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Signing on – an experience to be avoided if possible…

Signing on’ for Job Seeker’s Allowance
This is probably one if the most degrading experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

Everything is governed by a set of imposed rules which bear no regard for the fact they apply to humans. The staff thanklessly have to impose the rules and in that process have to deal with indignant human responses the degree of which vary enormously depending on the person’s disposition or attitude to finding a job and the level of job. I admire the job centre staff who can only become seriously cynical about the people they’re serving.

There is an amazing amount of paper generated in the process – a lot of which is hand written and double signed (make sure you have two forms of ID on you for every visit to the Job Centre) and then walked to the next department in the processing of the paperwork. The inefficiency of the system has to be seen to be believed. Ironically the JSA application starts off as an online process promising much but that’s where it finishes – your next port of call is the nearest Job Centre Plus (appointment arranged by a phone call from someone – not by selecting a time slot at the time of the application submission) when you are presented with a hard copy of the application form which you sign in many places. (At the time I wished I had a solicitor with me to check the legality and to what I was committing!)

After that process you have another appointment to establish what types of job you can reasonably apply for and sign the agreement to abide by the JSA rules – you must apply for two advertised jobs (crazy, given that 75% of jobs are not advertised) every week otherwise you are likely to lose the privilege of the benefit. (It is alleged that some benefit users apply for jobs but never attend the interviews which understandably upsets many employers. In Reading 10% of JSA applicants are checked to see if they are genuinely following through with their applications – that’s 700 people which is a ridiculously high use of people’s time which could be spent helping the applicants find jobs. You have a 1 in 10 chance of being found out and even then I expect you’re given a number of chances to change your ways…)

You can claim your travel to & from a job interview but not to/from the Job Centre to sign on (you are expected to make provision yourself which could be very tricky at the beginning as you don’t get the benefit until the ‘machine’ has ingested your signed & vetted application, processed it and spits out a magic amount on more paper which you most likely have to sign having shown two forms of identity.)

In my short time with the JSA process I cannot believe the number of gross inefficiencies exist – integration of data and electronic workflow doesn’t seem to exist. At the rate of bits of paper I’ve been given I’m going to drown in it – goodness knows where the Job Centres themselves hold the paper they generate for their own use…. big fire hazard in the basement possibly.)

I’m not looking forward to subsequent signing on episodes and queried why I haven’t applied for the obligatory two jobs pet week which ain’t going to happen. If I lose the benefit, so be it – I suspect the amount they give you is hardly worth the effort but it is something as long as it’s more than the cost of the travel… More to follow.

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