything that you are supposed to do in order to claim benefit.

In contrast to last year when the Department for Work and Pensions seemed to have a problem with me sharing a house with a woman who ran her own business, this year things went smoothly.  Rather than having to wait 2½ months to receive my first payment, this time it took just 2 weeks.  I was told that the benefit will continue for six months and then I can be reassessed on means-tested basis.  That is not brilliant news but it is better than nothing.  That was until today when I received a letter saying, that despite them already paying me benefit they had questions over how my last job ended and so might not only cut off my benefit but want what they have paid (£65 per week for two weeks) repaid.

Now, I have written before how unpleasant my last employers were.  See my posting:  My line manager actively sought out any minor thing to attack me with and when this seemed insufficient this manager began making up things.  By the end my line manager was claiming tens of colleagues had complained about me, but when I asked them they had no idea what my line manager was talking about.  My line manager made discriminatory comments about me which later unsurprisingly could not recollect.  Then this manager went on to fabricate stories to the personnel staff and was bent on pushing me out.  The union representative was incredulous at what he felt was a playground style behaviour and by the end even the personnel manager did not involve my manager in talks.  As it was my department was going to be merged with another meaning that there was going two people doing my job, me and another, in the new merged department.  So, personnel offered me a deal, voluntary redundancy if I did not make a victimisation claim against my line manager.  I got a far better payment than when made redundant from my last company which I had worked for, for over four years.  As it has turned out this month I probably would have faced compulsory redundancy anyway.

Now, however, I fear my line manager has not been satisfied with the arrangement and is out to cause me trouble as I sign on.  This manager made clear the opinion that I was unsuitable for the post right from the start and kept trying to get me into lower grade posts.  I believe the manager had some condition, possibly Asperger's because the manager printed out every email received and underlined individual words.  Me getting a settlement is probably galling to my former manager and I fear this is leading to trouble.  I suspect a letter has been sent, 'informant letters' as they are termed in the civil service, saying falsely that I was sacked.  I hold tight to the letter which outlines the details of the agreement.  The trouble is, the decisions are taken far distant from my local job centre and I fear that my benefit will be cut off without me ever getting the chance to counter the vindictiveness of my former manager.  In theory if you resign or are sacked from a job you cannot claim benefit for six months.  In this case, even when you have made a deal it seems that people can twist it around to rule you out of getting benefit.  I both loathe and fear how much power one bitter individual who was prejudiced against me from the first occasion we met and made that very clear, can wield over me even after I am far away from that job.  I suppose I should not be surprised that in the neo-Thatcherite era we are living in, as an ordinary person you are going to get hammered by the privilege and they will continue hammering you even when you are far from their site because they loathe anyone who challenges what they seem to believe is the sanctified right to behave how they choose and discriminate just as they feel.

I have long written that I anticipate losing my house to repossession and this certainly seems another step in that direction.  I suppose under a regime in which there have been proposals to cut free school meals for the poorest 15% of children in order to pay for the 'free' schools scheme, in fact the freedom for parents to set up schools wherever they choose and only let in the people they like, we should not be surprised that at all levels of society the privileged are stamping down on us in every way they can.

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