Been a long while since I signed on (there was a four week period after my degree finished and before my first job) so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could get any money out of the government whilst I’m unemployed.
So on Friday I wandered down to the local Job Centre asked them what I needed to do. They gave me some forms to fill in and told me that I’d need to take them to a different Job Centre to start my claim.
Looking at the forms over the weekend, it’s clear that many things have changed in the 14 or so years since I was last unemployed. For a start, the name of the payment has changed. It used to be called “Unemployment Benefit”, now it’s “Job-Seekers Allowance”. The name change indicates the way that things have changed. You used to get money just for being unemployed. Now you have to be actively seeking work in order to qualify. I wondered if anyone has ever claimed it on the grounds that they’re seeking work, even tho’ they aren’t unemployed :)
And the forms are very complex. They need to know all sorts of stuff. I’m sure they deliberately make it as hard as possible to discourage people from claiming.
This morning I took myself off to the Job Centre. I took the completed forms togther with all of the other information they said they needed – redundancy letter, last two payslips, CV. When I got there I found a machine dispensing numbered tickets and a display showing the number currently being served. My number was 35, they were currently serving 22. Ten minutes later they had moved on to number 26 and I noticed the sign on the wall saying that new claimants should go to the first floor.
I went upstairs and pulled another ticket from another machine. I was number 60 and they were currently serving number 58. It took about ten minutes until my number was called. The woman who was serving me checked all of my forms and asked me a couple of trivial questions on the contents. She then wrote me a list of all the information I needed to bring to my “new claimants interview”. I pointed out that I’d got them all with me. Se said that I didn’t need them today, but that I should come back with them on Wednesday.
And that was it. I went there today simply so they could check that I was capable of filling in the forms and following the instructions on what information to bring along to the interview. There was nothing there that couldn’t have been done over the phone. But it ended up taking up an hour of my time.
And I have to go back again on Wednesday.
 This is a good example of how the forms talk down to people. It says “do you have a written record of your skills and experience – this is often called a CV”.