It is vital for those people who have recently lost their jobs to get accurate and comprehensive advice from the key government departments. We have reviewed recent publications which show a lack of joined-up working, some errors and a disregard of the needs of those with disabilities.
This is detrimental to the interests of those that they are purporting to help.
Find your way back to work
Jobcentre Plus has recently published Find your way back to work which is intended to show what support is available to get people back to work.
In a six page document it provides three pages of help.
In those three pages it includes no less than nine suggestions that the reader should visit the Directgov website together with a further six suggestions to visit other websites.
Cross references to other websites are indeed helpful to users of the internet. But if all you have is a hard copy of this leaflet, of what use are fifteen referrals to the internet to get vital information?
Not only are the links of little use, they are misleading. For example, the leaflet tells you that if you have lost your job you should notify the Tax Credit Office; but instead of giving you the number to ring, it advises you to visit the Directgov website.
The leaflet provides nine telephone numbers, but only two with textphone alternatives for the hard of hearing. There is no help for those who might have sight difficulties. This is probably a breach of the Disability Discrimination Acts.
“Real help now” from Directgov and the Cabinet Office
On Directgov (public services all in one place), a new Real help now campaign is being promoted by the Cabinet Office. Clearly this is a very good idea which tries to bring together the full range of government help for those who are suffering in the current financial crisis. But to be helpful it has to be done well and collaboratively across government silos.
They are not quite succeeding. The cornerstone appears to be a series of booklets, one of which (Real help now - for people - for businesses ) can be downloaded.
It is always disturbing when you refer to a leaflet and you see errors immediately. The leaflet on page 18 states:
‘If you don’t have children, you may also be eligible for Working Tax Credit if you are over 25 and working more than 30 hours a week.
If your circumstances change, for example your income falls, you may be entitled to more help.’
The first error is that you have to be over 24 (i.e. 25 and over) and not over 25. But yet again the hours requirement in this context is wrong: it should be ‘30 hours or more’ not ‘more than 30 hours’.
Even more disturbing, no mention is made that you can claim Working Tax Credit when working only 16 hours a week if you have a disability, or are aged at least 50 and are returning to work after claiming specified benefits. It is no wonder that take-up for these categories is low.
The range of help offered in the leaflet for people on a low income is really only a small fraction of what is actually available. There is also a lack of textphone numbers and clear help for those with sight impairments.
Directgov also contains very misleading information about the advantages of Working Tax Credit, for example, they have not updated information on some parts of their site for two years.
Take this example:
'Jon Barry is aged 30, not married and lives alone. He works full-time and earns £10,000 a year. He gets about £12 a week in tax credits.'
Jon would actually be entitled to tax credits of around double that amount.
Jobcentre Plus have issued a new Bereavement leaflet (DWP 1027) in the last couple of months. It lacks the tax information that someone coping with a bereavement needs to have. At least the predecessor leaflet D49 was something to which HMRC would refer their bereaved customers.
Besides, the new leaflet makes errors in quoting the hours needed to qualify for Working Tax Credit (both in relation to 16 and 30 hours).
There is no escape from government departmental errors, not even in death.
Contact: John Andrews (Tel: 0844 579 6700, Fax: 0844 579 6701)