If you claim jobseeker’s allowance based on national insurance contributions, your eligibility for the dole is for 182 days, or roughly six months. Mine ran out last month, so a fortnight ago I was summoned by the JobCentre Plus to the so-called “week 26 review meeting” , where a personal adviser is meant to draw up “a three-step action plan” to improve your chances of finding work.
What amuses me about JobCentres – and God knows there is very little to be cheerful about them – are the colourful personalities of the advisers you come across; if you are lucky, that is. There is nothing else to smile about.
My week 26 appointment was with a tall and lanky male adviser with long hair and a bushy moustache, who looked to me like a modern version of a hippie from the swinging 60s. I remember thinking he’d look good in a flowery Hawiian shirt and bell bottoms.
I always try to see the funny side to every situation, so I was secretly delighted.
My “beatnik” adviser turned out to be no dopey-head tough, but a straight talker who wasted no time in exposing his personal views on three-step action plans for jobseekers. He said:
“The fact is there is only one action possible for a person in your situation; and that is for you to look for a job and find one.”
I immediately took a liking to him.
The reason most people find visits to the JobCentre degrading is that unemployment is treated as if it was a anti-social addiction, such as alcoholism, which needs to be treated “in steps”.
Does it not suffice that we spend day in and day out doing nothing else but looking for work, applying for work, thinking about work? In the view of the JobCentre, if after six months on the dole, you are still unemployed, you are doing something wrong that needs to be fixed, never mind the recession.
At week 26 in my…condition, I am now classified as a “stage three customer”, a term with a distinctly morbid ring to it, as in “stage three cancer” or “terminal patient”. And, as a terminal jobseeker, my adviser tells me I am entitled to certain additional types of support, which I take it as being the JobCentre’s equivalent of palliative care.
Certain local colleges offer free crash courses to “help you get back to the workplace and support you with continued training once you are in a job”. Would I like to learn new skills, which could “open doors to a new career”?
All very well, until you read the small print on the training courses actually offered: health and safety in the workplace, food safety in catering, door supervisor (for bouncers??), first aid and…erm…. Tarot card reading.
I am not ungrateful, mind. I would love to learn Tarot card reading, and would appreciate being able to predict when I am likely to find a job. But how a Tarot certificate on my CV would enhance my chances of employment I am still struggling to comprehend.
But that’s only because I have the small mind of a bourgeois woman and am reluctant to accept fortunetelling as a career in its own right…
The best remedy
In order not to lose your sanity, you must learn to laugh at the foibles of the JobCentre. What little advice and support they have to hand out is not applicable to anyone with any level of decent education, let alone a degree. (Read graduate Kate McCann’s experience with the JobCentre Plus under Related Links below)
The truth is: on this crusade to claw back into the job market, you are a lone knight and your own imagination and resourcefulness are the only weapons that can save you from defeat by your own despair.
Everyone needs a card up their sleeve. Whether it will be the Tarot kind or not is up to you to decide.
Indeed, some jobseekers have found very imaginative, and amusing, ways of looking for work, without resorting to help from the JobCentre. Find out more by reading my next post…
* Related links of interest: