We are looking for a competent and experienced individual to join our team of supervisors to provide second tier support to our front line team of advisers & assessors.
You will help to maintain a positive working environment where our people can develop to do their best and ensure that we provide a high quality advice service to our clients.
An excellent communicator, with experience of advice & ideally casework you must be able to prioritise work, meet deadlines and manage workload in a busy and pressurised environment.
Applicants should have:-
• 2 years full time recent CAB experience (or part-time equivalent). • Good communication skills • Experience of supervising a mix of volunteer and paid staff. • Ability to both enable and develop a front line team. • Possess excellent IT skills.
Chris Smith lay in a hospital bed, dying of cancer.
He should have been helped by the system, the welfare state which was established to help people like Chris.
Instead, the bombarded him with texts telling him he had to apply for jobs, and letters urging him to come to ‘job workshops.’
Lee Marlow reports.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start with the tragic story of Chris Smith, a plumber from Leicester who died last month. You could begin with the disease which claimed his life. Chris had cancer; lung cancer, skin cancer and a cancer that spread to his spine. He was diagnosed in April. Although Chris refused to believe it, he was dying.
As he was dying, Chris, 59, and his partner, Maggie, were embroiled in an unnecessary row with the Work and Pensions department.
Chris, a qualified plumber, had been ill. A poorly knee had kept him off work and then he began to feel sick.
He was called in for health tests. Government assessors told him he wasn’t ill enough. They deemed him fit for work. His benefits were stopped. Chris didn’t think it was right, but he didn’t complain, either. He started to look for work.
Chris didn’t know it, but he already had cancer. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few weeks later.
And, by rights, this is where the story should end. A man with terminal lung cancer should not be ordered to find work. He shouldn’t have his benefits stopped. This is what the Welfare State was created for, the safety net which cares for the sick and the poorly.
Chris Smith slipped through this safety net.
His partner, Maggie Black, told the job centre about Chris’s cancer. They nodded and made all the right noises. They agreed Chris was not fit for work.
But nothing changed. His benefits were not reinstated.
And then came the texts. One a week usually, sometimes more, imploring Chris to get on his bike to find work, to apply for this plumbing job or that one.
Chris, meanwhile, was in hospital, having chemotherapy, whiling away his days vomiting as the cancer ate away at him, from his lungs to his skin and into his spine.
And then, after the texts, there was the letter. The letter from the job centre informing Chris he needed to report to the benefits office for a special meeting to step up his efforts to find work.
The letter arrived the day after Chris died. It was opened by his grieving partner.
“I stood by the front door and read it and had to reread it, again and again,” says Maggie. “I couldn’t believe it. How could they be so insensitive? How could they get something like this so wrong?”
No-one from the job centre, no-one from the Department of Work and Pensions, apologised. Instead, they carried on texting Chris job vacancies.
Another letter, inviting him to apply for more jobs, landed on their doormat this week, along with letters from the council informing Maggie her housing benefits had been stopped. “This is what happens,” she said. “One thing goes wrong and it’s like a domino effect – everything else tumbles, too.”
Maggie didn’t know where to turn. Now, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and her MP are helping out.
Leicester West MP Liz Kendall says she is “appalled” by the case and has promised the family she will send “a strongly-worded letter” to Secretary of State Iain-Duncan Smith.
The real tragedy here, though, is that what happened to Chris and Maggie is not an isolated incident.
“I see it a lot,” said Margot Wood, the Macmillan welfare benefits case worker supervisor at Leicester’s CAB office.
“We investigate many complaints from people about Employment Support Allowance and the way it is administered.
“The Government is supposedly streamlining the benefits system, stripping away the bureaucracy and making it easier for both claimants and administrators.”
They haven’t, says Mrs Wood. “It’s a complicated, cumbersome system – and quite often, as you can see in this case, one part of the system doesn’t know what the other part is doing. And that leads to the kind of error we’ve seen here. It should never happen.”
It didn’t just happen to Chris and Maggie. It happened to Sarah, too.
Sarah is a single mum from Leicester. She lives in a safe house after she fled a violent relationship. We’ve agreed not to reveal her real identity.
A mother of a three-year-old child, Sarah recently gave birth to another daughter. Tragically, her baby died a few days later.
A grief-stricken Sarah received a letter, telling her to report for a meeting to help her find a job. The meeting was two days before her daughter’s funeral.
Still, she made it. She showed up. She sat in their office and answered their questions.
And then they wrote to her and said, because she managed to make it for the meeting, she was fit for work. Her Employment Support Allowance was cancelled.
Advisers at the CAB say it was a “cruel and heartless” decision and are helping Sarah to appeal against it.
So why is this happening?
You have to go back, back to October 2008, when Employment Support Allowance was introduced by Gordon Brown’s Labour Government.
The benefit replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support and was paid to disabled or long-term ill people who cannot work.
Initially, the benefit was paid only to new claimants. Under the coalition Government, a huge programme began to migrate existing claimants to the new system. It has led to many complaints, according to Leicester CAB’s Margot. “It takes up a lot of our time.
“The set up is very complicated, with various departments involved and a lot of bureaucracy.”
Inevitably, mistakes are being made – as was the case with Maggie and Chris.
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Try telling that to the 1.3 million part-timers who are desperate for full-time work, or the 600,000 temporary staff who want something permanent.
Or the workers forced to swallow below-inflation pay rises, even though their employers are sitting on piles of cash. Or those working at the one in 10 companies already planning a wage freeze this year.
And how about the millions left reeling by brutal benefit cuts? Are they feeling better off?
Yesterday’s 0.2% annual drop in wages was skewed by bonus payouts delayed until April 2013 to cash in on the Government’s cut in the top rate of tax to 45p.
A better measure – regular pay – is up just 0.6% in the past year, three times slower than the rise in living costs.
One reason wages are increasing so slowly is that so few people are moving jobs, partly because they’re spooked about jumping ship.
That’s hardly surprising as we’ve lumbered ourselves with a record £1.45trillion of personal debt.