Ex-Universal Credit Call Centre Manager Speaks Out!
The Truth About Those On Benefits.
Call Centre Manager Comes Clean.
As you may have noticed a lot of my articles have been about the new benefit Universal Credit. Here is the story of a man Bayard Tarpley who worked as a Case Manager in Universal Credit call centre.
Ironically enough Bayard Tarpley was unemployed and was in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (One of the benefits UC is replacing) when he landed the job as Case Manager. Tarpley has stated in an article for Sky News that call centre operatives dealing with claimants for UC were trained in how to get these claimants off the phone as quickly as possible.
Tarpley along with others did 6 weeks of training whereby mock application forms for UC were filled out by the trainees. Supposedly to understand what UC is about, how to fill out the forms and how to deal with UC customers on the phone. For example, each trainee when filling out a form would pretend to be a single mother, a man with disabilities, someone paying rent etc. So as best to understand claimants scenarios and help them accordingly.
What was not discussed however was how to deal with someone who for example was a single parent living in temporary housing, who got Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for a child and yet was facing a cut in their tax credits.
After the 6 weeks training a lot of the information, the trainees had learned was invalid. Invalid because of rules governing benefits had changed again. During that time when trainees were doing their jobs, each was assigned a mentor. This mentor was giving them information supposedly to help trainees that conflicted with what the trainees had learned during the initial 6 weeks training.
Obviously, this conflicting information was of no help to call centre workers. Also when claimants rang up to claim for UC or see how their application was going false or misleading information was then given to claimants much of the time. In fact, Tarpley reminisces on the fact that different UC call centres often got information wrong (when speaking to claimants) and that this was a standing in-house joke at the Grimsby call (where Tarpley worked). To see which call centre got the most information wrong when dealing with claimants.
Obviously, this is not funny to claimants struggling to pay their bills being given the wrong information or being fobbed off as call centre operatives were instructed to do.
in 2018 Bayard Tarpley resigned from the job no longer able to stomach this. Tarpley has defended his colleagues saying that despite all the falseness call centre operatives really do care about claimants.
Tarpley has said that speaking out now was the right thing to do to make the world aware of his experiences.
Government Universal Credit Emblem.
The Ins and Outs.
I attended along with my wife a Universal Credit so-called group session. This session was going to tell us what UC was about and everyone claiming from the DWP on various benefits had to attend.
There was probably about 10 of us of various ages, sexes, etc and two Jobcentre members of staff were on hand. One was a young guy called Jack and the other an older guy by name of Tony.
Jack would be taking the UC lecture as it were and after Tony sat to the side would be manually taking our signatures so we could get paid. Jack introduced himself as 'Jack' (who else?) and told us about UC and what as claimants was expected of us. Universal Credit covers 6 benefits and instead of being paid fortnightly claimants will now be paid monthly. Those who were paying rent in private accommodation would have their rent money put into whatever UC payment they were receiving straight into their bank. If there were problems paying the rent to landlords Jack instructed us that procedures had been put in place to deal with this. As I heard this I thanked the Lord above we owned our own house.
Jack said those on existing benefits like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker Allowance (JSA) would continue for the foreseeable on those benefits. That would be the case unless claimants circumstances changed and then they would be moved over to Universal Credit. Jack admitted that not all was perfect in Universal Creditland and highlighted the problems that were occurring with the roll out of the benefit. Jack tackled the issue of people having to wait 5 weeks until they received their UC payment and said claimants could borrow an advance payment until their first payment came through. Of course, the advance payment would have to be paid back over 12 months. This would be done by taking an amount from their monthly UC payment.
Jack explained that unlike the old benefit system when you got a job you signed off. With UC this doesn't happen you remain on the benefit and as your wages increase from a job so the amount of UC you receive goes down in accordance.
Jack said that nothing had changed as regards having a jobcentre appointment to claim UC. You would agree with your work coach to look for work 35 hours a week (really?) and if you did not comply with the agreement you could face cuts to your benefit (no surprise there then!).
You may not have to attend the Jobcentre so much depending on what sort of UC benefit you were in receipt of. To claim UC Jack said everyone had to be computer savvy and if you were not now was the time to do something about it. Jack said the Jobcentre could not actually help you fill in your online application but could offer computers for doing so. However, Jack made it clear that if people required help from the Jobcentre to do this they should be quick as the Jobcentre could not accommodate everyone.
Jack explained because of yet another delay to the rollout of the benefit it would not be fully operational until at least the early 2020's. However, if Jeremy Corbyn and Labour come to power before and in that time UC could be scrapped.
After that, we signed on and left the Jobcentre. Next time it will be a continuation of the UC lecture and I can hardly wait - not!