From a friend . . .
When I knew I was moving I rang income support and explained, they sent out a form (can NEVER remember the numbers they call them) but it was very brief, just a couple of pages to notify the new office in the area I was moving to) and that was all I was lead to believe I had to do, I was very relieved. Anyway it arrived promptly (Glasgow are pretty good, generally civil and competent) just before I moved.
Posted it off to the office they advised on the Monday (I’d moved in two days before). I also registered for housing benefit (they’d enclosed that form for me too). It was accepted but I was sent away with requests for proof of this, original of that . . . etc which I duly did. It took approx five weeks, included a surprise visit from a housing benefit inspector (who was serious but polite and conscientious) to verify everything and ask me a large number of the questions I’d already answered on the form before it arrived.
During this time, I phoned income support (twice) to check the progress of the transfer of my claim, they had no knowledge of it at the central office as the local one had not processed it, I was advised to give it a little more time and told he would look into it. A week later a completely new full claim form arrived for completion (three and a half weeks after sending the original notification). It is vast, more detailed than in previous years, soul destroying stuff but obviously I did it and sent it off. I waited . . . waited some more, received a letter advising me that my housing benefit had been suspended and I had x amount days to rectify the situation or reclaim (another form enclosed) before it would be cancelled…..urgh, what was going on?
I usually feel – having had to do a number of times over the years, due to the loss of a job or having another child – anything from victimised or unlucky, frustrated to paranoid because you do what you’re asked but inevitably it never seems enough, delays, being made to feel like a burden or a waster, repetition of previous information provided…..god, I’m tired just thinking of it!
So yes, no housing benefit because I was no longer in receipt of income support, a situation which I had created because I was the only person following things up and notifying the various department in the areas concerned, so NO rent, NO council tax and NO INCOME support. Child benefit yes but hardly enough to sustain us or keep my landlady happy and a roof over our heads! I phoned again, explained the situation again, was told to give it another week as they didn’t appear to have received anything, I wasn’t on the system…OH GOD! No question of if I could manage, wait til then etc. The following week, I phoned again, I explained again, and was told (again!) that they hadn’t received my claim, I was however, located on the system and there was a note advising that a claim for had been sent out on.
I stressed my situation, tears welling up, explained that I didn’t think I could manage any longer, she talked, I started to cry, I was in in luck, she was sympathetic enough to respond, took my telephone number, and offered me a choice of two options but because I was in such a state on the phone by this time, I can’t for the life of me remember what they were, suffice to say she was trying to prompt me to request (without actually saying outright) the option that meant they had to treat my situation as urgent and respond within 5 hours.
I was on the bus, three hours later when I got a call from a rather ‘sniffy’, ‘short’ woman who verified who I was and stated that my claim had been processed and a cheque was prepared, did I want to come into the office or have it sent out 1st class. I request 1st class, I couldn’t have faced going into them having cried down the phone earlier. Anyway the cheque arrived the next day and I could breath again!
So, it took three hours to find, process and action my claim, after a period of 8 or 3 weeks, depending on which form you count from. All because I got someone who listened, and realised that something had to be done as I’d reached breaking point.
The bottom line is I didn’t shout loud enough, or hassle them frequently enough, if you are too polite, not assertive enough or just plain feel embarrassed or demeaned by the whole process then I don’t believe you get dealt with as quickly.
Does this all make sense? Tired and cold and thoroughly fed up by this pathetic little saga of mine!