Veteran has Jobseeker's Allowance halted - because he sold poppies

5 December 2013  EX-SOLDIER Stephen Taylor had his £71.20-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance halted – because he volunteered to sell poppies.
JobCentre staff ruled he wasn’t actively seeking work while he stood outside an Asda supermarket in Bury, Greater Manchester in the fortnight before Remembrance Sunday.
Mr Taylor, 60, served as a fusilier in Cyprus and Kenya as well as in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, where one of his colleagues was shot and killed.
He said: “The allowance is not very much, but when you don’t have much, it means a lot.
“It is all wrong. You volunteer and sell poppies to remember people and friends you have lost.”
Mr Taylor, of Massey Street, Bury, volunteered at Asda in Spring Street where he sold poppies for 24 hours over a two-week period.
But when he went to sign on at Bury Jobcentre and told staff about his volunteering, they deemed he was not actively searching for work - and stopped his £71.20-a-week payment.
Mr Taylor was told he had not fulfilled a number of tasks, such as handing out CVs and applying for jobs, which were agreed requirements in order to receive his benefit.
He has now been without his Jobseeker’s Allowance for four weeks, since early November.
Mr Taylor spent a total of 16 years in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Territorial Army, from 1972 to 1988.
Since then Mr Taylor has worked in a number of jobs, including managing the British Queen pub in Radcliffe in 2007, and travelling around the country working in pub relief management, but has not been in employment since November last year.
Mr Taylor said he has applied for a number of jobs, including at Asda while he was volunteering there, to no avail, and said he has only received a reply from one job application in 12 months.
He said: “I have tried all sorts. There are no jobs going, but I am waiting for a call from one application.
“It is impossible. You can apply for every job that is going, but it is another thing actually getting one because there are that many people applying.”
He has since received financial support from the Bury Armed Forces Covenant group, but has fallen behind with his rent and now has to pay £50 a week instead of £30 a week.
Cllr James Frith, Bury’s Armed Forces Veterans Champion, criticised the way Mr Taylor’s case has been handled.
He said: “I was astonished. Any time I speak with Stephen you can tell that he has searching for work and has served his country throughout his life.
“For me, it is an issue of applying discretion and leniency in dealing with such sensitive issues.
“To treat somebody who has put himself in harm’s way for the people of Bury and his country is unacceptable.”
Mr Taylor lives with his son, 33-year-old Stephen (CORRECT), and also has three daughters.
He added: “Fusiliers always look after each other. I am proud to have served in the armed forces, and I will always be a fusilier.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “It's only right that people should do everything they can to find work in return for their benefits.
“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 people who are in genuine need can apply for hardship payments. If someone disagrees with a decision made on their claim, they can appeal.”