Like many single parents I receive help with my rent, but unlike many people my level of housing benefit fluctuates, because I am self-employed. Some weeks I earn nothing & other weeks a reasonable amount (well enough to live on). As I write this I am approaching the end of the month & have no idea whether the contract I have been working on for the last 3 months will continue into next month. Also one of my longstanding clients (coming up to 2 years), has not let me know how many hours she is looking for this week. I live in hope that these contracts will continue. Sometimes I wonder whether the anxiety & IBS symptoms are worth it, but I tell myself it is!
Back to the latest joyfulness in my life! As my rental agreement was due for renewal I signed it & took it to my local borough council, just the same as I have every year. Although not asked to I decided to take my original account books with me, mainly because I thought that perhaps I was being overpaid as I have been working more hours recently. Despite the fact they had copies up to August 2013; the clerk took a copy of the whole year. Job done (or so I thought)!
A week later I receive a letter signed ‘Assessment Officer’ stating the accounts were non-scannable, one I have never encountered before and a form. I read the form and quickly realised that a page was missing, not a lot I can do on a Saturday, except fume! Monday morning came I phone them up to request the remaining paperwork, only to discover it is not a one page document but three pages.
Having received the form I duly completed it and as stated supplied a full copy of my monthly income/ expenses/ net profit, as well as a 3 line account (which is acceptable to HMRC). I took myself to the council offices with my form, only to be told that I needed to fill in the form with my expenses, despite the form stating that a copy of my accounts was acceptable. I was told that the Benefits Team expect each box to be completed on the form otherwise they don’t like it! What a waste of ink! You’ve already got it, not good enough. To put it mildly I was annoyed as I had to take the form home & categorise my expenses to fit their boxes.
This particular benefits clerk deserves the jobsworth title & seems to get off on a power trip. This is not the first time I have encountered this from her. She previously asked me why I was living in the UK when I jointly owned a house with my ex-husband in another country. My response “I don’t want to & my daughter is settled at school here”.
Not only is this form out of date, as it asks for a Schedule D form. To those of you who are self-employed you may have heard of these but I hadn’t, apparently this is the old self-assessment process.
Why didn’t I complain, I hear you scream, perhaps because for one of the only times I am frightened that if I don’t comply my claim will be held up and I may get into arrears. Unfortunately fear and intimidation enables people like this to continue their behaviour. There seems to be an assumption that it is okay to be rude to their ‘customers’. Although I am usually articulate I find it hard to stand up to people like this, I didn’t ask to need help with my living expenses, I am always polite and I am doing my best!

To those of you who may wonder the outcome I have received a letter stating that my housing benefit has been increased slightly. However, I am sure that I am being overpaid again & dreading my next trip to the office to deal with the officious benefits team. In fact I am putting it off to the end of the month.