Chris’ Blog – Phone Up Robin Hood

Hello

Not quite sure why but I’ve been having a few weird dreams…

“Well Kirsty, in this song The Clash suggest ‘phoning up Robin Hood and asking for some wealth distribution’…

There are moments when a Desert Island is quite appealing. Free (I assume, although I wonder if anyone has actually asked Kirsty) from the vagaries of the benefits system, well I say vagaries; I don’t actually mean that, my original words have been edited!

Let’s look at one young man who periodically falls through the benefits net.

He came out of prison with a standard £47 ‘discharge grant’, and then waited three weeks for any benefit. So, over that time he budgeted to spend £2.20 per day. Well done that man! Just a little awkward, he couldn’t actually survive on that.

He was then put on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) which is £65, less £5 contribution to his various fines, so £60 a week.

“Couldn’t he work Chris, you know stack shelves or something?”

No is the answer, it’s an honest answer and the Job Centre agree. He needs time, support and encouragement. I reckon he will do it but Matthew is the product of this system, like a straw man blowing in the wind, often helpless.

Then he misses an appointment to be checked if he is fit for work (which to be honest is a bit of a blunt instrument). Then his benefit stops, because he didn’t go. The assessment centre is some 20 miles away and a complicated (but not impossible), expensive (almost impossible) journey on public transport.

Then he is on the street or at best sofa surfing, at the mercy of street life and all that comes with it.

Our Job Centre in Totnes has been quite brilliant. The staff are dedicated, helpful and quickly realised he was vulnerable. They worked hard to support him and they forced a creaking system to work on his behalf.

The creaking benefit system has become insanely complex, almost litigious as it tries to grind fraudulent claims out of existence; all in the name of supporting people back into work. The arithmetic is absurd; to get his one claim for £65 sorted must have cost thousands of pounds!

It is not the staff, it is the system.

It does not work for vulnerable people. Instead it forces people into impossible situations.

The LandWorks book club has been reading ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’. Our star reader is the young man above, he loves the story, he say it gives him hope…
We need to turn that hope into belief. A belief that he can get out of this miserable cycle.

“Well Kirsty, if I had to pick one disc, it would be Stereophonics – C’est La Vie.”

Chris

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