Jobless woman left penniless despite winning benefits appeal

By Jonathan Kalmus, November 15, 2013
Staff denied claimant money

Staff denied claimant money

A jobless Jewish woman was left penniless for five months and had to borrow money to buy food after the Department for Work and Pensions failed to inform her that her benefits had been restored following a successful appeal.

The woman, a university graduate from Salford who does not want to be named, was told by Jobcentre staff in May that she could not be paid jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) because her refusal to work on Shabbat reduced her chances of finding work.

In what is the latest in a string of cases of alleged discrimination against unemployed Jews, the woman appealed against the decision via an internal Department for Work and Pensions process, but received several letters stating that she was still denied the benefit.

In reality, she had won her appeal in August, but had not been informed of the fact by the DWP. She found out only following an investigation prompted by her Manchester MP, Graham Stringer.

“I’ve been going to the jobcentre for weeks, and no one told me that I had won the appeal. I was still being denied the benefit,” she said.

She added that the withdrawal of JSA for refusing to work on Shabbat was “blatant discrimination”.

The case came to light after a letter to the DWP from Mr Stringer prompted national Jobcentre director Neil Couling to look into the matter. He found that the woman had been paid £600 of her benefit in August, but had not been told. Mr Couling ordered a second payment of £900, the amount still owed to her.

Mr Couling declined to explain why the woman had not been informed of the success of her appeal, or why JSA payments had been made in lump sums following an MP’s letter rather than the normal bi-weekly payments.

However, in a statement, a DWP spokesperson said: “We have always been clear and categorical that we do not discriminate against religious beliefs in the application of jobseeker’s allowance.”

Earlier this year, Jacob Slinger, a Charedi man from Greater Manchester, won a tribunal appeal against the DWP after he was denied JSA for six months for refusing to work on Shabbat.

Last updated: 6:45am, November 15 2013