Now that the petition calling for Iain Duncan Smith to prove he can live on £53 a week has been handed in to the Department of Work and Pensions by Change.org, we should start planning his experience of claiming benefits in more detail. Because it’s not just about the amount of money, is it? It’s also the absurd, unfair and unpredictable bureaucracy that goes with it at a time when you are least able to cope with it.
What follows is the experience I think the Jobcentre should arrange for him.
- His benefits should be stopped suddenly for no reason
- When Iain Duncan Smith goes to the Jobcentre to find out why his benefits have been stopped suddenly for no reason, he should be told to ring the Jobcentre on a 0845 number from his mobile phone (costing him 30p per minute)
- Iain Duncan Smith’s call to the Jobcentre should last 19 minutes at which point the phone should go dead
- When he does get through (after another 7 minute wait) to a human being, he should be told that they have no record of his payment being stopped and that he should go back to his local Jobcentre
- When Iain Duncan Smith goes back to his local Jobcentre, he should be told to ring the 0845 number to make an appointment to see an advisor because no one is available to see him.
Day 4, 5 & 6
At this point,and with no disposable income or savings, Iain Duncan Smith should be faced with some unexpected costs. For example, school photos, hospital TV for a close relative and for urgent repairs to his roof caused by bad weather. As a result of going overdrawn, he should be charged a fine of £25 by the bank.
Apologies if this is getting dull. That’s because it is. At least you only have to read about it.
- When Iain Duncan Smith sees a local advisor by appointment 3 days later, he should be told that they can only deal with ‘sanctions’ upstairs.
- He should be given a slip of paper from the advisor to show to the security guard on his way up
- When Iain Duncan Smith sees a second advisor after queuing for 16 minutes, she should tell him that he needs to use the special phones in the Jobcentre to find out why his claim was stopped because she isn’t allowed to tell him. She should take his first slip off paper off him and give him a new slip of paper to access the phones and point him in the direction of the queue.
At this point, Iain Duncan Smith thinks staff are making the experience particularly difficult for him because he is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He doesn’t realise that his experience is entirely normal and that it hasn’t been exaggerated as a stunt.
- When he speals to a third advisor on the phone, he is told that his benefits were stopped because he failed to turn up the previous week to sign on. When Iain Duncan Smith points out that he was at a job interview and that he wrote to the Jobcentre to tell them this, the call centre operative says they have no record of his letter and that he should take it up with his local Jobcentre.
- Iain Duncan Smith should then re-join the queue upstairs to speak to a fourth advisor. After 10 minutes, a security guard asks to see his original slip of paper (that was taken off him earlier). At this point, we would expect Iain Duncan Smith to become a little irritable. The security guard would sense that he has an ‘attitude problem’ and would escort him downstairs and ask him to leave the building to cool down. Jobcentre staff deserve to be treated with respect.
On day 8, Iain Duncan Smith still has no money. At this point, he gets 2 letters in the post from the Jobcentre, one saying that his benefits will be stopped if he threatens Jobcentre staff again. The second letter confirms that his benefits have been stopped because he failed to comply with his job seekers agreement. If he wants to appeal, he should make an appointment with a local advisor. The only other post that day is a huge mobile phone bill (calling 0845 numbers aren’t cheap).
How would he cope with this? Is Iain Duncan Smith a patient man? How does he cope with injustice? Is he good with authority? How would he cope with no money at all and rising debts?
I’d love to find out.