[personal profile] hutchingsmusic
I was fairly pleased about getting some paid work this week. Until I found out that, after the first £5, the amount you earn is deducted directly from your JSA.

It costs me £10 a time to get to the paid work (which is in Glasgow or Edinburgh). The maths isn't difficult.

Hence the following:

Dear Right Honorable Iain Duncan Smith MP,

I am losing money as a result of honestly declaring my temporary work while claiming Jobseekers' Allowance.

I work short 2-4hr shifts in Edinburgh and Glasgow, each paying about £30, but the cost to get there and back is about £10 (I live in Falkirk, equidistant between the two). I sometimes get one or two shifts per week, all on different days. During the Edinburgh Festival I might get three shifts in Edinburgh in some weeks.

I receive roughly £50/wk in Jobseekers’ Allowance. When I earn money during the week, I am allowed to keep the first £5 (the “disregard”, which I note has not changed since the 1980s or gone up with inflation); the remainder is deducted directly from my benefits. This results in the following perverse scenarios:

Shifts worked Amount “earned” JSA received Travel costs Net income
0 0 £50 0 £50
1 £30 £25 £10 £45
2 £60 £0 £20 £40

To sum up, I actually have less money at the end of a week in which I have done paid work and declared it honestly.

This is without taking into account that my income from temporary work is taxed at normal rate (yes, I can claim that back at the end of the year, but that still means I have less cash on a weekly basis) or that I may have to buy lunch in Edinburgh or Glasgow on days when I’m working there.

I hope I do not need to point out that this is perverse, demotivating, damaging to the economy, and likely to encourage benefit fraud. There is absolutely no incentive to declare paid work under this regime when it has costs associated with it (travel, in this case), or indeed to even seek paid work, because it’s costing me money when I do it!

I would like to suggest an alternative, in which half of earnings over the first £10 are deducted from benefits (reflecting the fact that the costs associated with getting to work can be a significant fraction of earnings, for short shifts in a different city). This would change the current farcical scenario to the following:

Shifts worked Amount “earned” JSA received Travel costs Net income
0 0 £50 0 £50
1 £30 £40 £10 £60
2 £60 £25 £20 £65
3 £90 £10 £30 £70

It’s still not great, but it’s much better than actually losing money as a result of working.

I very much hope to hear from you soon, as the current policy is actively damaging to jobseekers, the economy, and the government.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hutchings

Thoughts and additions?

Date: 2012-06-16 10:05 am (UTC)
taimatsu: (yomikoface)
From: [personal profile] taimatsu
You're totally right; I suspect IDS's response will be that Universal Credit will change all this. I think it very unlikely any change would be made before then, as it's being introduced relatively soon (less than a year).

If you have any queries I might be able to help with (not involving your specific claim info) let me know.

Date: 2012-06-16 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com
I'm glad people are aware of the problem at least. There isn't some sort of system for claiming travel costs, is there? I know you can claim travel costs for an interview somehow, so hopefully the same thing might apply for paid work, but my advisor didn't mention it yesterday if so.

Date: 2012-06-16 11:12 am (UTC)
taimatsu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] taimatsu
I don't THINK so but I will hunt through guidance and see if there's anything I can find. Note this is not my area of work so pinches of salt required. Money for travel to interview comes from the Travel To Interview Scheme (TIS) so it's specific to interviews.

You could mention to your adviser that you are working and keen to keep working but it's costing you money (i.e. you are not better off in work at present) and see what they say?

Date: 2012-06-16 11:13 am (UTC)
taimatsu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] taimatsu
It is definitely a known problem. When I was claiming JSA I only took temp work if it was longer than 3 weeks, as it was all full-time so I had to sign off, but the difficulty of making a reclaim and the waiting time meant it wasn't worth it for less. These were not jobs I was being required to apply for which made it easier to approach it like that.

Date: 2012-06-16 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Excellent letter!

And grrr to stupid system.

Date: 2012-06-16 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aiwendel.livejournal.com
Excellent letter - only change I'd make is in either lay out or punctuation of your tables - it took me a little while to interpret them and colons and commas (matching heading and content) or an actual table would help to make this easier to read for a busy person.

Well done.

Date: 2012-06-16 01:32 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-16 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meaningrequired.livejournal.com
Very good! I hope you get a response and we can hear about it soon!

Date: 2012-06-16 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] willow-red.livejournal.com
If it helps any to compare to the other side of the pond, in Colorado (US), the first $100/week that you earn while claiming unemployment benefits is ignored. After that, it's a dollar-for-dollar deduction, until your income reaches the amount of your benefit, at which point you receive $0 from the state. Also, you can usually fill out tax forms such that no money from a part-time job is withheld for taxes.

(I've been through the unemployment system twice in Colorado. I don't know when the $100 limit was set, but it does not increase with inflation. Benefits do increase with inflation, but they are capped so low that pretty much any middle-class job maxes them out. Also, rules vary by state, which is why I can only speak to one.)

I wish you the best of luck!

Date: 2012-06-17 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com
Thanks - the point that, for once, the US social security system is doing it better than us might be sufficiently surprising :)

Date: 2012-06-16 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
Yes, what [livejournal.com profile] taimatsu said.

If you are especially keen that a minister should read your letter and sign the response, the best thing to do is not to write directly to the minister, but to your own MP asking them to pass the letter on to the relevant minister (probably Lord Freud in this case rather than IDS). I know that sounds odd, but there's a convention that ministers have to write personally to MPs but not to members of the public.

You might want to ask for specific reassurance that you'll be better off under Universal Credit (I'm pretty sure you will), and ask when you'll get moved over to it.

Date: 2012-06-17 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com
Thanks, that's handy to know.
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