Thursday, 19 February 2009

Signing on is killing me

I was there early for my nine am appointment with advisor number seven and dutifully joined the queue on the disabled access ramp, waiting for them to open. A similar experience, I should imagine, to joining the queue for the porn shop. Lots of men in shabby coats shuffling anxiously, looking down hoping not to be noticed, the odd hard-nosed weather beaten lady and the surprising cute chick who really doesn’t look like she should be there.

I’m here to find a job, the ‘job-seekers allowance’ as it’s now called – more famously the dole – is but an inconvenient truth to my situation. I’m not here to bludgeon off the state, I’m here to find work. As long as I keep telling myself that I can hold my chin up high in this line, high enough to check out the cute chick.

I won’t go through the boring details of the process, the complaints about finally seeing someone at 9.30 because, let’s face it, where else do I have to be. A recent text I sent to a friend read, “Dole. No plans”, simple, straightforward and crushingly true. My reflections on the process, as I type this, is that at no point did advisor number seven provide me with any hope that my situation would change, that a job was waiting around the corner for me. Rather there was a mutual understanding that I was doing all I could to get a job, she couldn’t think of any other areas I should try, and worst of all that my future was in the hands of fait.

The only completely stupid form I had to fill in was a residency form. Now I can understand why this needs to be filled in by non-UK citizens coming from abroad. It makes sense. But given that I have a UK passport, should I really have to fill this in just because I was away for the year? How many times can you write, “Because I was born in the UK 35 years ago,” or “I didn’t bring any possessions back with me because all my possessions are here. I live here. I own a property here.”?

So what do I get, apart from an untimely sense of the sword of Damocles and a reliance on a supreme being in whom I do not believe? I get a passport to helping me pay the mortgage through the local authority. I get £60 a week – not to be sniffed at, until you realise it costs £6 to make a return trip into London, £1.20 for a loaf of seeded bread (I’m saving the NHS money in the long run by eating seeds) and that as soon as I move back in I’ll have to pay, gas, electricity, internet and contents insurance. Well that’s the £60 gone, now for the mortgage and eating. Bugger.

Can signing on actually bring you down, destroy your self confidence and ultimately impact negatively on solving the problem – unlikely. For as I said in the beginning, I’m only here to help me find a job. So back to the websites and the newspapers with their false jobs created by agencies and their endless links to application forms even Superman would have trouble with.

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