I have not updated this blog for a while now. That is because I had been working. After nine months doing a maternity-cover job, I am back on the dole and have more stories to share.
Except I am not. On the dole. But more on that in my next post.
This being my second round as an official, government-stamped jobseeker, I felt like a hardened “veteran”, ready to take the old bull by its horns, or in Job Centre-speak, face the dreary sign-on days with a (forced) optimistic smile, a (pretend) calm demeanour and my jobseekers’ “book” filled out every fortnight with “the six main things I have done to find work”.
I was surprised by a few new discoveries, which in turn infuriated and saddened me. If you are unemployed, and about to claim JSA (jobseeker’s allowance), you might like to be aware of them too.
Most Job Centres now seem to offer you only 0845 telephone numbers to make your initial inquiry about signing on. These are numbers that are supposedly charged at the same rate as a local call from a BT landline but can cost a small fortune if you rely on mobile phones. Remember: it takes 30 minutes or more to apply for JSA on the phone.
What can you do:
1. Go to SAYNOTO0870.COM, and search for a cheaper standard telephone number, or even a free one. Not all JobCentres are listed on that site though, so if you can’t find your local one, try option 3 below.
2. Borrow the phones from your local Job Centre Plus: if you have the stamina and patience, that is. My local Job Centre is only two minutes away but they also only have a couple of phones and are usually occupied by people who have had the same idea. Note that at a Job Centre you will have no privacy either.
3. If you have Internet access at home, don’t bother with the phone: apply for your JSA online – you can do this now on the Directgov site. It can take you up to 30 minutes, as there are quite a few forms to fill in (you can save and return to it later if you can’t finish in one go), but , believe me, it will save you a fair amount of stress.
On the phone, chances are you will be kept on a queue for a long time, or the Job Centre’s computer system will crash half way through the 30-minute telephone registration (this happened to me) and they will ask you to call again later.
4. Free numbers ARE available for the JobCentre, surprise, surprise. It is only when you have clicked on this button
on Directgov.uk site that the free 0800 numbers are finally revealed on the next page:
5. Free numbers are also revealed if you ring the 0845 number: yes, that’s right. You will find that when you call their 0845 number, you are referred to the same free number above.
So why not make these 0800 numbers available and searchable from the start?
Job Centres are deliberately burying their freephones away to avoid being inundated with “irrelevant” calls. The 0845 numbers are supposed to work like a firewall, discouraging time wasters to ring in – that is the explanation I received on the phone from the Brighton and Hove Job Centre, which still offered a local enquiries number.
When paycheques have stopped, savings are low and every penny counts, it can feel like the last straw.
Am I really a time waster? Ironically, it feels as if the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) is wasting my time and (hard-earned) cash to make it as hard as possible for me to claim a basic taxpayer’s right.
I came across this fellow Jobseekers’ Rant blog today, which made me nod in agreement. It is true: buying newspapers to look for job adverts, taking public transport to go to interviews, buying paper and ink cartridges to print out your CVs, all costs money.
For a jobseeker on a £60-plus allowance a week, a £20 spend a week on buses and trains means a third of the allowance gone. I catch myself becoming a hermit, going out less and less, as once I step out of the house, money starts rolling out of my purse. Money I can’t afford to waste.
By phone or online, once the application form is submitted, an adviser should call you within two working days to set up a first appointment for you at your local Job Centre Plus.
Then the fun begins…
If you have never claimed JSA before, you may benefit from browsing through this Jobseeker’s Allowance Survival Guide, which gives you a brutally honest picture of what to expect and what rules you will be expected to play by.
More tips in my next post here, but if you have any to add, please feel free to share them in the comments’ section.