I arrived at Erdington Jobcentre an hour early, for my new JSA (3rd Claim) Work Focused Interview with “T”. I had to refund the DWP with £13 that I hadn’t spent on attending Jobclub at Sutton Coldfield Jobcentre in December 2016 & early January 2017. So I was ushered through a door, & I graciously coughed up the £13. “DP” issued me with an FF300 receipt, as proof of my payment to the DWP.
Back in the main waiting area straight afterwards, I asked “O” if I could have my Income Support (5th Claim) Customer Statement sent off via the DWP’s “Hot System” while I’m waiting for my JSA (3rd Claim) Work-Focused Interview. After all, the Jobcentre Enquiry Line had previously assured me that Erdington Jobcentre provided this as a “walk in” service. But “O” said that it would have to be done during my 1 hour JSA (3rd claim) Work-Focused Interview.
I had been instructed to arrive early for my JSA (3rd Claim) Work Focused Interview, so that I could read through my Customer Statement. I asked “O” for my Customer Statement to read prior to my WFI commencing, after all, I was mega-early. But this request was also refused. “O” said “T” wasn’t at her desk, & my JSA (3rd claim) Customer Statement wouldn’t have been left lying around. I looked at the Job Vacancies that were advertised there, but none were currently suitable for me, due to my issues/circumstances.
“T” commenced my JSA (3rd claim) Work-Focused Interview 5 minutes late. I had rang Erdington Jobcentre the previous day to request a private room, as I’d be uncomfortable discussing all of my issues in front of other claimants & staff, & I sometimes get upset. “T” insisted that the door of the interview room be kept wide open for the entire duration of the interview, despite there being a glass panel to see into the room with the door shut. So my privacy wasn’t being substantially respected, as it’s very busy there. I asked her to photocopy my JSA (3rd claim) Customer Statement after “T” had handed it to me to check & sign, & the Income Support (5th claim) Customer Statement that I had brought along with me. Initially. “T” said they don’t usually do that, but she did actually oblige (though she handed me a copy of the Customer statement as it had been printed off, not a copy of the one that had been printed off which I had then amended & signed).
I asked “T” for her work email address, she retorted that she doesn’t give that out to claimants. [This is in marked contrast to my previous Work Coach “J” at Sutton Coldfield Jobcentre, who voluntarily provided me with her work email address!]
I’d typed up my new CV in advance of today. As I haven’t actually worked since 2004, I had proudly boasted that I’ve picked up a whole new skill set over the last few years, by doing all my own preparation work for my many Tribunals (albeit, none of which I’ve actually won yet). “T” told me to delete that particular sentence, as potential employers would fear being hauled off to a Tribunal.
“T” was very hardline, inflexible, arrogant, & totally lacking empathy. She said I would be expected to actively jobsearch for 35 hours per week, despite me explaining some (she had no time, and no inclination to listen to all) of my circumstances/issues. I asked for “T” to agree that I be expected to actively jobsearch for 14 hours per week, as that was what “J” at Sutton Coldfield Jobcentre had agreed for my previous JSA (2nd Claim). “T” bluntly told me that she wasn’t “J”.
“T” said I could restrict my claimant commitment/work availability for up to 13 weeks, then I’d be expected to Jobsearch full-time, and not place any restrictions on the types of work I’m able to do. “T” said she’d reduce my active jobseeking requirement from 35 hours to 20 hours per week. But I said I’d struggle with 20hrs per week. I again drew her attention to some of my circumstances/issues, including the fact I’m struggling to deal with the 10 Tribunals I have in the pipeline, with correspondence & Directions Notices constantly flying back & forth. “T” barked that the DWP won’t pay me JSA if I don’t meet the claimant commitment. She refused to budge from 20 hrs of active jobseeking for me each week. So I politely told her I wanted to speak to a manager. She strutted out……
A couple of minutes later, “T” came back to me, she’s spoken to manager “B”. “T” will put that I must jobsearch for 14 hours per week on my claimant commitment, but she doesn’t agree with it, so this will be sent off to a Decision Maker. “T” said the claimant commitment can be modified at any time, (though it seems pretty bloody inflexible to me!).
I asked if the Claimant Commitment could stipulate that I only can work up to 16 hours per week. “T” said she’s unable to modify the Claimant Commitment to say I could only manage up to 16 hours per week. I can still look for 16 hours of employment each week.
“T” said I’d be expected to travel up to 90 minutes each way for work. I have got several issues/problems, one of which is heavy periods. I said that when I’m at my heaviest time of the month, I sometimes need the loo very frequently (to change sanitary item). “T” shot back that as a woman, she too has menstruated, & there are treatments available for heavy periods. I doubt that she’s medically qualified, and I wouldn’t mind if she was demonstrating a degree of empathy or understanding. But her aggressively hostile interview technique continued throughout this part of the discussion too, she said I could have an implant, or go on the pill.
“T” refused to listen to, or list, many of my health issues, as I’m not currently receiving treatment for them (I’ve been asking the DWP & GP for specific help for years).
“T” couldn’t even be arsed to look at or photocopy the medical letters/evidence that I had brought along, though she did list a couple of them on the screen as I was explaining them to her. I’d also been proactive and considerate enough to bring along my 9 x separate Tribunal listings (1 more pending), but she didn’t want to look at or copy them either.
“T” said we’re here to talk about work, not health!
“T” said the maximum travelling time she was prepared to put on my claimant commitment was 60 minutes each way (too much when I’m at my heaviest monthly flow). I insisted on 20 minutes. “T” said she’d put 20 minutes travelling time on my claimant commitment, but that she didn’t agree with this, & that decision would be sent off to a Decision Maker too.
“T” selected the option that I’d be available for interview within 1 week, and she confirmed this didn’t mean within 48 hrs. (Options were: immediately, within 48 hours, within 1 week).
She asked me for types of work that I’m after. But until I get help with certain issues, there’s not lots that I can do. I said I can’t be expected to think of every available type of job that’s going to be available, so I thought it unfair to expect me to list all that I can do off the top of my head. (Yes, I’m capable of doing some things, for some of the time, but not all things, all of the time). This just antagonised “T” even further.
“T” was visibly & audibly pissed off with me for much of today’s Work Focused Interview. She was thoroughly pissed off with me for having the temerity to write my own notes as the Work Focused Interview dragged on, & on, & on. On a couple of occasions, she boomed “hello” at me, after she’d said something to me, but I was eyes down writing my notes. One of the times she’d directed her particularly unpleasant “hello” at me, I paused my note-taking, looked up across the desk at her, and I politely informed her that she hadn’t asked me a question, she’d made a statement (which didn’t require me to give a verbal response). “T” told me that I didn’t need to take any notes myself, as she’d be printing off the claimant commitment. I said I feel the constant compulsion to take notes, as I’m constantly having to deal with the DWP, & if I don’t write things down, I could forget the details. (Besides, it’s not as though she’d be printing off an evaluation of her behaviour, demeanour, & generally arrogant & uncompromising interview technique). Towards the end of the interview, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the door to the interview room had been left open for my safety (instead of hers).
I had to re- educate “T” several times throughout the duration of today’s Work Focused Interview, that she is obliged to take all of my circumstances/issues into account, when agreeing my claimant commitment. She lectured that as I’d been turned down for ESA (6th claim), that I’m fit for work. I countenanced, several times, by saying that when “A” at Worcester Benefit Centre had rang me on 28th September 2016, he’d turned me down, as he believed that I was capable of doing some type of work, and that I should claim JSA, and that Jobcentre staff are obliged to take all of my issues/circumstances into account. “T” didn’t make any attempt to disguise her visible contempt & disdain for me. She kept reminding me of how long this interview had already been going on for. It wasn’t my fault that the interview dragged. I’d arrived 1 hour early for my work focused interview, but the JSA (3rd claim) customer statement wasn’t handed to me prior to interview commencing, to read, modify, & sign (despite me requesting this). Nor was the Income Support (5th claim) sent off via the “Hot System” beforehand, I’d asked for this to be done twice whilst I was waiting.
My JSA (3rd claim) Work-Focused Interview lasted a total of 2 hrs and 5 minutes. It felt like longer. Clearly, a 1 hr fixed time slot didn’t suffice. When it finished, I’d already been at Erdington Jobcentre for 3 hours and 10 minutes. I needed the loo. I asked “T” where the toilets there are, but she said there aren’t any toilets for customers to use at the Jobcentre. She suggested I use the loo in the pub around the corner. I said I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into the pub (I’ve never been in there) without buying a drink there, (some pubs take a strict stance on their toilets only being available for use of their patrons).
“T” & I then separately exited the interview room. I asked one of the men if I could use the loo there. He was much nicer and civilised, I said I really need the loo, as I’ve been there for over 3 hours, but “T” had said I couldn’t use loos there. The lovely man asked a security guard to show me to the toilet. As I walked the length of the vast ground floor area, I walked past “T”, who was now amongst a coterie of other staff there, if looks could kill, I’d be dead.
I’m going to raise a formal complaint about today. I’ll send it to the DWP’s Central England Complaints Resolution Team.