Jobless dad-of-four loses benefit after missing meeting by six hours
JOBLESS dad-of-four Garry O'Neil has been left without enough money for food or rent – after turning up late for a benefits meeting by just six hours.
Mr O'Neil, 43, said his family would now have to find other ways of raising the money after being left more than £1,000 down.
The former full-time electrician, who lost his job in December, applied for jobseeker's allowance last month.
He was told to attend a meeting a the job centre in Cheltenham every other Thursday, at 3.40pm.
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But when the appointment was changed to 9am on January 24, he accidently turned up at the usual time instead.
And despite arranging to attend a meeting the next day, Mr O'Neil received a letter last week telling him he will not be able to receive benefits for the next month.
He hit out against the punishment and said it was his wife and children, aged two, six, 10 and 13, who would suffer.
"This is a great blow," he said. "I calculate that this will leave me with a debt of £1,131.
"I cannot afford this. We now have no way of paying the rent or bills and am lost as to how to continue to feed and roof the family.
"I'm lucky I have people to turn to, and am in affordable housing, but can you imagine someone else who is in private accommodation?
"I am not whining about not getting more money, it's just the system will affect other people as well.
"A fine of £1,131 for lateness is just ridiculous. You would not accept that for minor crimes. This debt will affect my kids, my wife and my rent. That is unjust.
"It is entirely disproportionate to being late."
Mr O'Neil receives £111.78 per week in allowance, and said he hoped to be able to raise the money for rent and food.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "It's absolutely right that, when people claim Jobseeker's Allowance, they stick to the contract they make with us. The conditions that go with that ensure people aren't taking advantage of taxpayers' money.
"We take care to ensure people understand what is expected of them and encourage them to take up all the help that is available to them so they can get back to work.
"Sanctions are applied in the same way across the UK and are only used where people have not adhered to their jobseeker obligations. If someone disagrees with a decision made on their claim, they can appeal."