I'm a little perplexed. I was put in the WRAG following the reversal of the decision that my ESA should be revoked. A lady from my local job centre phoned me to arrange an appointment some months ago. When I spoke to her I explained that I am too ill to attend an interview, so she had a talk with me on the phone. She was very friendly and understanding. She had to follow it up, which she said she was going to do so by phone call this month. So she phoned me a few days ago. I had the phone call written in my diary, so was expecting it. I'm not entirely sure whether it was the same lady or not, as she sounded like she'd been turned into an automaton. I am not allowed to talk to them over the phone about my condition, I HAVE to attend the job center, I HAVE to attend The Work Programme, and she was putting an appointment for me to do so in the post. I told her that my condition had deteriorated since we last spoke, but she dismissed me. She did however take my number plate so that she can arrange for me to park in the car park outside the Job Centre.
I went to one of the M.E. groups and told them what had happened. I realised then that I didn't actually know what it was that she had told me I was attending. I thought she had said 'Return To Work Programme', but that doesn't seem to exist. One of the people on the group said this:
DON'T SIGN UP FOR THE WORK PROGRAMME......!!!!!
Not unless you can manage being pushed into a full-time job as soon as possible - they don't get paid for a successful outcome until the have kept you in work for 12 months, so therefore will put you under lots of pressure to be in and stay in work.......!!!!!!!
There are other options that you should be told about - you can do volunteer (even if you could only manage an hour a week), you can do work preparation (this could be anything that might prepare you for work), work experience etc. Don't let them just push you into the work programme - if you have trouble leaving home, you are not going to manage a two year programme and being pushed into a full-time job.
The WRAG can also help you to set up your own business too - they should be telling you that as well - it may be that there is something you could do part-time flexibly at home.
Obviously I've not been told any of those things. I wasn't even sure what I am supposed to be attending until I just received the following letter.
THE WORK PROGRAMME
Personal Adviser Interview
Dear Miss Olana Voljeti
Your next Jobcentre Plus Interview
We have arranged this interview for you with one of our advisers to discuss the support available to you through Jobcentre Plus.
Do I need to come to the Jobcentre interview?
Yes. It is important you attend and take part in the interview or give an acceptable reason why you are unable to attend. Unless you have a good reason for not attending or not taking part in this interview, the amount of your benefit may be reduced. If you cannot attend at the date and time the interview is booked you must contact us as soon as possible, so that alternative arrangements can be made.
Please let us know immediately by telephoning 0845 604 3719 (textphone: 0845 608 8551) or by your usual method of contacting us.
What will happen at the interview?
The interview will last up to an hour to discuss the help that we may be able to offer you to take the first steps to returning to work. We will be able to tell you about the support that is available and discuss what is right for meeting your needs. At the interview we can offer advice on:
- the steps that can be taken towards getting paid or voluntary work;
- training to update your skills;
- Permitted Work - which could help you to try different kinds of work whilst still being entitled to benefit;
- Tax Credits to top-up low wages, Return To Work Credit and other financial support available
- other help you may be able to access;
- discuss any further support and whether this will be delivered by Jobcenter Plus or Work Programme Providers
What is the Work Programme?
The Work Programme offers specialist support to help you find and keep work. If you become eligible you may be referred to one of our partner organisations, known as providers. They deliver the Work Programme on our behalf. Your adviser can explain more about this at the interview.
Can I get help to attend the interview if I need it?
To help you get to the interview we may be able to provide help with:
- the cost of registered childcare if you have children and would prefer not to bring them with you but have no-one to look after them. (Payment will be made direct to the childcare provider)
- travel costs (you will need to bring proof of these, e.g. travel tickets, with you to the interview)
- any other help you may need to attend the interview
- we will arrange an interpreter if English or Welsh is not your first language
Please contact us before the interview if you would like help with any of the above. We will not be able to provide these for you if they have not been requested before the interview.
Can I bring someone with me to the interview?
Yes, you can bring someone such as a friend or relative with you. However, due to limited space in waiting areas, please only bring one person with you.
If you want to know more
If you want more information about the support that Jobcentre Plus can offer you or you need to contact us about the interview, please get in touch with us on 0845 604 3719, textphone: 0845 608 8551), by your usual method of contacting us or at the address at the top of this letter.
On behalf of the Manager.
Well, there is no way in heck that I can drive there, attend an hours interview, and drive home again, so I guess I'm up pooh creak with no paddle again. If they're not interested in the fact that my condition has deteriorated so much that I can barely leave the house, then they're not going to care that I'll not be able to cope with the interview. So I have no idea what to do now.
The prospect of them forcing me into work .. at the moment, just makes me want to laugh. I'll be blogging about everything I've gone through in the last few weeks at some point over the next few days, so you'll then understand why it seems so laughable to me ... maybe.
God's truth ... I would rather be working than ill. I would love to get up at 7:30am, drive myself to some work place, see familiar faces, sit down at my computer and sink my teeth into a piece of work I didn't finish the night before, greet my boss as he enters with his tie all skewiff coz he slept on the settee again ... and then go to lunch with colleagues, actually be able to eat food I like without worrying about the repercussions it'll have on me later in the day or that it'll send me to sleep within ten minutes of eating it. I'd like to sit watching the clock through the afternoon waiting til I can drive myself home again, and then STILL be able to do what I want with my own life in the evening. People don't realise the luxury they have. All of you out there who curse the sick for pushing your taxes up ... YOU get to work every day .. YOU then get to go home at the end of the day and do far more activity in those few hours after work than I have managed to achieve throughout my entire day ... YOU get to see people, whether that be to argue with them or socialise, you still see people ... and YOU get to build a life. Why the f*** would I have given myself a pay cut of over £12,000 to claim frigging benefits???