Monday, 25 February 2013

Funemployment 9 - The Job Centre IV

At long last the moment I had been dreaming of since I first set foot in the Job Centre had happened - I was able to sign off. Now, before you crack out the champagne on my behalf I must state that this was only for 2 weeks while I was on a paid placement. Even so it meant that I was free from the Job Centre for 2 whole weeks. Bliss.

This 2 week placement came into effect fairly quickly, basically Monday - got placement, Tuesday - start placement. The rapidity of which meant that I had one afternoon in which to sign off from the Job Centre so as not to be committing benefit fraud. The Job Centre, like the Council, may be ineffectual, useless and disorganised BUT forget to sign off, miss a Council Tax payment and BANG! Angry letters with threats of bailiffs and court.This was something I was not going to deal with.

I remember the 'signing off' process being fairly straightforward - fill in a very basic form saying I had found work and would no longer require JSA, submit form, account is then closed and payments stopped. Being that I was not due at the Job Centre until during my placement and how they seem surprised by me appearing even when scheduled to be there I felt that turning up in person would cause utter chaos and phoning would be a better option.

Eventually I managed to get through to the right department and speak to somebody where I explained that I needed to sign off JSA but that I needed to do it today as after that I would not be available to come in person. I was told that in theory this was possible over the phone but that my local job centre would have to do so. My heart sank.

The person on the phone told me that they would forward me to the Job Centre and that they would deal with it from there. My call was forwarded. No answer. Bounced back to the main switchboard, spoke to another person who forwarded on my call again. No answer. Bounced back to the main switchboard spoke to a third person who forwarded my call. Finally someone picked up. Conversation as follows;

Job Centre: Hello, Job Centre Plus Sam* speaking how may I help you?
Me: Hi, I have found out today that I will be doing a two week paid placement so I need to sign off my JSA, but I start tomorrow so I need to do this ASAP and the main switchboard told me I could do this by phone.
JCP: What? You need to actually sign off?!
Me: Yes, but it's only temporary as it's a 2 week placement
JCP: *sounding confused* but you've found work?
Me: Yes, hence I need to sign off. 
JCP: *still somewhat confused* you WANT to sign off?
Me: Yes, I will be on paid placement for two weeks so legally cannot claim JSA. Can I do this over the phone?
JCP: Erm... it's better if you come in in person...
Me: I start tomorrow
JCP: Can you make it down today?
Me: yep, can be there in about 10 minutes
JCP: *still sounds confused but not as much as before* right, erm, come down to us, explain all this to reception and they will give you the forms etc and direct you to an adviser.
Me: Cool, thanks, bye.

When it comes to ripping off a plaster I have learned that it is better to do so in one go, so in less than ten minutes I was down at the Job Centre ready to sign off. Sadly in my excitement at not having to visit the place I had temporarily forgotten that I would need to have a similar conversation again in order to explain why I had turned up.

Luckily the person on reception, although initially confused by my turning up without an appointment AND wanting to sign off, gave me the form I needed, told me to fill it in and wait five minutes until an 'adviser' was free.

The form took around 30 seconds to fill in as it involved ticking two boxes and signing on the dotted line. What took the most time was the fact that most of the 'advisers' were more engrossed in conversation about what they had done over the weekend, how wasted they had gotten and how they wished it wasn't Monday, and thus were clearly too busy to work.

Eventually, I was directed to an adviser who signed me off, understood the fact that this was a 2 week placement and explained to me how to do a 'rapid reclaim' once my placement was finished. It looked like on my final first stint of funeployment I had found someone competent at the Job centre. Yes, I am genuinely as shocked as you are by this fact.

I then headed home safe in the knowledge that for two weeks I would be on a paid placement and free (temporarily) of the Job Centre.

*Name changed for legal reasons

Post Coming Soon - The Job Centre - Signing Back On.

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