London foodbank life: Surreal at times, but dangerous too

More examples of the unfortunates who are forced to use food banks through illness, unemployment and the weird, Catch-22 legal technicalities of the Benefits system. Ann here gives the example of Ben, a labourer, whose claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance has been put on hold and messed up because he took a job, which lasted only two days, on Universal Jobmatch. This is the fraud and error-ridden website set up by Monster on behalf of the DWP. It is, no doubt, claimed as a success by Iain Duncan Smith, though other terms would be more appropriate. Like ‘fraud’, ‘exploitative’, ‘a farce’ and ‘completely shambles’. Unfortunately, Ben Adou is by no means the only person caught in this trap. I have several friends, who’ve also had trouble with their claims for JSA for similarly doing short term work according to Zero Hours Contracts. The system is cumbersome, unworkable, and further forces into poverty those forced to take the low-paid, casual work the system actively seems to promote. Ann suggests that as well as getting the information about the number of people, who have died since being found fit for work by Atos, we also need to find out similar figures for those, who have died under JSA. I think she’s right.

Ann McGauran

Ben Adou hasn’t received jobseeker’s allowance since early March. He came into the foodbank hungry.

I’m pondering the brutal absurdities of day-to-day life for a growing number of the people I come across at this London Trussell Trust foodbank. Sarah (not her real name), wants a job. She’s a gentle and intelligent 28-year-old law graduate with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). A month ago she was nearly made homeless when the hostel told her they were going to evict her. The housing association running the hostel changed its mind at the last minute, but tragically she’s considering escort work as a possible way to clear debts, including a Wonga loan at extortionate rates. What does the future hold for her after she finally worked up the courage to escape a violent home situation? Will Mark, who’s trying to battle both depression and a debilitating shoulder injury, ever get his claim…

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