Fun with the DWP

Well I’m looking back at my last post with a certain amount of irony now. Just when I thought that life on the dole was boring, the government’s gone and thrown a curve ball or two.

As previously mentioned, I had a temporary job for January. Nothing spectacular, but it helped pay the bills and stabilise me after Christmas. Next step? Get on the ’net and resubmit my claim for jobseekers’ allowance while I find something more permanent (or I get given another short assignment somewhere, whatever happens first). All well and good so far: it’s a “rapid reclaim” so I should be back to a two-week cycle of interviews and dole payments in no time. And that’s sort of what happened. Sort of.

I live in Sutton Coldfield. It’s technically a suburb of Birmingham, but for a few archaic administrative purposes (like the census, apparently) it’s still treated as an independent town. Its own town. Not anywhere else in the Black Country or Staffordshire.

Within a reasonable walking distance from where I live, there is a Jobcentre Plus. All mod cons. Since I ended my relationship with the Cinema, that Jobcentre Plus, walking distance from my house is where I have signed on. So imagine my surprise at receiving this text message:

Your appointment is 10:40 on 04/02/15 at Bayard House JCP, Lichfield Street, Walsall

Fucking Walsall!? Walsall is a half-hour bus ride away. That’s an hour’s round trip plus the appointment. And that’s assuming the half-hourly bus service ties up nicely with the start and end times of this meeting. At a cost of £4.20 rather than my free use of Shanks’s Pony. Needless to say, I rang the Jobcentre’s central number to try and rectify the mistake.

After a short wait, I found myself talking to a nice man in Dundee. He ran my postcode through the computer and it told him that, yes indeed, I’m supposed to sign on in Walsall. I explained the logistics and he obligingly arranged for me to go to Sutton Coldfield. You know, the town I live in. My appointment was now a day earlier.

So off I went. I checked my claim, answered the usual questions, signed the declaration, and the adviser gave me an appointment next week.

“Hold on,” I said. “Did you put me on a weekly cycle, there? I thought it was usually fortnightly.”

“The government have brought this shorter cycle in as of January to try to clear people off quicker. Some people are signing daily.”

Jobseeker’s allowance, at the higher rate, is still c. £72. Imagine, if you will, that I had taken Walsall on the chin. Then displeased the Powers and had to sign daily. I’d lose possibly two hours a day to the trip and £15 of my £72 allowance to a bus pass. This sounds like some kind of nightmare scenario. I don’t know what the government think they’re going to achieve with this, but they’re probably wrong.

Roll on May…

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~ by Scary Rob on 9 February, 2015.

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