The Department for Work and Pensions has apologised after dozens of ex-Thomas Cook workers complained they were struggling to claim state benefits.
Many reportedly have received nothing since the collapse of the company in September and have been poorly advised by job centres.
The situation stems from confusion over whether they are entitled to job seeker’s allowance or universal credit as the Thomas Cook administration process remains ongoing, according to the BBC.
Former Thomas Cook Airlines cabin manager Ian Begg was initially told to claim for universal credit which would have a five week processing time. During that five-week period, he travelled to Manchester from his parents’ house in Scotland for a weekly appointment at the job centre.
However, a day before the first payment was due, his claim was cancelled because he had received a one-off payment from the liquidators of Thomas Cook. He was then advised he should have applied for job seeker’s allowance.
Mistakes mean claims being cancelled and long waits to recoup missed payments.
Other former staff have worse stories to tell but are afraid to speak out in case it affects their benefits claims.
Begg said he suffered mental health problems following the firm’s failure.
“For about two weeks after the collapse, I couldn’t even get dressed. I couldn’t face the world and stayed indoors. I had anxiety and was depressed,” he said.
Betty Knight, who worked as cabin crew for 12 years, found her application for job seeker’s allowance being repeatedly declined.
She finally received five weeks of benefits after being out of work for 11 weeks.
“I’ve worked hard. I’ve done everything expected of me to contribute to our society, but when I needed the Department for Work and Pensions, I haven’t been able to access that. It left me reeling,” she told the broadcaster.
Knight is in contact with hundreds of former colleagues through Facebook and WhatsApp support groups.
Other former staff have worse stories to tell but are afraid to speak out in case it affects their benefits claims, the BBC reported.
Some ex-colleagues were made homeless and living in shelters after landlords refused to allow them to stay on while they tried to find new employment.
They talk about the huge disparities between what is on offer between different job centres.
Adele (not her real name) worked as cabin crew for 20 years. When she lost her job at Thomas Cook she was offered the opportunity of a job at Jet2.
But, in line with its recruitment policy, Jet2 charges the applicant £700 to train on a four-week course. Trainees do not receive any pay while on the course and the applicant fronts all costs. They then have to pass exams at the end to be guaranteed a job.
In some instances, job centres have given applicants £700 to complete this training but in other cases they have refused to pay.
Adele said her job centre told her to borrow the money.
“How can I?” she added. “I’ve been out of work for 12 weeks.”
A number of industry leaders have criticised Jet2 calling on the company to waive the fee for ex-Cook staff.
Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan tweeted to Jet2 saying: “Have a heart this Christmas and waive the training charge for these ex TC guys, they need a break.”
— Derek Jones (@Degsy_DJ) December 23, 2019
Director of marketing and global brand at Emerald Waterways David Winterton tweeted: “Absolutely disgraceful while promoting themselves as helping ex-TC staff.”
A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We moved very quickly to recruit ex-Thomas Cook staff during what was a very difficult time for them, and as a result over 120 talented colleagues have joined our award-winning team.
“We are sorry to hear about any negative experiences from candidates, which is extremely rare, however we explain the recruitment process in full detail from the very outset, and we receive excellent feedback from candidates.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are sorry if people have experienced delayed payments and urge them to stay in contact with their job centre so we can urgently fix their claims.
“We know that losing a job is a distressing time for people. When Thomas Cook collapsed we were ready on day one to help the 11,000 people who lost their jobs.
“Our dedicated staff have helped thousands of those affected, including through home visits to those unable to reach the job centre and by fast-tracking applications so people are supported to find new work or training as soon as possible.”
Podcast: 2019 a good or bad year for travel?
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