Why I think Iain Duncan Smith is an idiot

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.

26 thoughts on “Why I think Iain Duncan Smith is an idiot”

  1. Or to take your figures in another way.
    She had been out of work for over a year, lets round it to just the one year that’s £2925 received from taxpayers for doing precisely nothing. For her measly 2 weeks work she was being paid £41 an hour, that is far above the minimum wage.

    1. You’re quite right. However once she has a job and pays her tax and NI then eventually she’ll have put that an more into the “pot”.

      Have you ever been in receipt of JSA?

  2. For all we know, she was studying or doing voluntary work; no guarantee she was doing “nothing”. Applying for jobs maybe? It’s hard out there at the moment, and degree graduates are overqualified for most jobs that they apply for (i.e. the only ones that are available).

    Second, that she’s on JSA is no reason for private companies to profit on her labour; why not have her doing public service work instead? Why not have her in a volunteer role? If we’re going to make people work for nothing, why not have them doing something relevant and meaningful rather than scanning items at PoundLand.

  3. No I was made redundant once, that day I walked the high-street and went in to every temp and recruitment agency and said I would do anything, the next day I was working on a production line constructing electrical components. It wasn’t what I was used to as I have always worked at a desk and I didn’t like it but it paid towards the bills.

    1. So you have never had to “sign on” at the job centre at any point? Just making sure I understand.

      As some who has had to do this before for my PPI to be paid I can guarantee you that is awful and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

      I know people who have had to go simply to get their PPI and mortgage insurance papers signed each month so they don’t lose their home.

  4. Not to mention the fact that she still owes the “system” for her degree assuming she hasn’t already paid off her tuition it is going to be a very long time until she has paid back everything she has had out.

    1. How do you know that she still owes the system for her degree?

      Curious as not all student loans are paid for by the government and perhaps she didn’t need student loans but received her study funds from her parents?

      I admit I haven’t looked into her student lifestyle or how she funded her degree, so I can’t really make any comment or pass judgement.

  5. No Like I said I made sure I never needed to.
    I have a lot more sympathy for people that have worked for years and been made redundant than I do for snobbish graduates who come out of uni expecting a 20k a year job to be waiting and think they are too good for menial jobs.

    1. That’s very judgemental of you.

      Not all graduates are snobbish, or expect to land a £20k job straight out of university.

      The Husband came out of university, and applied for every job he could. He was on JSA for 7 months and experienced the same as me from Job Centre Staff. He finally got a job after 7 months of countless applications and CV workshops, not even in the field of his degree, that paid £6 an hour, but he accepted it gratefully and worked his ass off. Still does work his ass off, at the same job.

      1. So roughly the same time I was then.
        Ill admit you were lucky.

        Living in London it was almost 200 people all applying for each job. Countless times I was told there’s someone with more experience. Which is going to happen considering that lots of people were being made redundant.

        I did the same as you, walked high streets, handed CVs in, got applications, enquired. The almost 700 jobs I applied for were all done through agencies. Big ones like Reed and little independent ones.

        I worked in a recruitment industry before I was made redundant and I utilised all of my connections, it still took almost 9 months to get something.

  6. I was made redundant about 4 years ago.
    There were really no jobs in my usual line of work but there were tonnes of jobs just ones that very few people want to do.

  7. I can only base my opinions based on my own experiences, as can you. I have worked full time ever since I was 16, and was working part-time before that, I was taught that if I want anything in life nobody is going to give it to me I have to earn it (sadly not true any more).
    I was made redundant and within hours of being jobless was offered several different jobs because I was willing to do anything.

    1. Very true.
      As I said, very lucky.

      I got turned down for cleaning jobs.
      After being turned down for job after job, being rude to, spoken down to, patronised, shouted at by Job Centre staff, it began to affect my mental health. Every week I was in tears.

      Granted not all JC staff were horrible, some were lovely. But that was after sitting at a desk, desperate for a job and crying because everyone was turning me down.

      Really breaks your self esteem and confidence.

  8. There are a lot of people who as you say “owe the system”, however I do not see that these people are graduates. Graduates who have had the dedication and determination to actually study for, what you would think, is a worthwhile degree in the hope of yes finding a better paid job then they would have if they had just decided to leave school at 16 and go straight into full time employment. The people that “owe the system” are the people who simply cannot be bothered to get off their backsides and look for a job and believe that they should get something for nothing.

    As somebody who has had to go through the shambolic process of signing on in the past I entirely agree that the way decent people, who are genuinely looking for employment, are treated is appalling. It is a truly degrading and humiliating experience and one that I hope I will never have to repeat. Job center staff are rude and obnoxious and I think half of that is because they seem to tar everyone who walks through their doors with the same brush.

    I personally think it is a wonderful idea that the people who put these systems into place should try them out and actually see how the people that use them live.

  9. I have to say, Rob, that what you are saying is rather judgemental. Not all graduates are snobbish! I, myself, am a graduate and can say I have NEVER expected to have a job handed to me on a plate, however I also never expected to end up signing on and struggling to find work. I worked part time from the age of 16 as I am from a low income family, went to uni at 18 and graduated with a decent degree in 2009. I was lucky to find a job in a field that I wanted to work in, so I left my long term, part time job to go into the childcare industry full time. However, after 6 months they decided that my services were no longer required and I found myself out of a job. My other half had also lost his job just months before which meant we then had to leave the home that we rented together and go back to live with our parents. This at the age of 22 (other half was 26) was embarrassing enough, but to go through the process of signing on at the job centre was a whole other level of embarrassment!

    As previously said, you could not find a worse place for rude staff and rubbish service! They look down their noses at you as if everybody is a lazy **** who just can’t be bothered to work. They give you a list of jobs to apply for every week, all of which you’re lucky if you even get a response from (rejection or acceptance would’ve been welcomed, just something to show you weren’t sending the application into the abyss!) I did not expect any special treatment for having a degree, I applied for tonnes of jobs that didn’t even get back to me! I was either over qualified, or have no experience….you can’t win! But this also doesn’t mean I want to work for free! If they are willing to take you on and use your time and labour, they should be damn well willing to pay you for it – nothing to do with being a snob!

    After 8 long months of signing on my mum heard of a job becoming available at a place she used to work, I suppose I was lucky enough to hear of this before it went on the Job Centre website, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have got it. It was a cleaning job working only 10 hours a week, and I was damn well happy with that as it got me out of that dreadful place!

    Just because you were one of the lucky ones that got a job the day you lost one does not mean the rest of us are “not willing” or “snobbish”! It is bloody hard trying to get a job in this day and age. I would not wish the “dole” lifestyle on anyone!

  10. Gone are the times when the Job Centre actually help you get a job.

    These are very challenging times and the Government need to appreciate that. You can apply for any job but there are so many applicants.

    I congratulate the graduate. Why should people be made to work unpaid?! She’s clearly applied for any job and is gaining experience voluntarily for her ideal job, which is what you need to do.

    Also not all graduates are snobs. Some do expect a job in their chosen field, but this is the idea the Government has put in their minds.

    Yet another government idea that doesn’t work…

  11. The Welfare State is what separates us from being just another banana republic. 99.5% will pay back that £2925 for the year they are unemployed over, and over, and over. I invite anyone who has never had to live on such a pathetic amount of money to try it. Its impossible to make ends meet. Only someone who has never had to live on it would even attempt to call it generous. Its highly disingenuous to try to label it as ‘money for nothing’, its an investment to get a person on the road to a career which will then start paying the govt back for that pittance they gave you to keep you from starving.

  12. Absolutely. It is NOT ok to humiliate ANY person who is unemployed and asking for assistance. It doesn’t matter if they’re 16 fresh out of school and looking for a job or 50 and have worked all their life.

    Are you saying it is ok for the job centre to make anyone who is “middle class” or higher feel degraded and humiliated due to bad circumstances that mean they have been made unemployed?

    For the record, I don’t actually use the labels of middle class, working class etc.

  13. Rachel, I have no empathy whatsoever for the people who were raised on benefits but “couldn’t afford to go to university” simply because I believe these people don’t exist.

    As a child of a single parent family who was “raised on benefits” I managed to go to university as did 3 of my siblings. It’s not about lack of finances or opportunities, it’s about lack of ambition and a lack of work ethic to want to better yourself.

    My mum might not have been able to work whilst raising us due to childcare costs outweighing what she could have earned but she did instill a great work ethic in us all and a self-belief that we could have more than surviving on benefits.

    This blog is more about how people attending the JobCentre are treated and the opinion that anyone in receipt of JSA is lazy (which is not true in a lot of cases)

  14. When oil and other finite resources are running out, what will IDS say about geologists then? ‘Cos without them, there REALLY won’t be any food on the shelves.

  15. Goes to show how much you know. Mr Duncan Smith HAS been on Jobseekers (after leaving the Army in 1981) and he HAS been made bankrupt. The fact is, Mr Duncan Smith knows better than anyone how to reform the benefits system, not only because of his years working with the Centre for Social Justice (which he founded!) but because of his own personal experience of it.

    1. So you’re saying the system in 1981 is exactly the same as it is now?

      My opinion still stands, and after the way I was treated, and thousands of others who were treated in the same offensive and awful manner, there are many who agree with me on this matter.

  16. i’m 61 this july, i’ve got arterial disease, pain when walking was a courier @ BT cant carry anything more than a bag of sugar ….yet, according to you know who i’m FIT FOR WORK!!! i barely survive on £106 per fortnight, plus i’ve got to pay for power.from that……i feel as if i am being CULLED!! what does this arsehole know about PAIN & DESPERATION IN THE REAL WORLD??? i’d be quite happy to swap situations……we have a government of privelaged arseholes.

  17. Iain Duncunt Smith is a pure evil CUNT as people have killed themselves due to this BASTARD he is an ugly bald twat we must get rid of this parasite and CAMORON and the rest of the tory scum bring in a LABOUR GOVERMENT who will restore SOCIAL JUSTICE to BRITAIN and DESTROY CRAPITALISM FOREVER!

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