This week I had to tackle the task of switching from employment to benefits. You would think that these people would talk to each other to make things easier, but I guess that is too obvious. Instead I had to call housing benefit, jobcentre and the tax credit people. Knowing that they only work form the date you inform them I had rung all three on the day I was given my redundancy letter. I explained I would be redundant in a month’s time but taking the final week as holiday. Pretty straight forward, or so I thought. I called the job centre and explained exactly that, I was told to call back the day I actually stopped work. As too the tax credit people. Housing benefit are a bit more clued up and took note that the change was happening and actually made sure I knew who else I had to call. Gold star for housing benefit.
So I worked my last day in the office and next day armed with P45 I contacted the three amigos again. Tax credits have told me to call back at the end of the month as the holiday week is still classed as employment. Housing benefits took a copy of my p45 and have adjusted my claim ready for when it changes. They can already tell me what and when I will get paid. Another gold star for them. Job centre, well I don’t think they will be gaining any gold stars form me. I filled out my claim on line the day after working as I was advised when I called them. A lady calls next day to go over more questions. Turns out a lot of questions and even I by the end of it couldn’t remember how many children I had let alone their dates of birth. Next I was informed to attend an interview the next day at the job centre and warned that only exceptional circumstances would be accepted if I didn’t attend.
Â So off I trot to the job centre, 10 minutes early as usual for me. To say they have had a face lift since I last went is a bit of understatement. They are all trendy now in primary colours, sofas and not one but two security guards. Gone are the days of walls of jobs on note cards, instead its full of fangled touch screen machines complete with a reception that looks like she is a maitre de of a restaurant. I have to see lady first who goes over my online claim and the questions from the telephone call. Of course it is wrong, the lady on the phone must have got bored and click happy. Once corrected I am asked to wait for the lone parent advisor. This is the lady I want to see, I have questions, lots of them. I have even written them down and have pen ready to fill in the answers. An hour later I leave despondent and with no answers. I was basically told to ask all those things if I still want to know in 6 months time.
As for knowing when and what I will be paid, well your guess is as good as mine. At a time where I am going to a smaller income, I am responsible enough to have an excel sheet that tells me what I have to spend and when. ( by the way Christmas this year will be moving to 4 months later as my excel sheet tells me I can afford it then) I do know what I will get once they have sorted it all out as I checked on Entitled To and that is pretty much accurate for my circumstances.
So my advice if your about to go this route.
- Call all of them as soon as you know your circumstances are going to change.
- Check what your are entitled to, don’t rely hearsay.
- Explain to your landlord. Housing benefit is paid 4 weekly and most peoples rent is monthly. If he knows and is forewarned he might be more lenient.
- Keep a note of every telephone call you have with any of them.
- Be prepared to wait for all the benefits to be sorted out. Speed and easy transition is not in their vocabulary.
If any one else has some advice please chip in and comment