Ex-prisoner leaving prison, with just a bag.
At first, things went well. We applied for and received DLA and ESA, and then he got a furnished flat and his rent was taken at source so that was a worry less. He had enough to get by and things seemed settled.
Then an allegation of assault was made against him by an ex partner and he was remanded into custody. Within days it was established that she had made it up. I managed to persuade his landlord to keep his flat for him but then it took three months to get Barry released without charge in September 2016.
Barely worth any credit, never mind universal.
Then UC said he owed money from a decade earlier because of social fund loans. So they gave him £197 a MONTH to live on. It look months to get information back about these and then it turned out another ex partner had taken these out in his name while Barry was in prison. This went on for months while Barry sank deeper and deeper into debt and despair. His confidence and hopes of rebuilding his life was ebbing away fast. Even more so when after repeated requests, the information came back that he still only deserved zero points for PIP. In the meantime his physical and mental heath declined, his fits became more frequent, on one occasion in while crossing a busy city street. Onlookers moved him to the footpath and used his phone to call an ambulance. They then left, taking his phone and his wallet.
In January 2018 I went with Barry to a PIP tribunal. The DWP representative asked why we were there. "We're not opposing this," he said. So Barry was awarded his PIP and at the higher rate. A victory. At last too some UC progress, but Barry was still unable to get the disability rate of UC, and he had to go to another assessment, even though he had just been awarded PIP. It became apparent that the DWP is a series of separate fiefdoms who either won't or lack the facility to talk to each other. ESA won't talk to UC, DLA won't talk to PIP and so on. Luckily for Barry, Peter, his 'work coach' at the local Job Centre for UC turned out to be a gem and fought for Barry. Eventually Barry was awarded the extra UC to which he was entitled. All was now going well.
Then Barry made two mistakes. His tenancy was up in his furnished flat so he moved to another, unfurnished. You would think that Universal Credit could cope with a change of address and simply continue as before. But they stopped paying Barry's rent from source which he failed to spot and therefore was immediately in arrears. I was away at the time and by the time I returned it was too late.
The second mistake was he met Freda. Barry and Freda got on well and they said, "Let's do it." Then Barry and Freda decided to share the new flat. She had left her job earlier and so now claimed universal credit as Barry's partner. You would think that Universal Credit could cope with adding someone to a claim. All his previous Journal entries, the online log that UC claimants keep and use to communicate, all vanished.
Universal Credit demand a 'fit note' for the next CENTURY!
Next was an email saying Barry needed to prove his identity. This was not in his online To do list and anyway, Universal Credit knows who Barry is - he'd been on Universal Credit for months. First a sick note for 100 years and now this request. All because Freda put in a claim. This system is like a slow moving, dim witted brontosaurus. There must be a simpler way to add someone to a claim. When we went to see Peter with Freda's identity evidence, the wonderful Peter simply cleared Barry's identity also. Peter also confirmed Barry can ignore the request in the to-do list asking him to provide a fit note - he is not required to do this. He also put a note in the Journal confirming this. But what do claimants do who don't have a 'work coach' as good as Peter? Or a friend used to navigating the off-putting labyrinth of the benefit system?
Then Universal credit failed to pay Barry his expected UC payment, always due on the same day each month. More rent arrears, and the landlord started sending notices of impending eviction. All this in the run up to Christmas as Barry was trying to furnish his empty flat and make it comfortable for himself and Freda. No hostess trolley on the shopping list though.
Another bugbear was that the section of the Journal that gives details of payments had vanished, despite frequent requests for it to be restored. So when finally a payment was made for an unusual amount, it was not possible to see a breakdown. Had rent been deducted? Had any arrears been deducted? Was any of it for Freda, or was she not 'processed' yet? Who knows? Not Barry, Freda nor me. Does Universal credit know? Somehow, I doubt it.
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