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You're better off relying on the kindness of family and strangers.
Job Centre Plus
Member Name: Mama-Q
Job Centre Plus
Disadvantages: lazy staff, rude customer service, awful atmosphere...need I go on?
Job Centre Plus. The new name for the same brand of unhelpful 'advice' doled out by our government. I've heard the Job Centre referred to the 'Joke Centre' before and I completely agree. They really are a joke and I fail to see why millions of pounds is spent on these centres, the employees and all the resources they use up.
Let me think back to when I had a first hand experience with the Job Centre. I was 15. My sister was taking a gap year and looking for work, so she signed onto Job Seekers Allowance (an allowance every two weeks paid out to unemployed people.) I used to go the Job Centre with her where I found them to be quite proactive - hell I was even allowed to take a seat next to her while an advisor sat there as she called up employers and the advisor looked for local jobs on the computer. Great. Customer service. No issues. And they were in fact quite brilliant at the time. But we're talking 10 years ago.
So fast forward to when I was 21 and was out of work for a few weeks. I had to attend my work-focussed interview and I wanted to create a good impression, dress up as if I was going for a job interview - or an office job - and was determined that my full time job while I was out of work was to find a job. Well the interview went well but it was a re-run of all the forms and telephone calls I'd had previously, I found it to be a waste of time and a bit pencil pusher-y.
On top of this it took them some time to sort out my money - so I was stuck borrowing from my parents. Not the ideal scenario but they were happy to help if it meant I was on the path to finding work. So, every morning I was dressed and washed before 9am. I'd make plans, lists and write down names of people to talk too, all the while filling out the little book the Job Centre give you to keep a track of how you're looking for work. I filled that book within the two weeks and was proud of myself.
I went for my fortnightly interview with the advisor, to check you're looking for a job and so they can check your progress report. Also to perhaps discuss further options. Or not.
The advisor looked at my book, chuckled and said; "Well this is a novelty, I haven't seen someone so keen to find work."
Um, what? Surely if someone is slacking on their JSA promises, they should be taken off the JSA? No. Because there is a minimum you promise to do and if you keep up these standards you'll be able to continue claiming JSA. Of course now the government is shifting towards their precious Welfare Reform Bill and unemployed people will be expected to work for £2 an hour in shops...I digress ;).
So that first time I was on JSA, I wasn't sure how much of a damn they gave. They certainly did a lot less than they had previously done with my sister, but it didn't matter because *I* had the self-motivation to find a job, so I would find one with or without the Job Centre's help.
Eventually I found a job in London and moved down there after several other job offers - none offered the package that this job did, hence why I took it.
My next experience with the Job Centre was brief. I returned to Scotland after getting married and an illness brought me home. I was now living with my husband, trying to claim JSA so we could live but they said my husband earned too much (which I have since found was untrue!) for me to claim. Luckily I was able to quickly get a job locally and we were doing okay until that horrible day when we both lost our jobs - mine was a temporary contract and my husband developed severe anxiety problems about his job. He took some time off, which his employer was generous about and said the job was always his should he return.
Well, he didn't return to work and we had to think about what to do next. JSA seemed the best solution because my husbands condition was so up and down - we needed a steady income and we needed jobs (or at least I needed a job.) We applied for JSA and they made me jump through so many hoops because I had changed my name through marriage. It was fine once it was sorted, just a headache (the birth year on my birth certificate was different to that on my passport because the registrar had messed it up so the Job Centre staff had to go trawling through old records on me. Nightmare.)
The advisor's at the Job Centre were polite, helpful and genuinely wanted people to find work - or at least that's my impression and I have since found it varies from Centre to Centre.
The admin side of things, at HQ, well they are something to be desired. They closed our claim 6 weeks into the claim, without giving us notice - or money. We called them up and they said they wouldn't back date any money to us. We were financially screwed but LUCKILY family bailed us out. My sister would visit, buying us shopping and supplies some of the time, same as my Aunt and my parents secretly put money into my account. I hadn't asked for anyone's help, but they all knew the situation and pitched in.
Without that help we would have been evicted from our flat and seeing as I was unknowingly pregnant at the time I don't like to think what would have happened to my son had I not been receiving help to buy food. Perhaps we could have applied for a crisis loan, but I didn't know such things existed back then. Plus that still takes time to come through and I didn't want to rely on the system that failed me in the first place.
In the end what saved us was when I became a student and got my student loan in. Funnily enough there were no real problems with that yet the Department of Work and Pensions closed my claim and were as heartless as to say we'd have to starve - I think their customer service rep literally said this.
I would body swerve any kind of welfare/benefit and the Job Centre. They went from being helpful, courteous and pro-active to a bunch of pencil pushing jobs worth's (but they're not worth the jobs they do!)
Apologies in advance to anyone who works at one of these Job Centres, I've been stung badly and I don't have good things to say about my experiences! On the whole the staff were rude and just wanted to be rid of you. A lot of the time I'd go in and they wouldn't even look over my book, just get me to sign the form and I'd be gone. Sometimes after waiting up to 40 mins just for a 1 minute appointment? Get a grip!
Although here's something positive: *some* of the Job Centre staff actually admitted that they were bound by a lot more red tape and so spent more time form filling than doing actual customer service. I don't know if that's true but it put my mind at ease.
Summary: avoid, avoid, avoid.
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