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Benefit-related suicides will be highlighted on April 3

30 March, 2017

• AT Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group’s weekly business meeting last Thursday, though we warmed to the prominence given to your news story (Tenant who stole to survive, March 23), we were very concerned at a fundamental error in Camden Council’s submission to the work and pensions select committee.

That concerns the length of wait for Universal Credit payments to be processed. The council said that in some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.

Waits as long as six weeks for benefit claims to be processed and “unacceptable” telephone helpline service standards are nothing new and pre-date Universal Credit and even the 2010 general election.

In November 2006 Community Care magazine reported: “MPs slammed Jobcentre Plus for leaving 21 million calls unanswered. Despite government claims of improvements, stories of poor service continue to mount.”

Our “experts by experience” would disagree with the council’s submission which should have highlighted that people wait a minimum of six weeks for claims to be processed. Those delays are exacerbated by the income fluctuations caused by processing of Universal Credit claims in zero hours economies; and the Department for Work and Pensions’ deepening reliance on “pay-as-you-go” call-centre service delivery that penalises economically vulnerable people for that vulnerability.

As the council correctly reported, “telephone calls [to the Universal Credit helpline] can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”

That is an all-too-common experience, leading in many cases to rent arrears and subsequent evictions.

This sickening system leads more and more people to sickness and suicide, while the DWP refuses to take lessons from coroners courts and insists instead that disability benefit claimants be reassessed every six months as standard.

Against that backdrop, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group will be highlighting local benefits-related suicides on April 3 as follows:

• Noon: Assemble outside Kilburn Jobcentre, Cambridge Avenue, NW6 5AH for rally with local Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, PCS (jobcentre workers union) national executive officer Zita Holbourne and Brent Trades Council executive committee.

• 12:45: Black Flag march to Paddington Cemetery via Kilburn High Road.

• 13:30: address at Leon Burmont graveside by Dawn Butler MP and RMT political officer Cat Cray.

• 14:00: Prince of Wales PH, Willesden Lane NW6 for tea & sandwiches.

Croftdown Road, NW5


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