It got to me, going to Edinburgh, all the anticipation- how would my life change if I got that job, what would I make of it? All the effort. And then the refusal. I get interviews. I have usually got an interview for each application I have made. And then I do not get the job. After going to Edinburgh, I did little the following week. I found that thinking “I will do X at Y future time” had no meaning. Y time came, and I did not. The thought, I need to do X, and I have time to do it Now worked.
Two client meetings got to me at the CAB. I phoned the tax credit office, to find what had gone wrong with a claim, since on the basis of what the claimant told me she was entitled to more than £100 a week- means-tested benefit, her family need that to live on- and it had been refused. It is not particularly generous. She seemed vulnerable, and in need of an even break. There is a dedicated phone line for advisers, but the person on that phone line could not find any details of the decision. It took 29 minutes, as indicated by the phone, for her to give me the contact number of the man who made the decision.
He wanted my full name, the address and post code and phone numbers of my office to prove I was who I said I was. I asked him what had happened and he said, “Why don’t you ask her?” Because I want to know what your position is. He told me I was arrogant, and he did not have to speak to me, after talking over me. He found me “condensating”, and by that time my brain was fried. I knew he meant some other thing but the word “condescending” eluded me. It was as if, rather than checking whether someone is entitled, he was seeking out excuses not to pay.
I have a law degree and benefits experience going back to 1993. I asked about why a claim for a benefit with simple entitlement criteria and clear entitlement had not been paid, and I could not get a straight answer. I could not even find out what the dispute was.
Man this morning, slightly more complicated benefit rules applied, involving two separate claims systems. He had asked the jobcentre what he should claim, and been told one thing but not the £30 a week more generous alternative. There had been a half-arsed attempt to get the claim right, the less generous way, but it was not followed through. Actually, they were getting more than they were entitled to, but that means that absolutely all of it might be recovered at some point in the future, without deducting the amount they would have been entitled to. This started six months ago. What should be done now? What should be done about the past period, given the near-impossibility of backdating? Why did that particular payment stop? Why has that particular payment not started yet?
I came out, and started weeping in the loos, and our lovely Peruvian receptionist consoled and hugged me. Why does it matter so much to me? There is the mirage of a system with clear rules for clear outcomes, fit the rules and you get the money. But put it into practice, and that does not happen. I have made appeals on serious knotty points of law, and here am I helping with claims. People who are entitled are not getting what they are entitled. The man this morning had a responsible job and has average intelligence, certainly greater than some benefit claimants, as benefits tend to be for the most vulnerable people. And he needs a lawyer to sort his claim out. The system is mad.
Written 15 October.