Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Liar, liar

Some weeks ago I dealt with a young man from the Horn of Africa. I came this close to throttling him.

He slumped into my office and started off straightaway with "I want to know what benefits I am entitled to".

[Why should he be "entitled" to anything? He has not contributed a penny to the British economy.]

He told me he was being given some benefits in another part of the country and so clearly he was "entitled" to those benefits. But his JSA (JobSeekers Allowance) was stopped because the woman at the Job Centre said as a student he is not looking for a job and should not be entitled to JSA.

This woman is right. Otherwise every college student would be claiming JSA but these students are not really prepared to leave their courses to work.

The point is without his JSA his Housing Benefit (paying rent) and Council Tax Benefit (paying council tax) were also stopped. So this poor chap had to move in with his sister. Previously he had "his" own little flat.

[It is not YOUR flat. We the taxpayers are paying for that flat.]

I was distressed because every time I followed a line of inquiry (having gone outside to seek help from my supervisor, and returned to ask further questions) this young man changed his story.

Time and time again he changed his story until I felt that he had been telling me nothing but lies, wasting my time.

First he was receiving JSA in Yorkshire. Then he was not receiving JSA in Yorkshire. [We wanted to establish why a benefit approved in Yorkshire was withdrawn where we are.]

First he put in an appeal for a decision to strip him of his benefits. Then he did not put in an appeal, "but something was submitted at the Job Centre". [We could help in advising on the appeal procedure, hold his hand a bit, if he did appeal.]

First he said his college had "given them everything" to prove that he was attending class for less than 16 hours a week. Then his college merely told him to photocopy information in the college prospectus. [Previously I've seen letters written by colleges on headed paper to support their students. Why did his college not do the same?]

Throughout the interview he was also going, "But I am entitled to this," "I should be entitled to that." At one point he asked for a lawyer to help him fight his case.

And who would pay for the lawyer?

In the end we decided that we would help him if he would do steps 1,2,3, etc. and gave him a slot to see an adviser.

Then the pièce de résistance (for want of a better phrase but I think you get my drift). Just before he left my office I passed on my manager's advice, "Well, if you are only studying for 14 hours, there's nothing to stop you looking for a part-time job." [This is what most foreign students do. They are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week, and most do.]

His reply was, "There are no part-time jobs out there. They are all full-time jobs."

Liar. Complete liar.

Everyone else tells us that there are only part-time jobs, offering a few hours here and there, but far fewer full-time ones.

And he just shot himself in the foot: If there are full-time jobs and he cannot, or refuses to, take up a full-time job, then he is NOT a JobSeeker by definition and therefore should not be given JSA. Simple.

My young friends at church work for minimum wage at bars, restaurants, cleaning, etc. for pocket money whenever they can. (They also have parents who pay tax, unlike this young man.) This young man could do the same but refuses to.

He much prefers to "sign on", pretend to look for a job or two to fulfil his "job-seeking" obligation under JSA, continue to complete his course at college, and expect the taxpayer to give him a nice little flat meanwhile. [It is pretence because he has clearly stated that he was not going to give up his college course even he was offered a job.]

What makes him think he is entitled to certain benefits in the first place?

He is "entitled" to money if he is being owed money. By insisting that he was "entitled" to benefits suggests that he was being owed benefits. The taxpayer pays these benefits. He is in effect saying that taxpayers (yes, people like me) owe him these benefits.

As a taxpayer and volunteer, I really resented his arrogance in saying that I owed him these benefits. I do not owe him money and do not feel obliged to help someone like him. So his stance that he was "entitled" to something for doing nothing, worse, by pretending to be a jobseeker, does not help his case.

Claiming benefits fraudulently is a crime. Perhaps I should have warned him.

Today I checked. This young man did not bother to show up for his appointment. Why was I not surprised?

He wasted an advice slot that could have gone to someone else needing urgent help.

20/1/12 Update: Out of curiosity I looked up the college at which this young man said he was doing a diploma in engineering. The only engineering diploma courses on their website require full-time study. So how he could argue that it is for 14 hours a week is quite beyond me.