A YOUNG jobseeker has had her unemployment benefit suspended after missing an appointment – because she was having an over-the-phone interview.
Lauren Arrowsmith, 22, from Burt Close, Peterlee, says she tried numerous times straight after her interview with a Sunderland call centre to contact the Peterlee Jobcentre to tell them the reason for missing the appointment.
But she said Department of Work and Pension (DWP) bosses still went ahead and cut her £51-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Lauren said: “I’m trying my best to get a job and I thought the interview should take more priority. I want to get out and work again and not stay on benefits.”
The former Shotton Hall school student has been jobless since January, after finishing a six-month call centre contract. She said until then she had always worked from leaving school.
Lauren added that the phone call came “out of the blue”, on August 15, and she did not realise how long it would take.
As part of her JSA claim, she must attend the Jobcentre monthly to get help looking for work, as well as “sign-on” every other week.
She said she tried calling the centre numerous times after her interview, but couldn’t get through, and when she did, was asked to attend the next day.
But last week, she attended another meeting and was told her money was being stopped for six weeks.
Lauren, who pays board to her parents, said: “I asked the advisor, ‘if having a job interview isn’t a valid enough reason, what is?’ She was due to have a hardship meeting on August 27 to appeal, but a decision was not expected for another week and she said as she is not pregnant, a carer or disabled her “chances are slim”.
Lauren, who is expected to look for 20 jobs and contact 10 employers a week, said: “I don’t have any income coming in, I can’t even afford the bus if I do get an interview.”
A DWP spokesman said: “It’s only right that people should do all they can to find work if they want to claim JSA and that they let us know if they can’t keep an appointment. We make it clear to people at the start of their claim what the rules are and that they risk losing their benefits if they don’t play by them. Sanctions are only used as a last resort and those in genuine need can apply for hardship payments. If someone disagrees with a decision made on their claim they can appeal.”