I am… on employment support allowance
Clair Richards on her experience of being on employment support allowance
I worked in a primary school but then I fell in town and I’ve had sciatica, so have been off work. Six months after I’d fallen, they realised I had fractured my spine, so I have been for scans for that as well now.
I came out of work suddenly and have been in a mess with my benefits since. I was only working ten hours a week but I have been on employment support allowance (ESA) now for seven weeks. I’m still waiting for my full assessment papers.
I asked them about the winter fuel allowance but they said I have to wait until all the paperwork is processed. Until they decide which ESA group you’re in – the work-related one or the other one – you cannot get the winter fuel allowance.
I was charged £57 for a phone call of more than two hours to employment support. It’s 55p a minute. How can they justify charging that much? Considering we are on benefits as it is, and you can’t make a new ESA claim online, why are they charging us that much? There must be a lot of people stung by that. You end up trapped in these circumstances through no fault of your own.
You can wait six to eight weeks for things to be finalised on benefits. In the meantime, you have not got steady money coming through. It’s no wonder people end up in this predicament. There should be some kind of safety net for people when they are waiting. There is nothing. You are expected to live on fresh air for two months. They need to address that gap…
Clair Richards was interviewed by a representative of Church Action on Poverty at Salford foodbank, Greater Manchester.
Since this interview, the claimant telephone lines for employment support allowance have changed to freephone numbers
This is an extract from an article that was published in the September 2018 edition of Reform