Nevermind the £53 p/w. How would IDS cope with the system?

queueNow 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, 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.

Day 1

  • His benefits should be stopped suddenly for no reason

Day 2

  • 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

Day 3

  • 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

pay feesAt 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.

Day 7

  • Job centreWhen 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.

Day 8

On day 8, Iain DuncFed upan 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.

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32 Responses to Nevermind the £53 p/w. How would IDS cope with the system?

  1. Great idea – brilliant post.
    How about we add:
    – the job centre staff at front desk tell him about his entitlement issues and how he is asking for too much – others are managing fine, he must have spent his money on non-essentials (a sermon about benefits follows)
    – his electric and gas meter need topped up
    – he goes through an agonising one-hour phone call to crisis loans where he is told he did not manage his last benefit payment successfully as he still should have some money left over (I just remembered he abolished crisis loans – how about he has to go begging the local authority for a box of tinned food that he can’t even use as no electricity and gas)
    – his only trousers suddenly develop a hole – he doesn’t have any clothing that would successfully cover his bum so he has to wear his wife’s coat so as not to flash innocent by-standers (happens when you’re flying by the seat of your pants)
    – the bus is late so he is also late for one of his appointment – he has to make another one (on second thoughts, make him walk miles between his house, the town house and jobcentre – he would not even have the money for a bus)
    – people who see him leaving jobcentre mention something about benefit scroungers and how he probably spent all the money on booze and drugs

  2. Charles Beauregard says:

    Fanatastic post – this is the best thing I have read on the reality of ‘welfare reform’ – including stuff written by highly paid professional journalists. It’s a shame the issues around how benefits are administered barely gets a mention in the media, yet as this post shows it has such a massive impact on peoples lives (as well as wasting lots of money).

  3. Tom says:

    This is a very important and well-made point, this is definitely not just about the money. However, you are both a) angry at the current government for reducing the rate of increase in benefits but also b) angry at the system that they – although no have not changed – did not create.

    I don’t really think this is mostly (and certainly not JUST) about the money and on that theme it is vitally important to start talking about how we can help people not to be benefit dependent. There’s simply no point in just getting angry at individual politicians or angry about the bedroom ‘tax’ or angry about whatever – as justified as your anger may be.

    Not a part of me believes that any decent people – left or right – think that being on benefits for ANY reason is desirable so let’s start at there?

    Whoever created or developed or made worse the benefits culture we have is not important, but we must accept that we do have a benefits culture in this country; which is both vilification of those who need it as much as abuse by some who don’t – and both are unacceptable.

    All this anger is just sad.

    • Alan Stanton says:

      Tom, you’re asking people to start a discussion by accepting the conclusion you want to reach.
      We don’t have a “benefits culture”. We have a society which values civilised behaviour to one another – at least as a desirable aim however far we fall short if it. A society where vast numbers of people care for and about others, And accept the basic values of “do-unto-others”: the golden rule. With millions of people who do get angry at the casual cruelty, disrespect for and lack of compassion for other people displayed by this government.

      • Tom says:

        Alan you’re choosing to believe this is a problem born of the current government and that’s just not true. A reply a few comments down said rightly that nobody wants to be benefit dependent which was the exact crux of my point above. Let’s disagree we have a benefits culture, that’s fine by me it makes no difference, let’s instead as I said start at this point; nobody wants to be benefit dependent.

        As I said above, whoever created or made worse the current situation, (call it a culture or not) is unimportant. What matters is that this isn’t ideal for anyone so what can we do about it?

    • Graham says:

      The so-called “Benefits Culture” exists mostly in the minds of the Daily Mail and its readers (see, for example, their recent contemptible comments blaming the Philpott’s actions on the Welfare State!)

      Try looking at some history and consider whether we’d be better off with Poor Houses and Debtors Prisons or a system where those who need the help of others to survive is available to them.

      Yes, there are a small number of people who might be “sponging” off the benefits system, but they are vastly outweighed by those who *want* to get jobs, but sufficient jobs are simply not out there.

      And before you say “but there are lots of jobs advertised in the Job Centre”, consider that the Job Centre may be sending twenty or fifty or even a hundred or more applicants to each one!

      So we have a safety net to help those who otherwise would starve or be made homeless through no fault of their own, yet the Mail and their Tory supporters would tear this away because they are more interested in their bank balances than caring for everyone else in our society.

      • Tom says:

        “consider that the Job Centre may be sending twenty or fifty or even a hundred or more applicants to each one!”

        Sorry, should they rig it for each person to be the only interviewing? Heaven forbid the best person should get the job.

        And I work in recruitment – this is not an alarmingly high number!

    • rachelreborn says:

      Most people don’t want to be benefit dependent. Job-seekers want jobs. Those on income support want to be paid a wage they can live on and provide for their children. Those on incapacity or disability would like to be fit and well but would settle for adequate treatment, equipment and support to have a comfortable life. So it’s not really the job centre that is the beginning and the end of the conversation, it’s much more than that. You’re right to point out that it’s not the real villain here. To make the honest, moral and productive members of society happy and secure we have to look at the whole picture: the economy, minimum wage, the NHS and social services. The only people happy to live on jobcentre handouts are the layabouts and con artists (and to an extent the pensioners, because they’ve pain into the system why shouldn’t they pay back from their investment. Good for them). The rest of us are angry about having to beg the government for money to survive, then made more so when our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. If we had a real, sustainable alternative to benefits we’d take it.

      • Tom says:

        “Most people don’t want to be benefit dependent.”

        This is the real point here. Even if you disagree we have a benefits culture, this just seems to be constantly overlooked in favour of angry vitriol about ‘Tory cuts’ and such, it’s such an utter waste of time.

        It is absolutely vital that you start THERE, that this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, and then start thinking of SOLUTIONS.

  4. J says:

    It wasn’t the worst I had to deal with, but my personal fravourite was been threatened by a security gaurd for taking a phone call from a job recruiter whilst I was sitting waiting for an appointment. “It’s from a recruiter about a job” I told him, naively thinking that would be ok as me trying to get a job was infact the whole point of being there. Made no difference, I had to hang up and call back later.

  5. You forgot the part where, at the end, they told him that yes, they’d cocked up, yes it was their fault, yes they were sorry and he’d still have to reapply from scratch and wait a month for any money. In the meantime he can apply for a crisis loan.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You know in my job centre they have security escort you down the stairs because they think people will kill themselves in the stair well.

    Don’t blame them. They have blood on their hands.

  7. Mark says:

    They should add “Give him earphones to make him Deaf then get the Job Centre to tell you that the only way to get anywhere is to phone…”

    • R says:

      I have already been there , having been deaf all my life. Many years ago when they introduced the phones they would point them out to me and expect me to use them. More recently they automatically pointed the phones out to me to which I point out my ears ( which shows very clearly what I’m wearing ) “hello!!!- did you have awareness training as you so often claim, doIi look like I can use the phone ???”, then they seem to have some sort of a breakdown as the contemplate what they should do next. I know that if you pay peanuts you will get monkies, but those higher up decision makers in the government are obviously paid way beyond their abilty to grasp simple logic

  8. Iris says:

    Send him to the town hall to apply for benifits where he can be interviewed by a power loving bully as he asks for rent and poll tax benifits. He will of course be required to produce his bank statements how much state retirement pension and proof of his expences and monthly bills.
    All of this interview will of course be in full view and heard by the queue who are waiting for the same treatment.

  9. Morag says:

    How about jobcentre staff report him for fraud when they know he is self-employed and working less than 16 hours a week and declaring his income legitimately? Or how about they wrongly calculate his income and stop his payments for 6 months over Christmas with 6 children while he fights with them. Even better they then refuse to give him the Decision Makers Guide and when he gets it from a third party and tells them why they have wrongly calculated his income they still refuse to accept it unless he pays £1500 to an accountant to provide the same information again. And then when they reinstate his benefits they accept it was their mistake but refuse to cover the interest payments on his overdraft and credit card or the cost of the accountant. Oh and they cancel his other benefits automatically too. He should also get a flood of letters which don’t explain how his benefit is calculated so he can’t check how the decision was made or if the payment is correct all for different amounts and on the same day.

  10. Andy Winter says:

    I think your first point about imposing sanctions without any reason is potentially unfair. Perhaps the reason of being 5 mins late for the appointment would be more realistic (happened to one of our residents last week) and then let him deal with the 3.5 hrs of phone calls needed (at his cost because there are now no SP funds for those the local authority does not have a statutory requirement to house) to make the appeal and get the decision overturned !

  11. Reblogged this on travellingcoral and commented:
    Scary but this is really how you get treated at Job Centre Plus

  12. James87 says:

    The salient point is that regardless of what people say jobs are available and no one should be on ‘Job Seekers Allowance’, period! Total jobs (just one of hundreds of job sites) has 97,302 jobs available at the time of writing, ranging from KFC till operatives to Company Directors. People need to learn to not be picky and take any job that comes there way and the hard work and determination will speak volumes on a CV for a future job role.

    The person in this example could have had numerous Job interviews in this time rather than relying on chasing benefits. Why should the Government make it easy for people to get hand outs? It should be a chore to give people some motivation to change the lifestyle they have CHOSEN!

    Get off your backsides, stop ‘looking’ and start doing and you wont have these kinds of issues!

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      James87, you are an ill-formed bigot.

      Everyone can see you, the internet is a public place. Being a cock these days isn’t a purely private matter.

      You reference the amount of vacancies on TotalJobs.
      TotalJobs themselves issued a report, link at bottom of comment, that showed you are speaking out of your arse.

      -average number of applicants for every job increases from 15 to 20
      -areas such as Scotland and Wales had been hit by a “huge fall” in the number of vacancies available – down by 17 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.
      -North East has worst ratio of 23 applicants for every post.
      -the Director of TotalJobs says “The most alarming thing about these numbers is the sheer volume of applicants within sectors that are not seeing any jobs growth.”

      You say that people shouldn’t be picky, mention working in KFC as an example. Well your source of data, TotalJobs, in their report say that service sector applicants are seeing 54 applications per vacancy. So perhaps “being picky” isn’t the problem.

      Link to extracts from TotalJobs report

    • R says:

      James – You are a child. People are not picky, employers are. If you are more than qualified for a job you will be rejected as overqualified , I know because I and many others have had that experience, Look what happened to the highlu skilled, qualified and experienced from the City when the recession kicked in.. The numbers fo vacancies are actually ambigous as many jobs are recyled throughout various agancies especially the jobcentre and I have seen the same vacany reappear throughtout the year.

  13. Michael says:

    James 87, clearly you are a snob without an ounce of compassion or empathy. I don’t wish to stereotype but I guess you have some sense of an ontological reality that gives you security in your smug little world that precludes you to see past your narrow black and white bigoted filters. I guess you read papers that support this rather insipid view of the world. I think by living in your straight jacket world there has not been much of an impetus for you to experience life outside of your predictable moral castle. Maybe you should consider lowering your drawbridge and take up an education (formal or informal) to consider alternative perspectives (If that is of course possible with someone with such ingrained beliefs). Now it’s my turn to be the snob…….perhaps when you next send out your CV that you check it for spelling errors.

  14. James 87, my son lost his job due to government cuts. he has applied for hundreds of jobs and sent his cv to many 99% DONT EVEN REPLY, its soul destroying,he now suffers from depression,and has threatened suicide ,do you really think that people are making this up,,the media really have a lot to answer for ,with their lies ..this one sided piffle really gets me angry….I have worked most of my life have my family so why don’t you keep your thoughts to yourself as you DO NOT know what you are talking about”’ you ignorant eejit ;;…

  15. Tom says:

    James87 needs a little defence here. He has a valid point, again this isn’t to stereotype everyone but you can’t suggest there is no truth to what he’s saying, and that people do need to be much much more active about job seeking. I had a friend with a Masters degree who was on JSA whilst he just figured out what he wanted to do, not the worst thing ever, but clearly not what it was designed for. He had to do pretty much nothing to keep it.

    Sadly, the reality of the jobs market has for years been that there are loads of jobs with even more applicants and very few replies and it can be soul destroying but it’s as true for someone on job seekers with no GCSEs as it is for someone with a degree looking for a career change. When I was recently in that position I applied for dozens of jobs and had probably 4 or 5 replies.

    We can’t just keep moaning about how terrible it all is, all the empathy in the world won’t fix the thing you’re unhappy with!

  16. Michael says:


    I agree that JSA is just that and not mechanism to bide time and ponder career direction. However case in point your friend with the Masters. What would be the point in him taking a job that he would leave the minute something more suitable came along and it would deny someone who perhaps would be glad of to have an opportunity like that (apart from churn figures looking good)-I think your friend is acting very ethically. I guess what I am saying is that JSA (like most govt policies) are knee jerk and do not look at the bigger picture. And the reason why empathy is really important is because if you can understand how policies impact on people (through the people) then you can change the policies so they become more sustainable. People will only change when they see a need for change and that they have some control and agency in it. Unfortunately change takes longer than, and is inconsistent with, the 4 year political planning cycles.


  17. fake says:

    You mean to say the welfare bureaucracy is incompetent, and clumsy, and makes mistakes?

    This, this is shocking news!!!

    Do you realise this is what IDS is actually trying to change (He will fail of course, as all bureaucracies serve themselves before others).

  18. Conor says:

    Article is full of lots of untruths, the first being about going to the jobcentre to find out why benefits have been cancelled then having to use his own phone to phone a number when the jobcentre has phones freely available to use for doing this as well as applying for jobs by phone.

    The whole article isn’t worth even wiping your backside with.

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