Lunatics… Asylum – 4

Last week  having been offered gainful employment I had to go and sign off the dole.

No more fortnightly ritual humiliation, for now at least!

Since they’ve laid off a number of “advisor’s” you are no longer likely to see the same advisor each time, so no opportunity to build any form of rapport or understanding – who am I trying to kid?

Anyway, my  ‘advisor’ this time was  a patronising, fairly elderly, Indian lady with a really irritating nasal voice. If you’ve ever had this misfortune to have to visit Chelmsford’s JobCentre you’ll know whom I mean.

We’ll call her “Mrs Precious” – not her real name, but close enough for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

She called me over.

“Have you done any work since your last visit?”

“No.” I replied.

“Are you actively seeking employment?”

“Here’s a two page list of what I’ve done over the last two weeks.”

She looked through the lists and initialled that she’d seen them.

“Are you registered with any agencies?” She asked.

“Yes.” – She taps away on the keyboard.

“And you mainly use the Internet?”

“Yes.” Tap tap tap.

“Okay, well we’ll see you in two weeks.”

I was stunned

“Umm, did you read the list I gave you? The bit where it says ‘received job offer and accepted?’ the bit in bold black ink?”

She scowled at the paper.

“So,” I continued, “as I’ve been out of work for more than six months, what I need to know is how I get my government return to work allowance, And, as I’m going to be self employed, my start up grants?”

“Oh,” she said, in her irritating nasal whine, “I don’t know any of that, you need to phone this number.” And pointed to a card.

“Can you find out?” I asked. “Can you ask somebody else?”

“No we don’t do that here, you have to phone that number.”

“Well that figures. You’re totally bloody useless. But I’m not surprised, you’ve been a total waste of time and effort for the last nine months!”

At which point I walked away. I figure if I made her day ever so slightly more unpleasant, then it was worth it.

And I’ll risk the bad karma.

From Mrs Precious I went to the other side of the office to find out how to get the grants. It didn’t end there.

To apply for the grants, I needed to see ‘an advisor’.

“But I’ve just seen ‘an advisor’ and she was a waste of space.”  I explained.

Ah, no. This was another advisor, whose diary – it transpired – was full.

“We can make an appointment for Tuesday, can you come in then?”

“So,” I explained, “I’ve been out of work for about a year, I finally get a job, and you want me to miss my first day just to claim grants I’m entitled to?”

She shrugged. “You can sit and wait and see if we have a no show.”

“Okay, I have half an hour before my next appointment, let’s see what happens.”

Ten minutes later… “We have a no show, an advisor will be with you in five minutes.”

Five minutes later, I see the advisor.

He has a form to be completed. Name, address, NI number, date I start going self employed… usual stuff. Done.

“Okay.” He says. “That’s it, you should start getting the money in a week or so.”

“But,” I replied “I was told I needed to speak to you and so on.”

“Oh, no, we just have to be ready to help you fill the form in!”

Posted in diary.


  1. This doesnt surprise me, the problem has always been knowing the system. I havent been out of work in the UK in years, but when I was I found that getting housing benefit can be done in about a week if you walk the paperwork through. Doing it over the counter saved me about 2 months of it getting lost in the Paper shuffle and internal mail of Croydon’s job shops.

    These benefits for when you start work are pretty cool, when I signed off last time – I went into the job center and asked them to give me my last 2 weeks dole in cash and I’ll sign off on the spot, I needed it for train money for the first month or I would have lost the job. It was a catch-22. you couldnt afford to signoff the dole and potentially wait a month before you got your first paycheck!

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