Counting the cost.


The Job Centre is decorated in the modern style of a new office block on a Slough trading estate. Magnolia walls are complemented by purple accents and grey and purple furniture. Interestingly, who-ever conjured up this scheme (probably a “design consultancy” on the back of a six figure government contract, no doubt complete with theme name to encapsulate their brief of vibrant yet soothing. Sobrant perhaps, or maybe vibring) decided to top it off with a synthetic carpet woven from a palette of all these colours, ending up with a tone that could best be described as “bleeuugh”. A description that also matched my mood this signing on day.

I’ve lost count of these pointless visits now although at one a fortnight I guess it’s got to be about six. The form remains the same, I turn up, I wave my signing on card hopefully in the direction of the staff until someone takes pity and relieves me at it. Then a further ten minutes whilst various staff at empty desks try not to catch the eye of the waiting throng as they peck hopefully at their computer keyboards before someone runs out of things to type, picks up a card waiting to be processed and calls the claimant over. A brief chat in which the “advisor” asks what steps have been made to find work, another peck at the keyboard to see if they can make sense of the JCP job site, a signature on a piece of paper and the claimant is set free for another fortnight.

There are over one and a half million people in this country currently claiming unemployment benefit. All going through this process once a fortnight. And that number is rising all the time.

So lets assume 10 minutes per person per visit (I’m usually in there 20 minutes, and out of eight desks, maybe four are staffed and maybe two claimants are being processed).That’s well over 100,000 hours of frontline work required to process this charade every week!

Now add on holiday pay, sickness, time taken on training courses, lunch breaks, tea breaks, meetings etc. Then you have to consider premises to operate from, office running costs, IT costs, backroom maintenance, filing, insurance, and on and on and on. Then add on several layers of ever increasingly well paid management on top of all of that to orchestrate and oversee it all. Then all their associated running and housing costs.

It has to cost millions of pounds every week!

And what do you, the tax payer, get for that? Me the claimant trotting in once a fortnight to wave my little card in the air, answer a couple of spectacularly obvious questions, listen to a couple of well worn platitudes and leave.

Value for money, do we think?


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One Response to “Counting the cost.”

  1. smith Says:

    Yeah, the massive administrative overheads are where a massive amount of the dole money goes. I’d be suprised if it wasn’t more that the amount paid out in dole.

    This is why nobel prize winning economist milton friedman argued that dole should be replaced by a negative income tax, paid automatically to everyone by the inland revenue. It could be more generous than current payments and save money at the same time. Unfortunatly this would mean getting rid of a bunch of bureaucratic empires and laying off some government workers.

    You used to be a manager, you know how this type of decision is made.

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