The Jobcentre

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In order receive Job Seekers Allowance I have to visit the Job Centre and beg, I mean, sign a contract promising I will search for work and not retire into a life of luxury on my sixty four quid a week. An appointment is made over the phone and I’m booked in for Saturday. A stark sign of the times this, the Job Centre isn’t actually normally open on a Saturday but they’re having to use it as an overflow day to process the sheer number of newly redundant claimants such as myself.

I toddle down at the appointed hour and security lets me into a large room, desks down each side, and a full waiting area central. An air of despondency hangs over the central group as they wait to be processed. It’s at this point that I seriously consider turning on my heel and leaving them to it but I need to do this, and hang it, I’m entitled to it too. I give my name at the makeshift reception desk and join the embittered looking throng to await my name to be called out.

Looking around, these aren’t the usual stereotypical dolites with tattos, fags and pushchairs, these are the guys you’d normally see happily washing their Vauxhall Astras on a Sunday morning before a trip to the garden centre with The Wife. That garden centre is going to be a bit quiet this weekend, that’s for sure. I huddle into an empty chair and stare blankly ahead, just like everybody else, awaiting my fate.

Eventually my name is called and I find myself sat in front of a harassed looking but polite clerk who runs through the “job seeking contract” that was drawn up over the phone. Then it’s personal financial details, do I own or rent? Mortgage? How much money have I in savings? Any other income? Any other property? Any shares? Any signs at all that that they can weasel out of paying me? It’s a no to most of the above and after half an hour or so of cross examination I’m asked to sign on the dotted and sent back to the herding area for part 2.

The second part is quicker, a quick run through of my job seeking obligations (apparently I have to look for work, who’d a thought it?) and a fortnightly signing on form in a handy pocket sized plastic pouch and I’m allowed to leave.

A few days later a letter arrives confirming my bountiful allowance and noting that I’ll be docked the first two weeks of May as I didn’t sign on till mid May. Seems my desire to try and avoid claiming at all by waiting a couple of weeks in the hope of some job news was bad and wrong, The System would have preferred I had my hand out from the first possible moment.

My first important lesson about the benefits culture learned there then.

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One Response to “The Jobcentre”

  1. clare Says:

    😉

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