Deck the Job Centre …

It wasn’t festive at the Job Centre. There was no tinsel on the job search machines, no tinny Christmas carols playing over the muttering. A Christmas tree didn’t block the way to the disabled toilet. It all looked as it always did for my first pre-Christmas sign-on.

I don’t have to sign-on again now until January: the office is closed when I’m next due to visit. I explained to the adviser, not my usual one, I might be able to sign off temporarily.

“I’ve been offered some part-time work for about ten weeks and, if I can afford to live on the income –”

“Take it,” she spat, with the excitement and ulterior motive of a busy mum feeding veg to a resentful child. “It will look good on your CV and –”

It was my turn to butt in. “If I can afford to I will but I need first to check that once pension, NI contributions and tax is taken out I can still afford to live on it. I’m in debt to HMRC, you see – ”

“If it’s part-time work at less than 16 hours you might be entitled to keep some benefits –”

“It’s seven hours a week at £33 an hour.”

“Right then, that takes you way above the limit for having additional benefits.” She thought for a moment. “I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to put this into the system.”

She started to type intensely as I looked on. She caught my eye momentarily then looked back to the screen before speaking.

“It seems like a con,” she said, “because it looks like your going for this job was the idea of Jobcentre Plus but no one here will believe that.”

I didn’t really care who took the glory for my having potentially found ten week’s work through my contacts, or whether other staff at Jobcentre Plus thought this woman I’d never met before found me work within minutes of our meeting: I needed to know about tax, NI contributions and this, I was told, is not in the Jobcentre Plus remit.

Once she had typed the information, making the Fairy Jobmother look like a slacker, she continued with the rest of the process. I had to sign-on, receive a letter explaining when my next mandatory meeting is, another letter telling me when I next sign-on due to the Christmas period: then I handed her my Looking for Work booklet.

I’ve added much to the booklet in recent weeks: I’ve considered teacher training, looked for funded PhDs, sent a course I’ve written to a local University, sent CVs on spec and applied for six jobs. This is more than my three things a week I have to do for my Jobseekers’ Agreement and is the sort of lateral thinking for which I want congratulating. I pushed the booklet towards her, like it was a Christmas card I’d made at school.

“Oh, I don’t look at them,” she said, the metaphorical glitter falling off my offering. “I keep saying there’s no point in us looking at them. I mean, you could write anything you want to in that.”

She’s right, of course. I could but I don’t. I might start putting in my dream jobs of Volcanologist and Bat Sanctuary Cleaning Attendant to see if anyone notices.

Here unemployed protestors take to the streets of London and one woman explains what it’s like to be a qualified worker attending Jobcentre Plus.


3 thoughts on “Deck the Job Centre …

  1. Unemployedhack, sorry for my long reply. I look forward to reading your blogs and as usual, this is another great blog entry from you.

    This sort of attitude by JobcentrePlus Staff must be part of their pseudo training! During a typical day, these kind of put-downs by signing on clerks at the JobcentrePlus office are commonplace.

    From observation and personal experience of me signing-on, these petty minded clerks are often more polite to people who answer them back rudely. These kinds of rude exchanges at earshot of everyone, in an open plan office, are to me what make me dread my visits to the JobcentrePlus office. One part of the many component parts of the indignities of being ostracized by society for being unemployed and for claiming benefits.

    After months of signing-on and being the subject or witness to such continuous drip-drip-drips of rudeness, any normal person’s thick skin starts to wear down. The unemployed are referred to as ‘scroungers’ in the media, but I would refer to the majority of JobcentrePlus clerks, the clerical representatives of detached politicians and civil servants, as devious banshees and warlocks – their sole purpose and motivation being that of ‘draining away at a claimant of benefits a drip-drip-drip at a time’.

    Once the status changes from pseudo ‘customer’ to virtual ‘slave’, these soft of put-downs will become worse and the indignity towards claimants of benefits will worsen.
    From observing the reports of most demonstrations against cut backs around the world, I can clearly see that society, in those instances, as represented by the police, only kick, club, and drag the demonstrators when they are down on the grown … at a mental level, this is like the behaviour that an overwhelming majority of clerks at the JobcentrePlus office mete out daily and routinely to claimants, or their un-customers, as part of their main ‘professional’ duty of supporting unemployed human beings back into work.

    Somebody has to do the dirty work for those indignant but upwardly aspiring middle-class voters of neoliberal politicians … No, it isn’t just the JobcentrePlus clerk being rude, it is an entire population of neoliberals venting their frustrations a drip-drip-drip at a time… the very people who are showering praise and admiration to those neighbours among them, who commute daily into London and back out again, to Middle England, who behind the privacy of their particular wonderland, are also behaving like banshees and warlocks, so familiar to me now, who are mostly hourly paid contracted-in, supplement civil servants working at my local North London JobcentrePlus office.

    Anything that I want is irrelevant, even to the extent of anything that I write. A bad reputation precedes me anyway, because of my situation of being made jobless and being a claimant of unemployment Jobseeker’s Allowance past a specific three month, six month, twelve month … dealine. My value to society ends and I am turned into a “Wanted Man” with a Work Programme price tag on my head, at the blink of an eye, ten o-levels, ten NVQs, a graduate degree, an adult learning degree are irrelevant.

    In the new year I’ll soon be sent off to tidy up shelves of a Provider’s shop floor … neo-enslaved, scrounging into, not out from, my neo-employers’ tax haven bank account, to the tune of £2 an hour in total, (absolute total), in unemployment benefits which I now receive, … all of if which, I pay straight into the bank accounts of Halifax, Freshwater group of companies, The Open University, Scottish Power, BT, TV Licensing, Thames Water, Tesco, Iceland, Asda, Lidl, and Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, and Oyster each week. I would also be paying off the Student Loans Company Limited, if I could afford it; I owe them eleven hundred pounds.

    As far as starvation is concerned, no, I am not visibly starving, I am under nourished. My diet is rationed, monotonous and restricted…. compared to the types of rationing that my great grandparents and my grandparents coped with during the two world wars, my diet is now worse than theirs.

    I imagine that my diet today is be comparable to the diet of some of our wartime our allies who were under Nazi occupation, but not, certainly not, to the diet of victims Jasenovic, Sisak, Stara Gradiska, or Donja Gradina concentration camp complex, in the context of Mary Currie’s implied prejudices about what constitutes real starvation. But would Mary Currie really wish for any citizens in peacetime in Europe to starve in order to positively relate to the context of victims of wartime internment camps? Which political party does she support?

    “…I mean, you could write anything you want to in that.”

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