Monday, October 11, 2010

Work Part 6 - I knew it was too good to be true

Part 1 - Employment History
Part 2 - The Application
Part 3 - The Telephone Interview
Part 4 - OMG I've got the job!
Part 5 - There's always a but...

I spoke to S, my Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) today and told her the good news. She's delighted for me. Which is good, because as I'd already begun to fear the rest of the news is far from good.

Permitted Work while receiving Income Support means I can only keep £20 of anything I earn each week. I foolishly assumed that meant I could just be paid £20 a week in expenses but unfortunately it's not that simple. Minimum wage is now £5.93 an hour, but 8 hours of work for £20 is £2.50 per hour, way below that.  With the word manager in the job title it is likely to attract someone's attention during the administrative process of applying for permitted work and be highlighted as concern about a company contravening minimum wage legislation and exploiting a disabled person using the permitted work scheme. That situation may well occur, but in this case my employer is desperate to do everything they possibly can to enable disabled people to work using the permitted work scheme and want to ensure they are fairly paid for everything they do. 

To protect myself and my employer the only option would be for them to pay me minimum wage for the full 8 hours and for me to declare that each time to the Department of Work and Pensions. The DWP would then deduct that sum from my Income Support each week. There are other potential pitfalls to do with nominal wages and impacts on my other benefits such as Local Housing Allowance and Council Tax benefits, but the main concern is national minimum wage.

I'll be honest, I simply do not have it in me to declare the money to the DWP and have it deducted from my benefits each week. I can't deal with the bureaucracy or the constant stress that can cause, especially not so soon after filling out my Disability Living Allowance forms, never mind the chaos that would ensue should it impact upon my other benefits. All that hope and excitement I felt when I was told I had got the job has been destroyed by bureaucracy.

The anomaly surrounding permitted work has been removed from Employment and Support Allowance which doesn't distinguish between contribution and non contribution related incapacity benefits and allows either claimant to do permitted work. ESA also allows for permitted work to continue longer than the mandated 12 month maximum for Incapacity Benefit claimants after which they have to move into full time work, supported by tax credits if necessary or they have to stop their permitted work for a year, after which they can return to the permitted work scheme for another year. Presumably Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit scheme also allows for long term permitted work. It's great that this obstacle has been recognised and ironed out of the system but that doesn't help me or any of the other people in reciept of Incapacity Benefit or Income Support who have yet to be migrated to ESA. Whether or not claimants will still be transferred onto ESA in the years before Universal Credit is introduced is not yet clear, as going through two separate, enormous migrations of benefits within 5 years, with all the administrative costs, stress and bureaucracy would seem ludicrous, especially at a time when saving money but protecting services is supposed to be the priority.   For now claimants have to deal with the system as it stands, and that means abiding by the current rules for permitted work.

I want this job enough to say to my employers that I'd like to do it on a voluntary basis, so that is what we've agreed upon. It's still exciting and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to work in a formal role for a project I really believe in, but all that joy at finally getting an actual paying job has been ruined by the inconsistencies of the benefits system.

38 comments:

marksany said...

Sorry to hear about your difficulties with the benefit system. Sad to say I'm not the least bit surprised.

Fire Byrd said...

Oh no, what a bummer. To have got the job and the horrible system conspiring against you.
I hope you can find a solution that involves doing some work.

The Goldfish said...

Congratulations on the job, Bendy, but sorry you've come up against this nonsense. The only time I've worked as an adult (one measely article), I did it above board, declaring it and thus losing over half the money I earned. And facing a DWP paper trail that lasted a full twelve months after the event. So crap as it is, I think you've done the right thing, at least for now.

I hope maybe in the future, there might be some way in which you can actually be properly re-imbursed for your work - this stuff goes completely against all that schpeel about how we mustn't be left idling at home.

Even so, congratulations! :-)

Veronica said...

Ooooh, I just want to swear at and kick the system. Congratulations on the job though!

Timmargh said...

Yay and boo in equal measures.

Arienette said...

I am just completely gobsmacked. This just makes it all the worse that they go on and on about getting people back to work. How about removing some of the massive obstacles involved in that first, huh??
I'm so sorry, BG. I really hope you find a proper solution to this soon. I hope that 'part 7' is that you get a phonecall sorting this bullshit out.

Scribbler said...

Get your MP to raise it in the House - this is exactly the time this sort of thing will be picked up on. Potentially a big PR win/disaster for the Gov't so could provoke a response.

Mary said...

My guess is they won't do anything about it because it'll all be magically! better! honest! when the shiny new ESA/Universal Credit/whatever system is introduced.

It does suck that you're getting the unpleasant end of both sticks - you're working your backside off and having to remain as Benefit Scrounging Scum - but I know you to be someone who is sensible enough to make the most of the experience gain and confidence boost that this job will give you.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting the job; shame about the bureaucracy!

I don't know the rules of income support or permitted work but would either of the following be possible?:

Could they give you £20 in expenses for doing the job on a voluntary basis?

As the work is from home, are the hours definitely fixed? ie. Would it be possible to say that it is only 3 and a bit hours work at the minimum wage, but that it takes you 8 hours due to resting breaks (or whatever) related to your health?

Wacky Lisa said...

I'm sorry this is how things worked out. :( I don't entirely understand the system there but you did a good job of giving me a basic picture of it. Plus, to be honest, I don't really understand the US system either and that's the one that applies to me.

As more and more telecommuting jobs become available I hope that various countries can work out a less complex system to help PWDs work and yet keep the benefits they need. That said, I'm not holding my breath.

I really wish you the best in your new position.

Wheelie said...

Huh. Love a job myself.

Try myself, get the interviews, then daft excuses why not. Sometimes get as far as a medical. Not willing to insure me, apparently.

Get a phone call from Jobcentre plus (never signed on in my life) a couple of times a year saying they don't need me to come in. What's all that about? "level of DLA I'm on" - middle care, lower mobility, multi-stroke survivor.

Maddening.

WendyCarole said...

I am so sorry that you have come up against thi s hurdle. Though am not surprised. It could be more trouble than its worth. A bureaucratic model that doesn't allow for personal anomolies

I signed on last year was told could work less than 16 hours a week. But the hassle it caused me a year later made me wish I hadn't bothered.

I hope you find a way to resolve it.

Dave the Dog said...

Bugger. That's bloody ridiculous. So sorry for you Cal. Could they give you £20 out of petty cash to cover 'expenses' whilst you are a voluntary worker.? I was so chuffed when you told us you had got it. The employers seem to be really wanting to encourage you too.

Casdok said...

Many congratulations :)
And i do understand all the benefit headache :(

Kim (frogpondsrock) said...

aaargh that is so frustrating. Bureacracy gone mad. The rules here aren't quite as stiflingly confusing. but the cash and deductions part is the same roughly.

I agree Bendy get in touch with your MP or that TV show you were on and demonstrate just how difficult it is to get a job when you are on benefits :)

Achelois said...

No internet for a bit so missed the beginning, the middle and ...... fast forward to now.

Everyone else has said anything that I could have.

I don't really understand our system if truth be told but I do know its just not fair.

Contact You & Yours Radio 4 and get them to showcase this as an example of the unfairness of it all.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Marksany: Thanks...unfortunately neither am I!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

FB: Thank you! Voluntary work is the best solution for me, but I don't know if that will ever be possible to translate into paid work

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Goldfish: Thank you! Yes, it's a ridiculous situation. I suspect UC will attempt to address it and fail to do so as it'd be politically unattractive to let people on benefits keep anything more than a token sum

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Veronica: Thanks love! The system seems increasingly surreal Xx

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Timmargh: Well said!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Arienette: Thanks love. There's no part 7, the answer is either do it on a voluntary basis, declare it & go through the hassle or don't do it at all. Let's be blunt, none of these changes are *really* about getting people into work, they are all about getting them onto cheaper benefits

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Scribbler: I'll think about it. My previous MP would certainly have raised it as an issue, but the new one can't even be arsed to reply to people properly.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Mary: Ta chuck. That's exactly the view I'm taking, but I fear the only way out of the benefits trap will be the 'finding a solvent man prepared to take on a crippled financial responsibility' avenue. Ah empowerment, it must be nice for the people it reaches ;)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Anon: Possibly, but for the sake of £20 it's not worth any of the potential pitfalls to either myself or my employers.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

WackyLisa: You know, I find the most bizarre and troubling aspect of all these 'reforms' to be that no-one is even looking at the benefits of tele commuting to help solve the problems. I don't beleive this has anything to do with actually getting people into work, it's all about restricting eligibility to what should be fundamental human rights. What little I know about the US system tells me that politicians here are only desperate to follow it because it'll make rich people richer and poor people completely screwed!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Wheelie: Totally! And the exact situation I'd be in if a company who weren't all about promoting inclusion hadn't come along. I hope the work experience will make me more employable but doubt that it actually will.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

WendyCarole: Sorry but unsurprised to hear that.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Dave the Dog: I don't think it'd be a good idea for them to do that, partly for my benefits but mostly cos it could backfire on the company.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Casdok: Thank you! I seem to recall you've been in a similar position before now?

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Kim: Oo, I hadn't thought of them, good idea thank you!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Achelois: I shall certainly consider that ;) x

Anonymous said...

id get in touch with IDS himself, its surprisingly easy to do, via

http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2010/10/interviewing-ids.html

or via "conservative home" site

or get ur MP to forward a note for you

alhi said...

Aw crap. I was so gobsmacked when I read this I couldn't comment immediately. I hope the company can perhaps give you the odd bonus without putting it through the books in some way. I also think you should go to the press/PM/MP, anyone you can think of. That is, if you have the energy. While my blog is indicating remarkable energy coming from me, I do know what it feels like not to have energy to 'fight the system/authority'.

steph said...

Bendy,

I think you'll have to change the name of your blog to...

Hurdle Hopping Bendy

Where's the 'benefit' in being a Benefits Claimant if all they do is put obstacles in your way?

Don't let the buggers get you down!

Huge congrats on landing the job and I'm sure you'll reap lots of unforeseen rewards simply by being back in the swing of things.

If I'm really honest, I'm real jealous! :)

Joanna Cake said...

It just beggars belief!!!!!

Elizabeth McClung said...

I'm glad you got the job but I think the whole thing about the rules mean either more work and less pay or no pay and a free spirit - it is not an equal land. ARg!

Anonymous said...

hi im on esa if i work permitted hrs would my earnings be deducted from my benefit