Pointless

By: A.C.

I am most likely not alone in receiving those brown envelopes from the DWP, with the intimidating letter inside which silently causes confusion and bafflement as one tries to decrypt the coded message therein. We have all used the telephone number that the Job Centre Plus advises that we phone for help and enquiry. You will note that I did not include the word understanding there.

The letter I received on 27 May 2014 this week is one of those that come from the section of the DWP entrusted with causing confusion and bafflement. I always envisage a few rooms in Whitehall full of anonymous people who stop speaking when someone enters the room.

I received a letter boldly entitled “A Change in the Employment and Support Allowance Rate Payable.”

This letter informed me

“You have been entitled to a transitional addition since you were moved from Incapacity Benefit, Income Support on the grounds of illness or disability or Severe Disablement Allowance. Because of this the money you will get may not have changed when your circumstances changed.

We cannot pay you an allowance from 1 May 2014 . This is because :

“The law says we cannot pay Employment and Support Allowance.

The letter then as usual then goes to require my reporting of any change in my circumstances, or in the circumstances of my partner.

Now as I had already done a pension forecast, worked out my small occupational/disease pension, discussed the pointlessness of filling out the booklet which means–tested every aspect of my meagre household income, and attended a Jobcentre interview in February 2014 where I was told that the claim was being closed regardless anyway, I was rather baffled to receive this letter (along with others on different days about my tax statement, and reconsideration claim booklet). I thought that the DWP had finally cut me adrift and never wanted me to darken the doorstep of Ebury House ever again.

Now this letter raises questions if not eyebrows. The DWP were telling me on the one hand that I should have been entitled to this extra money which has been apparently languishing in some dusty drawer somewhere- then why not tell me when my claim was active and simply pay what they say they owe? Or Even back–date it? Why wait until I could not possibly claim it, by telling me that I should have got this, but it’s too late now, because the law changed on 1 May? I can almost hear the stifled laughter in a distant Whitehall office.

In my imaginative and sometimes over–active brain, I likened those secretive departmental elements of the Civil Service with old British–made stiff–upper lip films about wartime Intelligence from WW2. I imagined a scenario where high–level managers met hurriedly in secret, when it became clear that some bright Civil Servant called Blenkinsop –Carruthers in Research had identified this damned anomaly.

Then some bright spark suggests that the payment is just hidden from view in the computer system, and only the deeply knowledgeable like Blenkinsop –Carruthers know about it, until after the claim period has expired.

Scenario fades to overworked programmer in data Centre of DWP sweating over inserting computer code to generate the request as suggested…..

Like many people I watch those quiz programmes like “Pointless” which has cash prizes if you give the most Pointless and most obscure answer to a question.

The prize is there but unattainable if you cannot meet the rules and give the required answer.

Reminds me also of Jim Bowen wheeling out prizes on Bullseye to show the unfortunate participants what they could have won. Then taking the prizes away to inform them they didn’t win that, but they have won Forty Quid and – nobody can touch that.

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