The Hole

My encounter with the fuckwittery of the Jobcentre earlier today reminded me that I never wrote up the second letter from Gerald.

The Right Honourable Sir Gerald Kaufman spelt my surname wrong in his covering letter. If there had been even the slightest chance I was going to vote for him before I got the letter, that would have changed my mind immediately. But I wasn’t going to vote Labour anyway, so I’ve even been denied a protest vote for bad proof reading.

The letter he forwarded from the Department for Work and Pensions was a big steaming pile of shit as well.

Department for Work and Pensions
Richmond House,
79 Whitehall,
London,
SW1A 2NS

Dear Gerald,

Thank you for your letter of 6 April on behalf of Mr Pattinson of [Address removed], Manchester about the earnings disregard in Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

JSA is not intended for people in work. It is support for jobseekers while they look for work. It would not be right to ignore substantial amounts of earnings.

However, people who work for fewer than 16 hours a week can continue to claim JSA. This is an encouragement to those who wish to take-up part-time work and keep in touch with the job market. Further, as Mr Pattinson says the first �5 of earnings from part time work, net of tax, National Insurance & half any pension fund contribution, is normally disregarded. These arrangements should help promote and ease the return to full-time work, but guard against increasing income from benefits plus part-time work to the point where full time work becomes less attractive.

It has never been thought right to uprate earnings disregards annually. Any decision on increasing the earnings disregards for JSA is a question of fine judgement. It has to balance the benefits of encouraging people into part-time work and maintaining contact with the labour market against any possible disincentives to full-time work.

I turn now to Mr Pattinson’s concern about the system that is in place for him to provide evidence of his earnings when he registers as unemployed. I am sorry if the administration of these rules has caused difficulties or confusion.

Guidance to decision makers is that, as a minimum, evidence of earnings should be provided at the beginning of the claim or a period of part-time employment, and when a change in the rate of earnings occurs. However, this is only guidance.

Whilst Jobcentre Plus staff may contact employers for information, legislation provides that every person who makes a claim for benefit must provide whatever evidence in connection with his claim the decision maker, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, requires. This could include written confirmation of earnings from an employer for those who do not receive regular payslips. If there are problems with the way in which this is being handled, you may wish to contact the local manager of the relevant Jobcentre Plus office.

Yours,

Alan Johnson

Someone should tell these people that part-time work is rarely a stepping stone to full-time work. Most of the time part-time work is work, an attempt to earn a bit more money. Leaving the earnings disregard at �5 for over a decade whilst inflation turns it into a joke isn’t fine judgement, it’s incompetence and/ or malice. And that treating claimants who are honest enough to declare their earnings as guilty until proven innocent is going to destroy any respect they may have for the system.

There’s a great big hole in the system that I keep falling into. Any political party that can come along and fill in that hole will get my vote.

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