Subverting the crystal maze. Chapter 14

The Job Centre staff were more affable;  they speak my  local dialect, they sounded closer(?) and most importantly they don’t have a crystal ball let alone a maze. The immediate advantage of not going through a call centre was having direct access to humans with real emotions and compassion. Their response felt real. When  I was  transferred to my local Job Centre, Anne Marie took my call. I won’t lie, it was challenging  initially to disentangle what assistance I required from her, but at least we both spoke Swahili.

She quickly realised  that what  I needed was  a home visit as opposed to a home assessment.  (the difference was lost on me but apparently this was the main challenge to understanding back at DWP). Anne-Marie confirmed that I had in fact already  been referred to the home visiting team, but the lady with the appropriate skills  to visit me, was off for another two weeks.  This was another of my lucky white heather moments.  It was also quite obvious  from Anne- Marie’s commiseratory tone that my previous  febrile outburst  with the DWP, had been communicated by some unseen red flag, to alert  call takers that I had rabid tendencies.

Anne-Marie anticipated my frustration  realising the appointment was some weeks away. She deftly averted another outburst by convincing me to leave it with her to allow her to amend that delay.  Her tactics included a promise to call me back. I have to admit I was sceptical about this; even in a short space of time throughout this process I’d lost faith in basic human ability to keep promises. I felt vulnerable; I was uncertain, could I  invest my trust in this individual given the faltering  progress I’d made with this claim for ESA?  Shame on me. Anne- Marie was not a Ben, she did more than her job required.  Unable to contact the home visiting team personally she also emailed them about my plight hoping to awaken their sense of compassion and arrange an earlier visit. Not only had she done this but knowing she was not coming to work the following day,  she had tasked a trusted colleague to contact me and confirm that the home visiting team had at least been in touch.

I received a telephone call from the home visiting team, unaware of Anne-Marie’s efforts in the background. I considered that in the absence of a call back from her she had forgotten about me. I was just so grateful someone was going to come and visit me and get this claim form organised.  An hour later, a second call from the Job Centre, confirmed Anne-Marie was a woman of her word.   Not only had her trusted colleague followed up on her request to check the home visiting team had taken action, she was making sure I was happy that something  was finally in place. Lost faith was instantly  restored. Not only did I receive a call to confirm the stand-in arrangements,  a letter confirming the appointment arrived and a text message was pinged to my phone! Technology was alive and kicking at Universal Credit  after all. At last,  I had subverted  the crystal maze.

On week 6, an officer arrived to take my claim, not assess my ability to be seen at home. He  was demonstrably relieved that I had a form I completed earlier (saving him an hour) and he was elated that I was able to provide him with, not only my verifying documents but signed photocopies to take away. Owing to my preparations he spent 15 minutes on my visit. And I’m wondering what all the fuss was about.

All I had to do now was wait for a decision and payment……………oh and physio.

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Photo by Oleg Magni on


Is there anyone able to help? Chapter 13

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

Five weeks after the accident I was still confined to bed 🛏 . I was managing to navigate the stairs with help and take a shower 🚿 if my husband was around. I was still in considerable pain 💊 and this was limiting everyday normal physical activity. The same might be said about my brain,  🧠 as it was being impacted  by both boredom and meds. So I could not work.

The home visit for my ESA remained elusive so I had no choice now but to chase it up. From my call log I identified the number☎️  I used before to ring for an update. Learning from previous failures  I called at 11am which,  even with the crystal maze element,  🔮proved useful as it was answered within 20 minutes. In fact this caught me a little by surprise; Mozart  was playing on a loop on loudspeaker on my phone. The monotonous lilt was boring me into a semi-slumber, although the relaxation 😋 was a welcome relief,  when a brisk “Hello” interrupted my reverie. I grabbed the phone  before she had the chance to hang up and managed to articulate reasonably quickly  that I was calling about my planned home visit. Was that a stifled a laugh? 🤪

This was the call that rumbled the dirty tricks 😡. deployed by the previous two encumbents.  Claims were recorded over the phone at this call centre.  Not emailed. Despite the two earlier calls to this number I  learned, despite my details having been taken, they had no trace of 😵 me. She was about to start the process of form filling when I begged her to check again.  Up to this point I must have been speaking Swahili 💩 as she could hear me  but  clearly not understand what I was on about. I’m  unaware of what exactly caused her to stop in her tracks and  check some other system,  but she finally found my details and lo and behold  agreed I had been referred for a home 🏡visit. My elation was short lived, but she could not help me,  I now had to call the DWP.

The DWP has a slightly less confusing version of the crystal maze 🔮to permit  you access  to a human person. I felt quite smug to have made it through on the first attempt. This was another trick.  The human person that answered my call  was only programmed to provide responses to the right questions. There are no clues🔬 provided as to what these questions are. There is a strong assumption that you have  been on Mastermind 📺 with DWP/ESA as your specialist subject. No normal, polite interactive conversation  where you each take turns at trying to find common ground where they assess your need and direct your enquiry, here. Every thing was responded to with  with a sneering 🤨combination of “I don’t know what you are talking about”,  “who gave you this number?”  “This is not a Universal Credit Line”

I don’t know if it was the pain, the boredom, the frustration,  or my patent  lack of ability in all matters benefit, but I lost it. 🤬 He had the ability to put me through to a Job Centre in my area but  was electing not to. I fumed and snarled, (articulately of course) the rabid dog 🐕 was back, go Jax ! And somewhere in the tirade I must have appealed to his inner conscience, either that or he just wanted rid of me, because mid stream🐸 he put me through to a helpful person at the Job Centre………….

You need to eat well to climb Everest. Chapter 11

I:Daniel Blake was a moving and tragic story 😕 of  a man denied employment and support allowance (ESA)  when he falls ill and cannot work.  The dramamentry was designed to evoke extreme responses at the horror 😈 and unfairness of the bureaucracy that engulfs the system.  It made me desperately sad, and deeply ashamed at the way we treat those in need.

However here I was in a similar situation albeit less dramatic.   Reflecting on my experience I’d suggest navigating the process is akin to conquering Everest.🏔  For the uninitiated  the best place to start is Google.👀  This promptly directed me to the government site for all things ESA. I wasn’t actually prepared to leave my brain 🧠 at the depository but after an initial forage into the unknown it was clear mine was not wired for this particular  escape room. It would have been helpful 😺 to know someone who had done it before but I only had Daniel Blake and we know how that story unfolded.

Climbers burn 20,000 calories on the day of the summit climb on Everest  and an average of 10,000 a day on the rest of the climb. My appetite 👅 hasn’t been that great so I wasn’t particularly  physically able for this  challenge either.  It affected my ability to process effectively the information available; confusion  😵 began on the website.  There are 3 types of ESA, new style, contributory and income related. I selected contributory, easy. Well you’d think so. Although there are 3 types  an important distinction before you decide on your choice depends on whether or not you live in a Universal Credit 👾 postcode. This is important as it immediately reduces your choice  from 3 to 2 types. Universal Credit it seems  is not universal at all.  😡

I typed in my postcode and reviewed the extensive list before I deduced that I did not live in a Universal Credit area.❌  Except I do.✅  Told you brains are not useful. You can only claim contributory ESA if you don’t live in a Universal Credit area. As far as I could see I didn’t, so I phoned ☎️ to make the claim. That’s when my climb to the summit definitely  demanded more calories; it took 90 minutes to answer the call.  “Sorry you need to make a claim for new ESA you live in a Universal Credit area” “ How do I do that?”You’ve guessed it another  number and another 90 minute wait on the phone.⏰

You need to be entitled to claim Universal Credit if you want to claim new style ESA.  Universal credit is a benefit based on your income. I do not meet the eligibility for Universal Credit. I know I’ve made sufficient contributions but according to the new rules and guidance I won’t get it. 🐷 This is immaterial however as I was claiming contributory ESA which is incorporated in new style ESA but only in Universal Credit areas.  Still with me? I’m losing sight of that summit, and the will to live.  🤢

My call was now ringing well after closing time but determinedly I hung on. It was answered  but rather than have a meaningful or informed conversation I was hurriedly asked for my details and sent a claim form by email  and rather smugly  I was thinking  “Yes I’ve smashed it!” 🤩

I completed the form and then combed the website for the next steps. OK maybe I didn’t comb more of a skim.  Eureka! Its the job centre. I despatched my husband 🙃 off to our local job centre with the completed, printed form in a discreet envelope ( he doesn’t like drawing attention to himself) and he dropped it off before making a bolt for the exit. He’s much better at escape rooms than me.  🤪

There I am lying staring at the ceiling when the phone rings, “ Hello, Is that Jacqueline? It’s the job centre here, you’ve dropped off your claim for ESA,  sorry you don’t do this. You need to make a claim over the phone then make an appointment at the job centre, can you get the person who dropped this off to come back for it………………”


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Photo by Avinash Patel on