From the archive: More #JSA stories – and comparisons with the MPs who are really ripping us off

Kate Belgrave /   November 11, 2013 at 8:37 PM 2,521 views


To Liverpool, then, where I spend an hour or two with a guy called Peter S_ (may add  his surname later) about his experiences of jobseekers’ allowance. He’s on JSA at the moment. There’s a transcript of the interview with Peter below.

Peter used to work as a carer. Like many carers, he had a job which paid so badly that he couldn’t meet his bills. He started his day early and finished it late, but – again like many carers – was not paid for the time that he had to spend travelling between caring jobs, which meant that he couldn’t make enough money to get by. (Said the Resolution Foundation in an August report on this serious and growing problem: “Careworkers often lose at least £1 an hour because they are not paid separately for the time spent travelling between appointments and because providing decent care often takes longer than the time allocated by the employer for each visit.”)

Then – this is hardly surprising – Peter became very depressed. He suffers from depression and the working situation made it worse. He applied for ESA, but was found fit for work. He was still very depressed and couldn’t find the energy to appeal. So, he signed on for jobseekers’ allowance and was promptly sanctioned for “leaving” his job (depression, it seems, is no longer considered a “proper” reason for breakdown). He was sent on the work programme with the British Heart Foundation and is now applying for zero hours caring jobs which will also pay next to nothing.


The best part of all this? – that Peter is supposed to feel grateful for his crappy wages and his life on JSA. He is supposed to accept every sanction and attack without complaint. He is expected to rise to all hurdles. Everybody is supposed to. Everybody is supposed to feel grateful for the chance to grind away on dwindling wages and get nowhere while the well-connected and well-appointed loot the nation’s pay packets and the public purse. I’m sure I tell you nothing new when I point out that when Cameron says “work hard and get ahead” he means “work hard for stuff all and help my corporate mates get even further ahead.” Why should anyone feel inspired to work to advance corporate interests? I’ve never seen that as a golden ticket, myself.

You’ll read more about this in the transcript below.

You’ll also read a few short comparative paragraphs about very wealthy and well-connected persons who – unlike people in Peter’s position – genuinely feel entitled to public money. They are taking that sense of entitlement to a new plane.

You’ll note, for instance, that I post Peter’s story as we’re lobbed an “apology” by Nadhim Zahawi who claimed parliamentary expenses to heat his stables. I mean – heated stables. Who the hell has stables? People I speak to can’t afford to heat their homes. MPs can, of course. You would have read plenty about MPs heating their second homes on expenses. I head out for an hour to walk the dog and by the time I’m back, we have career twat Nadine Dorries finally forced to register her I’m a Celebrity fee. These people are taking the piss.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s the gross lack of balance I can’t stand. It’s the extraordinary double standard. This is unreal. It can’t last. Peter in Liverpool has been paid utter crap, had his tiny benefit cut and sent to work for free on the work programme. He spends his time applying for zero-hours caring jobs which won’t pay him enough to survive. If he doesn’t like this and doesn’t accept it and his mental health suffers, he and people in the same situation will be pillioried by members of a political class who care only to trample us all as they race for the lolly. I wonder, on the other hand, how things will pan out for Nadhim Zahawi. Comparatively, you understand. Will he be sanctioned, written off as a scrounger, forced to take a zero hours contract for tiny wages that won’t cover his costs and told to be grateful or to get out? Will he be forced to queue for one of two computers at a jobcentre to find non-existent work (as Peter was – you’ll see this below), sent on meaningless work programmes and made to turn up to a jobcentre each day for pointless jobsearches and workfare? Will he be held up before the electorate as an example of someone who is responsible for the recession – someone whose sense of entitlement and flagrant abuse of the public purse stands between the nation and economic greatness? I doubt it somehow, but you know – I live in hope. Very happy to be proved wrong on that one.

Anyway. Here is Peter S_ in Liverpool:

“I was working as a carer in Liverpool, but the pay was so low that I could not pay the rent. They didn’t pay us for travel time, so I could not make enough money. I was a domiciliary carer, doing home visits. I had to start at about 7am in the morning and then work into the night and even then I could not do it. I was very depressed. I had very bad depression and then I couldn’t work. I got onto ESA because of that. Then, I was found fit for work, but I didn’t appeal that because of the depression. So then I signed on for JSA. But I got sanctioned, because they said I’d left work intentionally.

“Sanctions are doing more harm than good. You do get people who want to work, but it [low-paid work like I did] is making people ill. Then, it is like impossible at the jobcentre. Where I go, at High Park [in Liverpool], with Universal Jobmatch today, there were two computers for 50 people who were waiting. What’s that going to be like when people have to come in every day [under new conditionality rules]? It will be like Boys from the Blackstuff again. It’s going to spiral out of control. It’s like a shooting range. They said to me to go to the library today to use the computers. Because I’m on jobseekers’, I can’t afford it. She [a woman at the jobcentre] said to me – “can you get emails on your phone? Well, then you can use that (to search Jobmatch).”

“I’m looking for work every day. Ten, 20 CVs – I’m sending them out to care agencies with the Universal Jobmatch. I didn’t tick the box [on the Jobmatch screen which would allow the DWP to check jobsearch activity] though, so they can’t see what I’m doing. I give them the paper copy. I lost my password to Jobmatch about four times. It’s badly designed. It’s definitely going to fuck up the whole generation who can’t use PCs. The over 50s – they’ll have to get help to sign on and get people to do jobsearch. I’m applying for care jobs, but they are for zero hours.

“JHP Employability is my work programme provider. I was doing voluntary work anyway. I have done voluntary work since I was 15. We were working on the work programme at the British Heart Foundation, lugging boxes and furniture and picking up big bags. There was no health and safety guidelines, or anything like that. It [the work programme] is going to tarnish the voluntary sector.

“I do some voluntary youth work, but I worry that they will send me on something and I will get sanctioned. How is this going to work now that the government is making everyone work for their benefits? I did the youth training scheme when I was young. At least that trained you in something you might want to work at. I think workfare is to buy charity. We are finding it hard to get jobs and I am already out almost every day. I am out practically all days of the week – either doing voluntary work, or looking for work, or something else.

“Most of the jobcentre staff – you can tell they can’t be bothered.

“I was talking to this girl. She was worried about being sent onto workfare. I said the best idea for her was to sign up for something voluntary that she wanted to do.

“This is going to bring a really bad atmosphere to jobcentres. I believe that there is going to be a death in a jobcentre soon.

“I am working class. I see the things that are going on and I know that is it Thatcher Britain all over again. You get a lot of negative stereotypes about benefits.”

So – let’s compare all that to the views and behaviour of some of our “leaders.”

We’ve already heard about Nadhim Zahawi and his horses.

Let’s also have:

Oliver Letwin and his tennis court repairs (this one is a personal favourite, because it totally shows the grasping twat up. This is up there with thinking that taxpayers exist to heat your stables).

From the Telegraph:

The 2009 expenses scandal revealed that Letwin (a man who, just by the way, was one of the architects of the poll tax) “claimed more than £2,000 for a leaking pipe to be replaced under his tennis court.”

Said the Telegraph then:

“Mr Letwin, who was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, is thought to be independently affluent; he has continued working part-time for a top City investment bank despite being a member of the shadow cabinet…Since 2004, he has claimed more than £80,000 of expenses for a cottage in Somerset close to his Dorset constituency. The property is in an isolated area and Mr Letwin claims for the cost of heating fuel and emptying the septic tank.”

Brilliant. Let’s all take a turn at the septic tank duty. All we need to do there is open the front door and fire.

Next up we have:

George Osborne and his paddock:

As the Guardian reported last year:

“George Osborne included the mortgage for a paddock on his taxpayer-funded expenses, Land Registry documents disclose…The chancellor and his wife Frances bought a Cheshire farmhouse and the neighbouring land in his constituency for £455,000 in 2000, before he became an MP.

“Between 2003 and 2009, he claimed up to £100,000 in expenses to cover mortgage interest payments on both the land and the property at Harrop Fold farm near Macclesfield.

“The chancellor’s farmhouse featured in the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009. It emerged that he had “flipped” his second home allowance on to the property and increased the mortgage. Throughout the lengthy parliamentary inquiry into Osborne’s expense claims that followed, there was no mention of the separate land. But it has emerged that the expenses payments were not only for a house but also for the neighbouring paddock, which is registered separately with the Land Registry.”

Great. A pleasure to pay for it. Truly.

Then there’s Iain Duncan Smith and his/his wife’s lovely weekend place in Swanbourne. I’ve had the pleasure of this fancy home – and it was certainly pleasurable, because it has a lake and a tennis court and everything you need like that – because I went with UKUncut and Disabled People Against Cuts to occupy the grounds of said house earlier this year. We occupied it as a protest at the bedroom tax. Needless to say, Youtube took down the video I made of that occupation. Apparently, “someone” complained. Snore. You can see the video and read that whole sorry tale here. And you can check out the great big house. It’s just the place for IDS to relax while he got over his Easterhouse experience by crushing everyone who lives there with policies like sanctions and the bedroom tax.

Think I’ll add more as more are revealed… apparently the IPSA website is down at the moment. Can’t wait for it to come back up. These people are unreal. They’ll learn the hard way in the end.

Courtesy of Kate Belgrave

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