Decisions Facing Rachel Reeves on 8th May 2015 (Number 2: Care & Maintenance of JSAPS & ESAPS) #GE2015

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Number 2: Care and Maintenance of JSAPS and ESAPS

In expectations of Universal Credit being rolled out on time and meeting other objectives, the amount of care and maintenance on the existing Payment Systems for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance has been significantly reduced. This is not an abstract issue, because as the systems have become degraded, the basic claim and payment processes have become (and are becoming) ever harder to manage. In other words, existing claimants, not on Universal Credit, are being adversely affected by its roll out.

In extreme cases, and these are becoming more and more common, individual claims are being taken off the systems and handled on a clerical basis. This means that:

claims are being initially assessed not by the computer, but by individuals

that any initial action on the claims has to be carried out clerically by a member of staff, not the computer before anything may happen, including sending out fortnightly payments

and the latter are triggered not via computer input at the Jobcentre, but as a result of e-mails from the Jobcentre to the staff dealing with the clerical claims.

Staff that were in at the beginning of JSA were trained to undertake this clerical work. They are, though, rare these days. Those still working in Benefit Centres handling JSA and ESA are unlikely to have made much use of their training in clerical procedures, if at all. These issues also apply to ESA and to the calculation of end of year tax action, in other words, individuals may have to chase up a tax rebate to which you are entitled, because your claim is being handled clerically and no one has thought to undertake the necessary clerical work. In addition, if they do remember, they may not be fully competent to carry out the calculations.

Seriously, if you having ongoing problems being paid JSA or ESA then you would be well advised to ask how your claim is being dealt with. In my experience, as someone who dealt with complaints about missed payments, the line was not to go fully into the detail of how they had occurred.

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