Being on income support as I was working under 16 hours and my youngest now ten, I was called into the Job Centre to update my details. The recent changes mean I can no longer be on income support, but this was no hardship as my work is getting busier and can now switch to being over 16hours a week.
Being a single mum you get a special department to deal with it all as they are supposed to be geared up for single parents – Lone Parent Advisors. I saw supposed to be as I wouldn’t really call it geared up. They can do lots of what if calculations and can talk through what is your best situation but when I talked about the changed to free school meal entitlement that will be changing in some parts in September they knew nothing about it. At the moment you can’t be in receipt of Tax Credits to qualify for free school meals and when you have two bottomless pits to feed the £20 a week, that it is worth to me, does get counted on. In September and February this is changing so check with your local school meals office to see if it might affect you.
One other thing that was alarming to say the least with the ‘Lone Parent Advisor’ set up is how much information they got wrong. To help they do an electronic service where they notify all the relevant offices that you have changed your details. For me this was tax credits and housing benefit. I thought it would save me lots of phone calls and providing proof. I was wrong. Yes the information was sent to all the correct places but some of the information was incorrect. This has a knock on effect and was slightly worrying when the rent was due to go out. I was suddenly faced with not being able to pay my rent only because they received the wrong information and had to recalculate it all and whilst the computers where doing there calculation they couldn’t tell me what was actually going to be paid and when.
I only found out they had the wrong information because I rang all the departments to check they had received all the information. Never using the job centres tell them all service I wasn’t convinced it would work. When you’re in the situation that every penny is counted for, this sort of error can be stressful to say the least.
So my advice when dealing with anything benefit related is check and check again. Don’t worry your becoming a nuisance by calling every day. If I hadn’t if called I would be explain to my landlord why his rent wasn’t paid.