Claimant hits out at ‘unfair’ benefits system

JobCentre Plus
JobCentre Plus
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A Newton man has slammed the benefits system after being sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Neil Preece, who has arthritis in his knees and severe back pain, spoke out after his Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was stopped when he applied for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) instead.

Mr Preece also claims the hardship payments he was promised during this period were not given.

Although the payments owed have now been backdated Mr Preece, who has spent several years switching backwards and forwards between JSA and ESA, blasted the DWP’s regime of sanctioning benefits claimants, making people do hours of job searches each week and forcing people through medical tests to see if they are fit for work.

Mr Preece, 52, said: “People are being forced to beg, steal and borrow and it’s not right. I worked from 16 years old until I was 35 and paid my taxes and even did a bit of charity work at the companies I worked for.

“I can see why soldiers are riled up coming back from the front line and getting about £56 a week in benefits to live on. It’s just ridiculous.

“It feels like they are forcing me into doing work which I physically cannot do without it affecting me. They made it sound like I didn’t want to work but I’ve tried various jobs.

“I delivered pizzas and I retrained as a taxi driver, but I could only do it for two or three days and then had to be off for almost a week. Some days it takes me three quarters of an hour just to get out of bed in the morning.”

Mr Preece said his difficulties started when incapacity benefit was scrapped and he ended up on JSA after being found fit for work by a medical test.

He was sanctioned in early February after missing an appointment and his JSA was again subject to being penalised later that month after the Jobcentre Plus said he had not submitted enough evidence of looking for work.

Mr Preece said: “I did miss an appointment but it was out of the norm, I got into a rut and I apologised straight away, All of this recently has made me really ill.

“They then told me about two weeks later they would sanction me again for not doing enough job searches. I went to the library to get printouts and they said it still wasn’t good enough because there were no names and addresses of the places I was applying. To me that’s none of their business.

“I said it just felt like they were out to get me.”

Mr Preece also criticised the DWP’s use of premium-rate phone lines, saying this is a large chunk of expense for people living on benefits.

However, the DWP has strongly defended the benefits system.

A spokesman said: “It is only right that we ask claimants to do what is expected of them in return for their benefits to help protect the taxpayer. Any claimant who disagrees with the outcome of their Work Capability Assessment can appeal.”