It’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us
I’ve been navigating my way through the mire that is the benefits system on and off all my life. It’s complex, stressful and humiliating. When I lost my leg, they under calculated my benefit and also made me submit payslips to prove I’d paid NI for five years previously to claiming. I had to appeal and six months later, the day before the tribunal, they decided they were in error and complied with the rules and regulations.
After being made redundant last August, I went along to sign on. Being eleven years later than my experience above, I expected the processes to be simpler and more accessible. How naive was I.
One of the effects of my disability is to impair some elements of my hand/eye coordination. The biggest impact this has is when I have to fill in forms. Any form with boxes for comments is almost impossible for me to fill in neatly and I get writer’s cramp really easily.
Never mind, I thought. I’ll just ask for anything I need in an alternative format. A large organisation like Jobcentre Plus (JCP) is bound to have all the documents for the public in all kinds of formats. How wrong I was!
I was told that ‘that’s how the forms are and that’s all you’ll get’. They did mention that there was a team somewhere working on making accessible versions of the forms but didn’t know when they’d be available.
The requirement to make reasonable adjustments to make goods and services accessible came in with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and was enforceable from 1999. This means that the largest government department has had 12 years to get this right and is only just attempting it! The form I have in front of me now is issue number three from July 2005 (according to the text at the bottom). In the three iterations they’ve had, not once have they managed to comply with the law and produce accessible versions.
JCP are very strict when it comes to making you comply with their regulations but a total failure when they are required to comply with the law. If you speak to the local managers, they have no power to get things amended and there are no publicly available contact details for JCP at a corporate level. I’ve had to write to my MP and the DWP ministers to raise this issue. Watch this space.
In further JCP incompetence news, I’ve been sanctioned for not applying for a job I can’t do. The only way I found out about this was when the money didn’t arrive in my account. I phoned up and was told it’d been stopped from 31st May until 25th July. I contacted the local JCP and they had no record on the system of any sanction. On Wednesday I finally got a letter informing me of the sanction, a month after the decision had been made. This letter was only sent out because I made the call. I’ve got an (inaccessible) appeal form and will have to do battle for that. Interestingly I’ve not had a single interview out of all the jobs JCP has recommended I apply for, yet had interviews in 60% of the ones I’ve found for myself.
JCP and DWPs systems are over complex and require duplication of effort and data entry. If the procurement hadn’t been such a shambles, the savings would make most of the current benefit cuts unnecessary.