Bullied into debt
I recently left my job because of bullying. The situation was so bad I was on antidepressants to help with the stress. I now feel much better in myself, but my money situation is terrible. I applied for benefit but was rejected because I left my position voluntarily. I've been job-hunting for two months now, but still havent managed to find one. I rent a house and debts are starting to accumulate. Is there any way I can get some help?
Because each person's circumstances are different it's not possible to give comprehensive advice about benefits, but we can offer you a rough idea of what you can claim.
If your Jobcentre Plus decides you left your job voluntarily they can delay your Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for up to 26 weeks - this is known as being sanctioned. You might still be able to get help to pay your rent through the Local Housing Allowance - the new way of calculating Housing Benefit for tenants. The amount you get will be based on the local market rates and you'll need a valid tenancy agreement to back up your claim. If you're aged under 25, are single and do not live with any dependants, you can only get the shared room rate. You can find more information from the VOA, or by contacting your local council. Your council can also advise you about getting Council Tax Benefit, which is available to people on low incomes.
It's possible to appeal against the decision to sanction your JSA arguing that the bullying forced you to quit your job. Such an appeal is made on a leaflet called GL24 and must be done within 28 days of the decision being made. If you're still within this period you might want to contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and ask them to help you with the appeal.
You may also be able to make a claim for a hardship payment. This is a reduced rate of JSA, but at least it's a few pounds in your pocket. In certain circumstances you may be able to claim Income Support, which, if you can't get JSA, acts a passport to other things, such as help with health costs.
If you're worried about debts, your local CAB may be able to help arrange a repayment plan you can afford. You could also call National Debtline on 0808 8084 000 for free confidential help and advice.
You might also want to consider whether you can make a claim against your former employer for constructive dismissal. Even though the bullying was by colleagues and not your employer directly, you might still be able to make a claim. Speak to your trade union (if you belong to one), or contact your local CAB or call The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) on 08457 474747 for confidential information and advice.
Question answered by CAB