Previously I shared with you my own experience in claiming universal credit for job seeking purposes and if you haven’t already read it go catch yourself right up now by checking it out here.
All caught up? Great.
That particular chapter of my job hunting adventure (because that’s what it is, an adventure) ended abruptly in being told I was not eligible.
Round 2 – *ding ding ding*
Fast forward to June 2nd and I once again diligently filled out the online application form. Now to wait to re-answer those questions on the phone.
OK so it’s Friday and perhaps they won’t call over the weekend because, well it’s the weekend.
So I wait.
And then I wait a little bit more.
Then I get fed up of waiting and go and get on with life.
10 days go by and they still haven’t called. Now normally I would be all well I guess they don’t want/like me afterall but the state well, they kind of have an obligation to do the things they say they are going to do. Like phone you.
After checking that there was no way to chat online to someone about this (I mean come on this is standard practice in a lot of big companies now so why hasn’t the government got on board with this yet?) I took the plunge and rang the helpline.
Cue automated message, say what you are here for, press this number for this or this number that and then hold for an eternity with dodgy elevator music -you all know the drill.
10 minutes later I find myself actually talking to somebody and bonus they had a British accent! A little while later and thanks to this very kind and polite guy I had an appointment booked for the next day at 3.20pm (remember this time it is important later) I even got a text message confirmation.
Skip to approximately 3.10pm the next day and I enter the jobcentre for the 2nd time tell the appropriate person I am here and take a seat on the very colourful sofa-bench thing in the middle of the office. Despite there only being a couple of other people on the office, all of whom are already being seen to, I am left to twiddle my thumbs/mess around on my phone for 10 minutes. Not a big deal as I’m not in much of a rush.
Finally I am shepherded to a desk.
*note the following exchange is not word for word*
The guy: ‘Yes so I know you have an appointment at 3.20pm, but you were supposed to be here at 3pm so we could go through your ID stuff first.’
Me: ‘but I wasn’t told this’
The guy: ‘OK but you should have been, and now if we go forward we will run over time. So what I’m going to do is book you a new appointment for tomorrow.’
Yes guys that’s right fobbed off again! You do not understand how mad this made me. So mad I was visibly upset by the time I had walked home and I am not really the kind of person who does that.
I just didn’t, and in fact still don’t, understand how you can leave someone sitting around for 10 minutes then tell them you can’t help them because while they were early they were actually late. I get there are rules but where is the compassion, the empathy, the customer service? I am guessing that most people who go into this kind of work do so because they want to help people right? Well why are you not helping then?
The most frustrating thing was I wasn’t at all surprised just annoyed that I had let it happen even though it wasn’t my fault. I had been Daniel Blaked again.
3rd Time Lucky?
A little later that very same afternoon a first in the whole process happened. Sharon rang me. Who is Sharon I hear you shouting. Well it turns out she would be the lady I would be meeting tomorrow and she would be taking on the role as my ‘work coach’.
Aww that was nice of her. I know right? Only she had no idea that I had already been in today and as I relayed my experience I began to get upset again. Not entirely her fault though as my notes hadn’t been updated yet and she apologised and promised she was going to try and understand why everything had happened etc and she would see me tomorrow.
A little apprehensive, I turned up the following day. First off I saw Tom, who immediately apologised for everything before sorting my ID stuff out and giving me a form to fill out (complete with prepaid envelope!) to appeal for my claim to be backdated to my original claim date. WIN!
The it was time to sit and chat to Sharon. She was lovely and appeared genuinely concerned about my chaotic journey so far. After going through the rules and punishments for breaking said rules (or sanctions) and asking me lots (and I mean lots) of questions about my education, aspirations, CV where I’m signed up to etc and giving out even more information to me we set a meeting for a couple of weeks time.
Off I walked feeling slightly happier, albeit tied into ‘the system’.
Things I learned
- Universal credit can be a really easy, pain free experience, however when it goes wrong it goes wrong.
- Be prepared to ring the helpline and sit on hold for the pleasure
- You have to devote 35 hours a week to job searching – although this can include activities like interview prep, interviews and your job centre meetings but basically job hunting is now your full time job.
- The government doesn’t care if you hate the new job you have just got, just that you have a job. It’s all about stats for them
On the upside in 5 weeks I will get me some money! Until then though
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