Dozens of ex-Thomas Cook staff have slammed the Department for Work and Pensions over their struggle to access benefits, claiming "the system has failed us".
Many former Cook employees are reportedly yet to receive any state help since the travel firm failed in September and have complained of being poorly advised by job centres.
The situation has been plunged into confusion as to whether staff are entitled to job seeker’s allowance or universal credit as the company’s administration process remains ongoing.
A number of former Cook workers have voiced their concerns in a new BBC report.
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.
"When we lost Thomas Cook we were just left to go out to pasture," said Begg. "My treatment by the job centre has felt like I’ve been thrown out again. They made me feel not worthy of benefits."
According to the BBC, Begg has now given up trying to claim and is instead using his savings and support from his family to live on, before he starts a new job with another airline next year.
The impact of Cook’s collapse and the ensuing battle for state support has led to him suffering mental health problems.
"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."
Despite the improvement in his situation, Begg says former colleagues are still facing hardship and difficulties around accessing welfare support have made it worse.
"It’s wrong, the system has failed us," he added.
Betty Knight, Thomas Cook Airlines cabin crew of 12 years, said her application for job seeker’s allowance was repeatedly declined.
"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 BBC.
After being out of work for 11 weeks, Knight has now received around five weeks’ of benefits.
Knight, who is contact with hundreds of former colleagues through Facebook and WhatsApp support groups, said one friend and her partner who both worked for Cook, were kicked out of their flat because the landlord knew they would struggle to pay the rent.
They are now using their redundancy money to pay for B&B accommodation and are unable to secure work.
Knight reports other cases of former colleagues made homeless and living in shelters after landlords refused to allow them to stay while they tried to find new employment.
Rebecca, another former Cook worker, was heavily pregnant when the company collapsed and applied for state support in the absence of employer maternity benefits.
However, eight weeks after applying the claim was cancelled because she’d been sent the wrong paperwork. She’s now waiting for a new application to be processed.
"Due to the stress of everything, and the lack of help, I have found myself on anti-depressants and unable to enjoy Christmas and time with my baby," she told the BBC.
Another former staff member, Adele (not her real name), worked as cabin crew at Cook for 20 years and following its collapse was offered the opportunity of a job at Jet2.com.
In accordance with its recruitment policy, Jet2.com charges the applicant £700 to train on a four-week course and trainees don’t 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 says her job centre told her to borrow the money. "How can I?" she added. "I’ve been out of work for 12 weeks."
Miles Morgan Travel boss Miles Morgan tweeted Jet2.com asking the carrier to “have a heart this Christmas and waive the training charge for these ex-TC guys, they need a break.”
A Jet2.com spokesperson told TTG: “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 has since apologised to Cook staff featured in the BBC report, urging 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."