30 November 2021

From the frontline: Desperation at DWP

A DWP work coach describes their struggles to make ends meet on chronic low pay.

It’s payday - time to head to the pub or pay off those bills. Christmas is not far on the horizon so your mind might turn towards purchasing those special gifts for friends and loved ones. However, those of us barely surviving on low wages, cannot entertain such notions of luxury.

I am a work coach in the Department for Work and Pensions in the North West, a civil servant. But amongst our number you will not find a single bowler hat or gold-plated pay packet or pension pot. 

I’m glad I made it to payday, it is a relief. Not just because I can now spend some hard-earned money on the essentials of life but because it has been a dark last two weeks.

12 days ago, after I’d paid my bills, I ran out of money. I was forced to rummage through my own pockets trying to find small change to help me survive. Altogether I managed to scrimp and scrape less than five pounds. This had to last me nearly 2 weeks.

As I went to work each day to assist claimants, many of whom are in a worse situation than myself, my mind wandered to how I was going to feed myself properly over the next 12 days. 

When you have a public sector job, particularly as a civil servant, people assume you can make ends meet. 

Chronic low pay

Government ministers are wilfully ignorant of the effects chronic low pay has on people like me – a single gentleman living in housing association accommodation.

Despite all the advancements in society, particularly in the realm of technology, inequality is at the heart of 21st Century Britain. 

It is not overstating it to say I feel like I am living in Victorian times, where the pleasures and comforts that make life worth living are denied someone like me.

I did make it through the 12 days to today’s payday but a combination of not eating properly and the overall stress of surviving, has had a detrimental effect on my mental health.

I do have moments where the daily grind takes its toll to such an extent, I imagine what it would like not to feel this way and be done with it.

I know the government doesn’t care about low-paid civil servants, who in many cases claim the benefits they administer. Levelling up means nothing to me or to claimants I try my best to serve. 

Will I make the next payday? I do hope so, but hope is one thing that is in short supply.

What is your experience? Email editor@pcs.org.uk