We all need a little help every now and again.
From helping your friend carry their things, babysitting so the parents can spend some time together or even helping your best friend fundraise for a charity.
Sometimes however, it isn’t your friends and family you need to ask for help. Sometimes, like me right now, you need a little help from the state.
Yes I have all but finished my PhD and for most people those 3 letters mean I am an intelligent, high-flyer who will walk into a job that gets paid A LOT.
Well life doesn’t always work out that way does it?
The fact is, I received my last stipend payment in September last year and now I’ve written my thesis I can finally concentrate on looking for a job but I need some financial help during that process. You know, so I can actually get to an interview and even be able to buy some ‘interview clothes’.
So in walks Universal Credit, the UK benefits system that combines all the previous different benefits into one system and payment. Sounds great doesn’t it?
You obviously haven’t seen the Ken Loach film, I, Daniel Blake then.
In addition to the stigma that surrounds those on benefits, the film certainly did not aid my want to claim. However, sometimes you just need to swallow your pride and ask for or accept help because in the long run it’s really for the best (hopefully).
Here’s my experience of claiming just one part of Universal credit – the jobseekers or unemployment benefit as I attempt to go from a ‘tax-dodging student’ to a fully fledged member of the adult world spending as little time as a ‘benefits bum’.
No Wifi, No Claim
Yes that’s right, the government has officially gone digital. To start a claim you first need to fill in an online form. Now to be fair to the government here, this was a rather pain free exercise with the most difficult section being the addition of the amount of money in my current and savings account (thank god for the calculator app!). There were also plenty of little ‘?’ buttons to give you extra information if you weren’t sure about what you were suppose to filling in.
Following submission of the claim you are then prompted to sign up to universal jobmatch. At this point I’m already signed up to what seems like every job site going so 1 more won’t hurt right?
Click, click, email, click and boom it’s done.
All in all a pretty easy task for a tech-savvy millennial like myself.
Normal procedure follows that within 2 days of submitting your claim you will receive a phone call and book your ‘interview’ at your local jobcentre.
Sounds simple. Sure enough a couple of hours later I get the phone call. What I wasn’t expecting was for the guy on the other end to regurgitate the questions that I had answered earlier that day on the online form. Was there really any need for the form then?
A few days later I found myself sat in my local jobcentre with all my relevant IDs. Half expecting for something to go wrong as with a PhD while your registration period finishes on one date you have up to a year in what is known as the thesis pending period to submit your thesis and finish up. So you technically haven’t finished your course – a prerequisite for claiming. Slowly I realised my fears were coming true.
“You’re ineligible to claim right now” the lady sitting across the desk said calmly. She was quoting some vague government policy that proposed that because my end of registered study finished the PREVIOUS October, I was not eligible to claim until June 2nd – a full 8 MONTHS later.
Only A couple of weeks away, I signed the claim withdrawal form and went on my way.
I guess it isn’t as simple as the government makes out after all.
Watch out for the next chapter of my job hunting adventure but until then
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