So Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim that being made to work for free at Poundland was unlawful.
As Grumpy Cat would say; GOOD.
If you don’t know the story, then let me summarise for you. Cait Reilly, finished her degree, couldn’t find work, went onto Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and was told she had to do this work placement or face losing her jobseekers allowance. The work placement was basically unpaid. After all, minimum wage for over 21s is £6.19. JSA for up to 24 year olds is a maximum of £56.25 a week.
If Ms Reilly worked for 2 weeks, at 35 hours a week, then she should have been paid a minimum of £6.19 per hour worked, which works out roughly £216.65 (gross payment) per week, instead she received JSA. Let’s say she got the top £56.25 a week that is a difference of £160.40, that’s £320.80 for 2 weeks work she did. That’s actually quite a lot of money.
Iain Duncan Smith has hit back at the ruling calling it “utter madness” and that he has no intentions of paying compensation to any claimant who declined to join such a scheme and instead have their benefit payments docked as a result.
My response to IDS? You sir, are a raging *insert expletive of your choice* idiot.
I fail to see how Politicians can implement such schemes, having never experienced the utter humiliation that millions face at the Job Centre each week. They’ve never NOT had a job, or not had any money. They’ve (most likely) never wondered how they would put food on the tables for their families, or pay the household bills. Never stressed or worried and looked into bankruptcy as an option to survive.
This time four years ago, I was ushered into an office with about 20 other people and given notice that we were all facing redundancy. A few weeks later, I was made redundant. I was fuming. I was upset. I was worried. I was stressed. I was a mixed bag of feelings and my emotions were ALL over the place. We had just put down all the deposits for our wedding which was 7 months away, The Husband has just gotten a job (after 7 months of looking after his degree was completed), it was only £6 an hour, but it was a job and meant that we could finally go ahead with it all and not struggle financially. We were lucky; our joint income would have been around £44k. Yes, we had saved and scrimped to get our deposits together, and now we were looking like we’d have to (at best) really cut down or (at worst) cancel and lose our money. We cut down. Our income went from £44k a year to just £12k a year.
Yes I got a redundancy payout, but that was rationed to cover my bills (thank GOD for PPI, which after 3 months of being unemployed kicked in). I had to go to the Job Centre and “sign on”. Every week I had to fill in my book with jobs I’d applied for and the outcome, I had to take it to my JSA Advisor who 3 our of 4 weeks was rude, patronising and encouraged me to apply for menial jobs that I couldn’t have survived on after paying to travel to work. One job cost more money for me to get to, than it actually paid!
After 2 weeks of signing on, I asked for another book to record my job applications and was asked why I needed a new one. (Some of them are not very clever!) Obviously because the old one is FULL, which I pointed out and was met with “why have you applied for so many jobs, you only need to do 3 a week”. Each week it was the same. I’d turn up 15 minutes before my allocated appointment time, wait an hour to be seen and then be spoken to rudely, patronised and often in tears by the end. For £47 each week. Was it worth it? NO. Did I have to do it? YES. Why? Because they were the ones who signed my monthly insurance claim forms to continue paying my bills.
It got to August and I informed my advisor that I was getting married and moving. I did everything in writing. Confirmed the date I was getting married, and they sorted it all out and moved my claim to another Job Centre, which unbelievably turned out to be worse than my own Job Centre. Waiting up to 2 hours to be seen, shouted at on occasion, rudeness, being patronised to name a few things. My mental health suffered.
I got married, a small ceremony, small reception, all done on the cheap. I gave copies of my marriage certificate to the advisor, the Job Centre manager, it was all put on my “file” and I sent off my marriage certificate to the Job Centre “head office” in Belfast with all the necessary documentation and changed my name, then I received a letter 7 weeks after I sent everything through stating that I was no longer entitled to any JSA as I was now the sole responsibility of my husband. I appealed and asked them how I was expected to survive, my husband was on a minimum wage job and was told “not our problem quite frankly”. I still had to sign on (now every 2 weeks) to get my insurance forms filled in so my PPI would continue to pay my financial products. It was degrading and humiliating the way I was treated.
About a month after, I received a letter stating that I had been overpaid £101 because I had failed to inform them of my change of circumstances. I went ballistic and my complaint letter was 3 pages long (in size 10 font) and it was sent to the Job Centre Manager, the Appeals process, the head of the DWP at the time, and for good measure I sent a copy to the Prime Minister. It was 3 pages of facts based on how I was treated, how paperwork was lost, how rude staff were, how much it cost me to keep calling Belfast to chase things. I went to town. A week later I received a letter from the DWP saying that I didn’t have to return the overpayment and apologising, and a letter from the Job Centre Manager apologising and promising to investigate.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I still had to go every 2 weeks to be humiliated and demoralised. I applied for almost 700 jobs, anything paying more than £7 an hour, I applied for. However in the height of an economic recession, I was turned down for most of them. In 7 months I got invited to 11 interviews. 11 out of almost 700. Yet every 2 weeks I was constantly asked “why haven’t you found a job yet”
At the end of October I was told I had to attend a compulsory week course on how to get back into work. I wasn’t sure how this was going to help me, simply because hardly anyone was hiring. More people were being sent in droves to the Job Centre thanks to redundancies. Ironically I’d applied for a job as a Job Centre Advisor. I thought that if some of the trained monkeys who humiliated me every week could do it, then I sure as hell could too! I was turned down, ironically being told “you’re over-qualified for this role”.
I failed to see how this course was going to help me. I had to pay to travel to get to the course, pay for my own lunch and not get anything out of it.
Thankfully someone called to offer me a job. It was a basic job. I sat in a call centre and answered phone calls for 8 hours a day. It only paid £6 and after paying my bills and transport there was no money left over for food or household bills. We applied for Working Tax Credits (which eventually shafted us, but that’s another story!) just so we could pay The Husbands father some rent and utilities and also so we could eat each week.
I took the job so I didn’t have to be humiliated each week. I could continue looking for a better paying job in the meantime and the shift work meant I could go to interviews.
I remember sitting in some dingy training room with some other people, I was the only one smartly dressed. The course instructor came in and set up, as I got the call. The moment he started to introduce himself, I stood up and said “sorry, I’m not doing this. No offence, but its crap, and I’ve just been offered a job which I accepted and I start in an hour. Bye!” and I literally ran from the room. It was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done in my life. I remember it was snowing and I remember calling The Husband and screaming down the phone that I had a job!
3 months later I got a new job, which paid more money, still only half my salary before I was made redundant, but better in so many ways than £6 an hour. It had great benefits and the money increased after training and I was guaranteed a pay increase every year thanks to the industry being heavily unionised. 3 years later I’m still here, only £7k off my old pre-redundancy salary. The Husband is still at his job and has worked his way up, and whilst we are not flush with cash, we manage each month.
So Iain Duncan Smith, I challenge you, to perhaps do an undercover boss series. Go undercover for 2 months, in disguise and sign on; experience this awful system that you seem to think is acceptable. I’d be interested to see if you changed your views.
In the meantime, I applaud Cait Reilly. Good for you!
The current system doesn’t work for the people who genuinely need it and is abused by others who make no effort at all. You put in ridiculous systems, make ridiculous cuts that actually don’t make any sense (don’t get me started on the Child Benefit capping) and then complain when the legal system rules it unlawful and paves the way for people to claim compensation from you.
So much for saving the country money! These cost cutting / money saving schemes you’ve implemented could end up costing the country up to £40m!
It needs to change and Iain Duncan Smith and his government cronies need to sit up and take notice.