Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Funemployment 5 - The Council Office

When being unemployed it is not just the Job Centre and the Department of Work and Pensions that you get to visit.  If you would like to receive housing benefit or council tax benefit, so you can continue to pay your rent and council tax, you also get the chance to visit your local Council Offices.

In my case the Council Offices involve a nice 40 minute bus ride or 20 minute train trip in an area of London I rarely set foot in. After trying to sort out the changes to my council tax paying status by phone I was told that I would need to come to the offices in person with documentation to prove that I am in fact unemployed. This is fair enough, otherwise anyone could phone up trying to scam them out of free money.

Previously I had had to deal with the council, had had to wait for over 2 hours in order to spend 5 minutes with a lady who gave me a stack of papers to fill in and tell me to come back later. The second time I had again had to wait nearly 2 hours to spend 5 minutes with another lady who took my papers and documents and nearly died of shock at the fact that I had managed to gather original copies of all documents needed AND had filled in the form correctly. This lady had then rather loudly declared that I was 'the most organised person she'd ever met'. Something I thought a little over dramatic but then I remembered that she worked for the council so this was in fact mostly probably true.

Thus it was with much trepidation that I departed for the council offices complete with water, snacks and my copy of Great Expectations. If I was going to have to wait then I may at least try to enjoy it.

When I arrived there were four people in front of me queueing to get to reception, drawing breath and mentally preparing myself for the wait, I joined the queue. After a few minutes I was explaining my situation to the receptionist and was handed the number 44 and was instructed to go to the waiting area. Now 44 seemed like a fairly low number as usually I am handed a number like 238 or 500 so I was mildly worried that they were so busy that they had gone through the numbers and had gone back to the start. Luckily, however, this was not the cast.

Picking up my stuff I wandered over to the waiting area and checked the 'next to be called board' which stated that number 40 was next to be seen. Glancing down at my number I realised that there were actually only 3 people in front of me. I had been prepared to spend a good hour or so of one-on-one time with Charles Dickens and potentially spend the night in the place. This was without a doubt a much better experience than normal where I am number 238 and number 30 is being taken.

After only having time to read half a chapter of Great Expectations I was seen, signed the relevant forms, submitted the documents and was heading home. In this instance it would seem that the Council Offices were actually superior in service to the Job Centre. Yes, really! I am surprised as you!

No comments: