This is Your Government

5753109656_cc434d0210_ohgfjhfj(A/N): Let me just clarify that I am NOT going to speak to any media. Please stop contacting my neighbours. Everything I have to say is written here. Also, please ask me if you want to use my pictures.

Like a lot of people who’ve spent the last 18 months hopping around the world and teaching abroad, soaking in the sunshine, and spending their days off sucking up cheap cocktails in a seedy beach bar, I’ve returned to my homeland unemployed.

Within hours of announcing I’d be returning to the UK, my social media dashboards were hit with a flurry of messages, all wishing me luck, some asking to keep in touch, others wanting to know what my future plans were. But what stuck out the most were the nuggets of advice from all of my British friends; Their notes were left with one common warning – “Don’t come back, Cez. There’s nothing here anymore.”

Knowing that job opportunities are pretty limited isn’t something new to me. I graduated in the middle of a recession in the summer of 2008 with very little work experience and a bachelors degree that was quickly reduced to nothing but a wasted scrap of paper. (“Oh, you’ve got a degree? Who hasn’t?” one coworker of HMV asked me the following Christmas.)

And, like that dismal summer that I was thrown into the “real world”, I’m out of money and am currently asking the government for help: In short, I’m back on the dole.

(For those of you who aren’t British, I’m claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (which I’ll refer to from now as JSA) – an unemployment benefit the government gives to people who are looking for work.)

I’ve been back in Britain for just over two months now and it’s dire.

No, seriously.

It’s really fucking dire.

I underestimated the warnings people threw at me before I came back. No-one is hiring.

And that bullshit people tell you about how “having travel experience gives you the edge” over every other potential candidate? Nothing but a joke.

Even the fact that I have eight years experience working in customer services (call centres and retail) do nothing to butch up my CV.

I’m not truly qualified for anything except jobs that take me out of this country. And the reason I can’t do that? I have no money for a plane ticket and I have no money to live on for the month before my first pay.

Right now, I’m applying for anything; I just want to be off JSA and back into the working world. I’d much prefer to be doing something I hate than nothing at all. And I’ve been pretty lucky with the few job interviews I’ve managed to score over the last few weeks.

But it’s also where my problem began.


My ‘signing on’ day is a Wednesday. Every other Wednesday at 2.30pm I have to attend the Jobcentre, a place stocked full of bored-looking over-worriers, to sign my name on a little piece of paper that entitles me to £71.70 a week.

In the past I’ve been victim to how scornful and mean the people who work in these places have the potential to be. However, having now returned as a qualified English language teacher, no-one even bothers to check the ever-growing list of jobs I’ve been applying for in the past fortnight and seem more inclined to discuss things like the weather and how wonderful last weekend’s episode of The Voice was before ushering me out the door with a “I know you‘ll get something soon.” Nothing about my job search.

The elitism is almost too much to comprehend. As a graduate, I was sneered at; As a teacher, I’m royalty. It’s disgusting.

As an “older person” (over 25), I now qualify for a little bit more than the standard £56.80 young adults receive every week from JSA and, as I’ve said before, receive a whopping sum of £71.70 instead. Having parents letting me stay with them rent free until I get a job and letting me steal everything in their kitchen is one thing I’m forever grateful for; Having rolling credit card debts and a phone bill to pay off every month leaves me with an average of £35-£40 a week to spend on myself if I’m lucky.

Needless to say, my social life is non-existent these days. That £35-£40 a week is spent on nothing more than train and bus travel, constantly taking me to and from job interviews and ensuring my CV is thrust into the hands of every temping agency in the county.

And it was one job interview I had a few weeks ago that has been coming back to slap me in the face since.

Having already interviewed with an English language school in Cardiff, they emailed me the following day to ask if I could come back on the 5th June to give an observed lesson so that they could see what kind of teacher I was.

I agreed and, on the morning of 5th June, knowing that it was a Wednesday, I contacted the Jobcentre first thing in the morning on the number written in my signing-on booklet, to tell them all about my 2nd stage interview and that I wasn’t sure what time it would end. (The director was going to give me feedback after the class.)

The man on the other end asked the address of my local Jobcentre, took my name and my national insurance number, and told me to go and sign on the following day (6th June) at the usual time (2.30pm).

I went ahead to my job interview, taught the class, everything was hunky dorey.

The following day on Thursday 6th June, I biked into town to go and sign on at the Jobcentre, just as I’d been told to do.

As I approached, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of sullen-looking people and crossed the threshold with a puzzled look.

A bright-faced woman stood next to a security guard.

I handed her my signing-on booklet wordlessly.

“Oh, didn’t you know?” she asked, her smile frozen in place. “There’s a strike on today. Didn’t they tell you?”

“No. No-one said anything about that.”

“Well, don’t worry. All claims should go through as normal so you’ll get your money as usual.”

“OK … Thanks.”

When Monday came around with a fresh batch of credit card bills, I had no money.

I quickly phoned the Jobcentre to find out what was going on and they asked me to come in that afternoon.

What I was met with was yet another bored-looking girl (someone I recognised from school – the final humiliation) who gave me a disapproving look.

“So you mixed up your dates and missed your signing on date, then?”

I frowned.

“Uh, no. I had a job interview and couldn’t come in-”

She opened a drawer to her left and slapped a form down in front of me.

“Fill this in with all the details about the interview.”

I blinked and attempted to fill the form in as best I could with everything I could remember on the spot (names, addresses, times).

When I finished, I handed it back to her and she took a deep breath to continue her reprimanding.

“So what we’ll do now is send that off to our higher office where they’ll look at your reasons for missing the appointment and determine whether they’re happy with them. If they’re not happy, they could put a sanction on you and you’d lose your money for two weeks.”

“Wait, what?” I exclaimed, my voice unintentionally rising.

She arched an eyebrow as if to say, ‘Oh, wonderful. Another kick-off.’

“So, I might get penalised for trying to get work and going to a job interview?”

“No, they’re going to look at your reasons for missing the appointment and determine whether … ” she repeated, monotonously.

I sat bewildered, the frown etched on my face.

“You need to tell us beforehand when you have a job interview-” she continued.

“I did!” I spluttered. “I called you guys on the morning of my interview and you told me to come in the following day. It’s not my fault that you guys were on strike!”

“What number did you call?”

This one!” I pointed frantically at the number on my signing-on booklet (which, incidentally, is next to the sentence “Contact us immediately on 0845 … if you cannot attend”).

“Ah, well that’s the contact centre. You should have contacted us here,” she said, playing around with her computer. “There’s nothing here that says you called.”

“That’s not my fault. This is the only number I have. I did what I was told to do.”

She gave me a look before standing up.

“Give me a moment.”

I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself down.

A few minutes later she returned with a number scrawled on a post-it.

“Next time you have an interview, call this number. I’m not supposed to give you this but that’s the one you call. Okay, now have a good day.”

I left the jobcentre in shock, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

This week, I was back in the jobcentre, signing on as usual, not a word uttered about what had occurred at my last meeting. I didn’t care anyway: I had a couple more interviews coming up which I hoped and prayed were going to take me out of the benefits pool.

Then, three days ago, a letter arrived from the benefits centre.

??????????????????????“… you failed to attend this interview (the signing-on appointment) and … you did not have sufficiently good reasons for doing so.”

Going to a job interview is not good enough reason to miss a signing-on appointment.

I could completely understand their reasons if I hadn’t told them I had an interview and just missed signing-on without warning anyone.

I can also understand their reasons for looking at the time my job interview finished (1.00pm) and thinking, “Hmmm, she can probably make it back from Cardiff and sign on on time at 2.30pm”.

But they told me NOT to come in on my regular signing-on day and to go in the following day for my new scheduled appointment.

Not only that, but I’ve been sanctioned and left without money for a month. A whole month.

Never mind the fact that I have job interviews coming up and no way of getting to them now. Never mind the fact that my phone is due to go out of service from lack of payment and every employer who has my CV has no way of contacting me.

No, no. I must be punished. I have been too productive with my time in trying to get employed and, as a result, I must learn what life without money is really like.

Thank you, government. My lesson has been learned.

Looking for jobs = Bad + No money.

Of course, I’m appealing this decision. I hope the benefits office enjoy the way I filled out their ‘reconsideration form’ with an essay that could put my university dissertation to shame.

And, as a last desperate attempt, I’ve also applied for ‘hardship payments’ which, by the looks of things, I don’t qualify for anyway because I’m lucky enough not to worry about food and accommodation.

Of course, there’s the whisperings from a friend or two who’ll send a text asking, “Can’t your parents help you?”

They’re already helping. They let me live here rent free, use up their electricity and gas, and eat all their food.

I’m a 26-year-old adult who was not brought up to rely on “Mummy and Daddy’s money” to get my way in life. I was taught and shown first hand that good things do not come to those who wait; Good things come to those who work fucking hard and earn it.

This is a situation I’d never thought I’d find myself in: Having to ask my baby brother whether he could lend me money so that I can buy shampoo and deodorant this week while borrowing my mother’s bicycle to ride 30 miles in the rain in my best formal attire to another job interview.

I’m grateful for the fact that I have my family here to help me. But they’re not exactly rich and, even if they were, I have my pride.

I can’t quite believe what I’ve come home to.

As I said before, the only thing I’m qualified to do takes me out of the country. But I can’t afford to do that with debts still piling high and barely a penny to live on for my first month.

So the next time you ask me why I don’t want to live in the UK, why I’d prefer to be anywhere but the land I was born in, there’s your answer. What reason is there to stay?

(24/06/13 – Author’s Update: I just want to clear up a few confusions that people seem to be having. I did not go straight from “school to university to travelling” and use JSA to fund my travels. I worked every day either in call centres or in shops ever since I was 16. I worked while I was studying in college and university and I worked for the three years after I graduated until I left the UK. Even after I left the UK I worked for 14 of those months while I was abroad.

earned every plane ticket and every teaching qualification that came my way by working and saving for it with the help of no-one. I resent being told that I shouldn’t have gone travelling and don’t know anything about the “real working world” and refuse to publish any comments from people who haven’t bothered to read the full story.)

105 thoughts on “This is Your Government

  1. I really feel for you Ceri. I was unemployed twice back in 2010 (both due to redundancy) and was told that despite working since I was 16 (I was 28 then) I wasn’t entitled to any support as I “hadn’t contributed enough” to the system. I lived with my partner and, as he was employed, he had to financially support me. Not fun when I was the main wage earner and our household income had now dropped by over half in the space of a few months. The job centre also ended up “sanctioning” me for attending a job interview as you describe above but as they weren’t actually giving me money in the first place it all seemed a bit of a moot point. I honestly don’t know what the answer is aside from keep doing what you’re doing, take any work you’re offered to begin with (what they say about it being easier to get a job once you’re in a job is completely true) and get the hell out of here when you can. Take care lady x

    • I experienced all this DECADES before everyone else – I’ve been a practising artist in one form or another since leaving college in 93 and being from a poor background hasn’t helped. My advice though is SLOW DOWN. Like you, I was stuck on the treadmill never catching my tail because I didn’t dare stop to PLAN THINGS for fear or criticism from so-called friends and family. My life took a turn for the better in my early 30s when I ignored everyone else and listened to myself.

      Of course, you have an added problem – JSA sanctions, so not so easy to follow my advice. One thing I would say though is don’t neglect your social life because doing so can lead to depression, ill-health etc.

      So tomorrow you’re rushing around writing a CV, attending a job interview, preparing for the next. If the Jobcentre aren’t being so thorough, take it as an opportunity to reassess your goals, your tactics etc. Take time to get on top of your finances, know exactly how much you owe and how, if at all, you can reduce your debts. Just being organised will help.

    • What does this have to do with the Tories? If anything I’ve noticed a slight (and I mean very slight) improvement in the JobCentre since they took over. It was Labour who turned it into the “sign this and bugger off” centre.

    • Excellent! Anti Tory! Britain has been a piece of shit for about ten years! Guess that’s enough time for the Tories in opposition to fuck the county up!

  2. Reading this genuinely made me angry, and it is not even me in your situation. That job centre and its staff should be ashamed of themselves – and that letter is an absolute joke!!!! It really makes no sense at all how a job interview could not be considered a good enough reason to miss singing on at the job centre… a place that is supposed to support you in your job search. Just…. ugh. Good on you for appealing the decision – I sincerely hope they are ashamed of themselves when they read what you have to say!
    I know you probably don’t want to, but have you tried getting work in shops/bars/cafes? I know it’s not ideal but they’re fairly easy to get work in, and then at least you’ll have a job and won’t have to deal with the shitty job centre anymore. But I’m sure you’ve probably thought of that already.
    It’s sad that you feel so unhappy here in your own country, but I have to say that I do understand it, although perhaps in a slightly different way. Even though I’ve never left the UK to live anywhere else, I don’t feel like I’ll live here my entire life. I don’t even feel that connected to my own country, and sometimes I don’t feel like this is my country at all. Because I’m half German I’ve always felt like that to a degree, but I feel it more and more as I get older. I’m just trying to make the best of things until I can move to Germany 😉
    Good luck!! x

    • “I know you probably don’t want to, but have you tried getting work in shops/bars/cafes?”

      Ah, the friendly “let me, the genius, speak to you like you’ve never had a thought in your life, you incompetent fool, you must be incompetent, unable to think of even the blatantly obvious”, advice to those on the dole. When you are on the dole, every clown you meet says the same thing. Obviously cos if you on the dole, that little gem is too complicated, too much of an intellectual solution for the unemployed to have worked out for themselves.

      Can you read? The author said they’ve experience. There are NO JOBS. Can you think about that for five minutes an then think about a solution? No. Of course you can’t. YOU don’t need to. YOU aren’t on the dole. And no, you obviously weren’t being rude, were you. You were just battering at the keyboard without thinking because the kind of help that comes from no thought whatsoever is precisly what they poor need and get in the sewer that is the UK.

    • As a Brit living in Germany: I totally recommend it. Granted, I’ve never actually lived in the UK apart from a few months as a baby, but I still have family and friends there, that I visit, so I have some kind of idea what the situation is like. And I’m not coming back. Ever.

  3. I had my benefits stopped because the DWP received a (totally false) report that I’d moved in with my girlfriend without informing my local benefits office of the change in circumstances. First I knew was when my benefits failed to appear in my bank account – the DWP obviously didn’t consider informing me of their actions was important . . .. When I marched into my local job centre to find out what had gone on they fell back on the standard excuses – “communications error”, “computer glitch”, all the usual shite…….
    Keep on at them – you’re 100% in the right – Its not your fault that some clown at their end can’t pass on a simple message.

  4. Also, just as a side note – that letter they sent you is written so badly. It sounds like someone was drunk when they wrote it. Embarassing.

  5. Am I reading this right, the person in the job centre isn’t supposed to give you the phone number that you have to call to tell them? It’s bureaucracy gone mad!
    Now, I’m going to guess that the contact centre you rang records their phone calls (if they don’t it must be the only one in the world that doesn’t). Tell them to check their recordings for your call. If they refuse, make a Freedom of Information request to have it released to you. Use that as the basis for your appeal.
    Good luck 🙂

    • A good idea. Also see if you can get an itemised phone bill for the day in question which will show that you phoned them that day. Also, and I used this trick to fight a solicitor, every call you make to them record somehow (MP3 player, Ipod etc). As long as you make it clear to them at the beginning of the conversation that you are recording the phonecall it is legal and you can use it as evidence (it is only if they are unaware that it is useless unless you plan to bribe them which I doubt will work).

  6. When I was given my redundancy notice in March 2011 I immediately contacted my local employment agency and BULLIED them into giving me a job, which they duly did. The local jobcentre (25 miles away) was, of course, full of good ‘advice’, during their various ‘counselling’ sessions during our notice period. Thankfully my agency job became permanent five months later. I made the decision NEVER to sign on and NEVER to use the government agencies to help me find a job. Stick at it. You WILL find something!

  7. People power. If your story goes sufficiently viral that MPs &/or journos take up the cause, it may help you and others. However, I’d recommend replacing the F-words to maximise audience sympathy then let’s try to RT around Twitter. Good luck!

  8. Nothing surprises me anymore. I was made redundant unexpectedly and after a few weeks I was offered some temp work. I asked the person at the job centre how many hours I could work before losing my JSA and was told 16. I said thats lucky as the work is 16 hours a week for a few weeks. I then found out that my JSA was stopped as its actually 15.99 and if you do 16 that takes it over so I basically worked 16 hours for about a tenner. Every time I went to the JC I asked the question and was always told 16. Each time I kicked up a fuss and asked their supervisor to sanction them for giving out incorrect information. Eventually after about 2 months the supervisor said they would not see me anymore if I continued to cause problems. Not once did it occur to her to sort out the problem and give out the correct information. Incidentally I eventually gave up looking for a job and went self employed. The start up gave me enough time to find part time work with 4 different people which earns me far more than I did before I was made redundant. Keepyour chin up and good luck. PS next time you are at the JC ask them the hours question and see what reply you get.

    • I was informed that the hours you could work was 16 at my local job centre in Ormskirk.

  9. I signed on for the first time on Friday. It was the most miserable and uninspiring time of my life. I was given no help, no encouragement, nothing positive. My mentioning I’d got an interview was met with a raised eyebrow like I’d lied about it. One is made to feel like utter shut, no incentive to actually bother. This country is fucked

  10. I came from being an EAL teacher in 2004 and completely sympathise. I found myself in exactly the same position. 8 years on and in doing really well for myself but I remember those dark days. Use this as constant motivation this is the sort of thing that drives people on to great things. Unless you have to suffer and fight for something you will never achieve your goals.

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  12. i was on ema and was kicked off it they sent a letter out dated 2nd may saying i was no longer getting it from 2nd may this was sent out second class didnt arrive the sat we have no post on the sunday and none on the monday as was a bank holiday got it on the tuesday rang job centre they arranged for me to go down the wed morning then sign on on the thursday which i did it all and i got a letter like this when trying to get my money back dated to when i was taken off esa i was told not good enough reason for delay in claiming like im a mind reader they were taking me off it and should have known before i got a letter saying this their an utter joke im bringing up two boys and needed this money x

  13. Hi Ceri,

    My better half works in a call centre on behalf of dwp (she has a phd in biochemistry but hey) she says that the ONLY thing that will get results is if you go to (or threaten to go to) the press. Not twitter – they aren’t interested in that but an actual physical newspaper even your local rag with circulation of 5000.

    Good luck and I hope you find something soon.


  14. Bloody hell, this is straight out of a League of Gentlemen episode.

    Just a thought, as well as applying for hardship payments make sure you submit an appeal against the sanction, you should hopefully get the money back eventually. I’d also suggest contacting your MP. They ight be able to put pressure on the JobCentre and at least they should be ade aware of the consequences of their crappy legislation.

    Good luck.

  15. i have worked for the state for over 30 years now – both civilian and military – These are members of staff, who have the rules change very week (mostly through political interference), they have very poor leadership ( people promoted into postions either to get rid of them or because they’ve been there the longest), they wont get any backup and they probably don’t care anymore – they’re not paid enough to care

    always without fail ask for a name, this makes people think and less likely to give you duff info.
    “sorry i didn’t catch your name”
    Tell them, you have to inform them that you’re ringing from a number where all conversations are recorded – this will make them even more wary – tell them its a neighbour who gets threatening calls or something
    document the contents of all conversations, date and time stamp the beginning and end ( for the correct time) – this is good evidence, after all there’s no check to say that their records are anymore truthful
    at the end of the phone call, summarise the call and repeat their name

  16. Ceri,

    I will gladly pay your phone for a month to help get you in contact with potential employers. If I can be of any further help writing letters or just listening drop me a line. Your story is astounding and, unfortunately, redolent with bureaucratic antipathy.

    Sending my kindest wishes and a great big hug. Keep that chin of yours up mate!

  17. How utterly mad and orwellian! Depending on who it is i think you should drop your MP a line. Nothing’ll happen quickly but it could help

  18. Its absolutely ridiculous! My other half is self employed and as he has no work in can claim JSA. As he had been on it a while he was told he would have to attend a mandatory work program. Basically if he didn’t they would sanction his money for 13 weeks! He had to work voluntarily for 4 weeks, and they didn’t cover travel costs and expected him to travel 40 miles a day! Now we are on a joint jsa claim and only get around £100 a week for the two of us to live on and we have an 8 month old boy. With the price of fuel for all the travelling we would have been down an astronomical amount of money! And not only that his advisor put him on a job he couldn’t even physically do! Thankfully the guy who he would of worked for said he wasn’t fit for the job, so we were actually able to survive another month!

  19. One word – Unbelievable, oh then actually yes it is totally believable it’s just a snippet of this country the way it’s run and the apathy of everyone who is at their mercy

  20. The Job Centre sent me on a employment skills course and one of the days clashed with my sign on day. I was assured that by attending the course my money would be safe, due to a lack of communication I was sanctioned and was told that I meant to sign on.

    Another occasion I had a 3 day job trial that didn’t work out, sadly it didn’t work out and it ended after one day. In order to avoid another mess my mum gave them a call about my job trial as it clashed with my sign on day. They put me on the system as ‘in work’. There is no communication over there.

  21. Every time you speak to somebody over the telephone to make arrangements that can affect you, or even when you meet them personally, you must ask for the name of the person who is advising you to take action. That way, you can report back and have more of a claim to recovering what is owed to you. I always do this, even if it’s just to confirm to something like a dentist appointment that I can’t make it. Always ask for the name and keep a note of the date and time you communicated with them.

  22. “Having already interviewed with an English language school in Cardiff, they emailed me the following day to ask if I could come back on the 5th June to give an observed lesson so that they could see what kind of teacher I was.”

    I am astonished that you would have indulged, let alone tolerate, such a request – after all, the interview will establish the basis for doing the job, and the probationary contract (ie the time before a formal Contract of Employment is issued) would have given parties an opportunity to observe your lessons and to evaluate “what kind of teacher” you are.

    Sounds like the School Manager is a pathetic piece of work… eager to avoid the need to employ Supply Teachers, let alone Permanent Staff, and prepared to ask interviewees to fill in.

    • It is common place these days for any school either employing a full time member of staff or getting supply for a long term period (to cover maternity leave, known long term sick leave, the leaving of a member of staff before the end of the school year or term, etc) to interview potential candidates and observe them teach – not always on the same day. Often the observation takes place in the candidates current school with their class however as Ceri was not in current work this would have not been possible, leaving no choice but to have her teach a lesson at the Language school. With the pressure the schools are under to have their students perform it is no longer acceptable to employ someone long term, giving them a probationary period to see if they are suitable.

  23. I can totally empathise with you.
    I was made unemplyed back in 2008 and had already made palns and paid for a break away prior to this unemplyment occuring.
    I wasnt going anywhere fancy just to the IOM and the West of England.
    However i had to fill-out the paper form about contact while i would be away. I refused to give them a contact number as the last time i left them a contact number for a spell away they abused the privolage and constantly called the number and left messages etc. i explained all this in the form.
    I also said that i would endevour to look for work.
    So while away i kept a log and all computer printouts from local JC I visited and people i spoke and receipts for handing in CV’s, as well as all newpapers I looked in.
    I came home to find a letter saying I had, had my claim suspended due to being uncontactaable and not looking for work. To the local JC I went and told them everythign I had done and why they were not given a number etc, and still they stuck by their thinking that because i never had a mobile i was off skiving.
    I appealled the decission and went to a panel, to the panel i took all papers, contacts etc and explained to the panel that in previous occassions the JC had abused the privolage of having a number while i was away several years before and that i declined for this reason to give it again; incidently i was in full time employment by the time the tribunual panle cam along, a job I had found in a paper while i was away skiving, i explained all this to the panel who asked if i had a job at this time, ‘yes, a job i got through a letter send while away’ I also showed them all paper work etc from while i was away.
    The tribunual found in my favour and i got my money back-dated.
    A small consilation however, when like you at the time I was without money and had to borrow from friends and family to get things done and make ends meet.
    This country is a disgrace and the fat cats need to have some lipo-suction done, rather than starving and restricting the working man, the working machine that keeps the country running.

  24. I remember it was really bad in the 1970s, especially just around the 1976 heatwave and the 1979 rubbishmen’s strike. But I think this time round, your generation is getting the soggy end of things. For starters, your outgoing expenses are more than ours then. No phone? We did without it, and it was no big deal. No phone today? Can’t even get a job interview. And people today are fussier than in my day too. University student (never mind graduate) – no problem, you can handle anything. Today? Like you said, who isn’t one nowadays… I wish you the best. Cheers from Hong Kong, Rob.

  25. I’ve graduated University and began working in Leeds shortly after. After a few months my company made me redundant. I miserably went to sign on at the Job Center in Leeds where I told them all my experience and qualifications – I was hopeful having a Computer Science degree would ensure a quick transition into a new job. My term for my house was expiring and I had no job so I was forced to move back with my family in the middle of the countryside.

    I went to the local job center and asked for that to be where I needed to sign on, all sorted, great. I patiently waited for my 54 pounds a week and began looking for work immediately. With very little work available in my area that does not involve knocking on elderly people’s doors and trying to con them I didn’t know what to do.

    A lady at the job center suggested I try and set up my own business, so I did. I used what little money I had left and ordered business cards and went out to post them everywhere. a fortnight later I went back to the Job Center and was seen by a totally different person. She asked me what I was doing to look for work, so I told her, she asked how I thought it was okay to use ‘their’ money to set up a business for myself… I was fairly shocked after being given this advice by a co-worker of hers! She further went on and asked me, “What makes you think you’re qualified to do such work anyway?’ Which I found puzzling as they have access to my qualifications.

    When I told her that I was in fact qualified, she quickly signed my book and asked me to leave. The next time I went I inquired about what job’s they had on the system that I could do. Apparently, they had me down for gardening jobs.

    I walked out at that point and never bothered with them again.

    Advice for the OP, I know it’s soul breaking but sign up to every agency going. They will find some mind numbing job for you, it sucks but at least I can afford to live on my own again. My goal is to save up enough money to get the hell out of this country before it’s too late.

  26. I hope that common sense prevails and they reinstate your benefits following your appeal, it looks to me like a logistical cock up to me.

    “This country is fucked”. Is it? Is it really….?

    I find it interesting that you say you’d like to live ‘anywhere’ other than here…Syria? North Korea? Zimbabwe?. How about Spain? 50% of the country are unemployed, it is also common for young people to live with their parents well into their thirties in many cases. There seems to be a perception in the UK that living with your parents after Uni and gap year is some sort of failing, it’s not.

    I hope that you find a job soon, I’m convinced that you will, as you clearly have a desire to work, and despite all the gloom merchants on this thread, things are actually beginning to pick up. We’ve been through far worse situations than this….I just don’t buy the narrative that the tories have somehow destroyed a country in 3 years. To most people, life is pretty much the same as it was with Labour. And as we sit with our iphones, laptops, broadband, in insulated, water tight structures, with clean running water, gas etc, perhaps we could reflect on how fucking lucky we actually are.

  27. It’s faceless, automated bureaucracy that’s shafted you, not the Tories. Don’t get me wrong, the Tories are filth, but this would have happened under the last lot as the automation of services was widespread before there was a need for cuts. This is an explanation offering no solutions – this is simply going to happen more often and there’s not much anyone can do about it at this point. ‘Computer says no’.

  28. Just the other side of the coin here – I have been out of the UK for 13 years and have been fortunate enough to visit for several weeks each year; I have family the length and breadth of the country. So, I do know how dire things are in terms of job opportunities and don’t have particularly rosy-coloured spectacles relating to the UK. Even so, I am planning on returning to the UK in August and can’t wait.

    The employment situation is much the same, all over the western world, so if you take that bit out of the equation, looking at the bigger picture, I still think the UK is a better option than many, many other places. It’s a whole different experience having lived somewhere intending to make it your home. Now, I’ve changed my mind and want to go back. I’m fortunate that I won’t have to negotiate the JSE debacle, but honestly, that part of the western world isn’t different anywhere. If you lived where I am right now, you could be getting absolutely no money at all and find that if you got sick, you had no way to see a doctor without paying for it either. There’s not much in the way of a public transport system so getting to interviews is a practical as well as a financial issue. (And the staff in the benefits offices get sent on courses in sneering. :-))

    The advice you’ve been given about getting names and paraphrasing conversations is good. I’d suggest keeping a diary and writing it all down too, so you don’t forget bits that you need to recall later. Disengaged staff are a huge issue too and the whole system needs shaking up, there’s no doubt. Contacting your MP is also good advice. I had a similar issue myself almost 30 years ago, when I was a single parent, mature student so this isn’t a new problem. I contacted my MP who was wonderful. He got everything sorted within days AND I got a personal phone call and apology from the manager of the benefits office. He also explained about the regulations changing by the day, way back then.

    As an aside, I’ve been asked a number of times to give a demonstration lesson, back in the days when I was a teacher looking for work. It’s ridiculous to my mind, especially when GCSE classes are used as the guinea-pigs, but sadly, it’s not that unusual, so you have to do it or not get work.

    Best wishes with your search. Hang in there and it will get better I’m sure. One of my children did what you did in terms of returning to the UK and finding that there was no help for him as he hadn’t ‘contributed to the system’, (funny that as a foreign national, an asylee or refugee you don’t need to do that), but he is working now, and doing well for himself.

  29. so she gave you the number she is not suppose to give you that your suppose to call to inform them of the interview.

    how are you suppose to call on a number thats your not suppose to have? – that alone sums up the idiocy of the job centre.

  30. I walked in to the job centre last summer in short and a t shirt (it was hot), immediately I felt as though I was being judged for a ‘bum’, however, as soon as I dropped the bomb that I was a teacher, their whole tone changed. Elitism is right, I thought I was just being super sensitive but you have expressed my exact feelings.

  31. I came back from America last year and signed on a couple of days later. Within a couple of days of being on the dole, I got myself a job interview. Like you, my sign on date coincided with my interview date. So I called the job centre and told them and they docked me dole money as I had gone to an interview. I couldn’t believe it. I’d gone looking for work and got an interview, but they docked me money. I thought they’d be pleased.

    The woman also told me the day I signed on that any travel expenses could be paid back to me. So me (completely broke) buys a train ticket for about £15 to get to my interview location. When I went to get my money back they said I’d need to show proof of attendance at the interview and a bank statement to prove I needed the money.

    So I showed up with my bank statement and proof of attendance and I had about £10 in my bank!. They said “how have you survived this long without dole money?” I told her about my travels and as soon as I did she said “if you could afford to be in America that long, you don’t need money back”. Like you, I was fuming. But when you’re on the dole, they treat you like you’re scum. I told her how I stayed with friends and how my family had supported me financially both for (some of my trip) and in terms of rent at home.

    My claim closed later that month and I never got any money back. I found a temporary job for Christmas but was back signing on at the start of January. Pretty soon after I was forced into ‘voluntary’ work so working for nothing in a place I didn’t want to be. They’d force me on courses about job searching, all for £56 a week. But you’re so desperate for the money that you do it. If you don’t, they’ll take it away from you.

    In the middle of all this I applied for my dream job (very speculatively) and a couple of months later I got an interview. Now I am working and living my dream. The day I got the call from my current employers to say I had the job, I got a call from the job centre saying that they had set up an interview for me at Homebase. Working for nothing really, just your JSA. No motivation at all and a job there isn’t for me. Thank God I got that call from my employers that day.

    Thankfully those days signing on and browsing internet sites, shop windows, newspapers and desperately searching for a job are gone. Hopefully I never have to step foot in a job centre ever again.

    I wish you all the best in your current job search. I’ve been there recently and it is tough for everyone. I didn’t go to University, which made my job search even tougher in this country right now. I’m not going to say “if I can get a job, anyone can”. Because I was very, very fortunate. I’m extremely grateful to be employed where I am right now and very lucky to have a job at all the way things are.

    I hope you find something soon. Don’t get me wrong, JSA was helpful in a tough period in my life and I’m grateful it was there (even though I felt like a c*nt being on the dole). But if I didn’t do that work around Christmas where I got a big pay cheque for a few weeks, things would have been a lot tighter than they were. That dug me out of deep sh!t!.

  32. the whole benefits system is a joke. i’m on disability benefits as i’m not well enough to work. i have a condition which results in my joints dislocating very easily & am in constant pain from this. i have to take morphine to keep the pain at a manageable level but this gives me side effects. its also a condition that causes me to get tired very easily because with my ligaments not holding my joints in place like they’re meant to my muscles try to take over that job so it doesn’t take much for me to get very tired. a lot of people claiming esa (employment support allowance) are now finding themselves in a bad situation. they are found fit for work & their money is stopped. they know they aren’t fit for work so appeal but they’re told they can’t have any money until the appeal is heard which can take a year to a year & a half! they ask how they are meant to live with no money in the meantime to be told they can apply for jsa however you can only get jsa if you agree that you can work so then they’d be done for fraud! thankfully this hasn’t happened to me… yet. after filling my form in i were informed i had been put in the work related activity group & they agreed i currently can’t work but expected me to be fit for work in a year when i have a progressive condition. i had to request the statement of reasons for why i’d been put in work related activity group (they can put you on workfare program if you’re in that group) several times before they finally sent it after the deadline for my appeal to go in. the statement of reasons stated what i had put in the form matched up with the condition i have so the assessor was saying she thought i’d told th truth about how my condition affects me however further on she contradicted that by saying i could do several things i had clearly told them in the form i coudn’t do. i hadn’t been called in for a medical assessment & the decision was apparently based solely on the form i’d filled in so where had she got this idea from that i could do things that i cannot do? i appealed & sent a letter with the appeal form telling them why it was late & eventually months later i got a letter telling me they had reconsidered & put me in support group which means i now can’t be forced to do workfare doing jobs that i can’t do. if i hadn’t got that statement of reasons & had stayed in work related group i could have been told i had to go & do several weeks working somewhere doing a job that i couldn’t physically do or i’d have been sanctioned. the sanction wouldn’t have ended until i complied & proved i couldn’t do the job by trying & seriously injuring myself

  33. I became unemployed in Dec 2009 having worked every day since leaving school. In Dec 2011 I was informed by the DWP as I was unemployed 2 years I had to go on a steps to work scheme for 8 weeks Northern Ireland’s version of Workfare. 7 weeks into the placement I received a letter from the DWP with an appointment with their fraud investigation team. I went was cautioned and the bloke told me they had evidence that I was working while claiming JSA. He produced times dates even a photo of me in a work suit and yes you’ve guessed the times and dates coincided with the times I was on the work placement. Effectively they said I was “doing the double” when I was actually on a work placement organised by THEM. You really couldn’t make up how thick they really are. I still haven’t received an apology.

  34. Ceri, like others have said, reading that made me so angry! I’ve been out of work for 6 months now, applied for over 50 jobs, have had 6 interviews and my advisor reckons I’m the hardest working and most successful client she has…

    To date I have not received my JSA money on time or by way of a regular automatic payment! Initially the payments didn’t come through due to them losing a letter I sent them clearing up a mistake they made about my address. They eventually “found” my letter and paid me a one-off payment to cover what I was owed. Regular payments never started up, even though they assured me they would. I called them again to ask why to be told that my wife’s earnings took our family over the earning threshold for JSA entitlement (she gets Child Benefit and 200/month tax credit). When I queried this I was told by the woman on the phone (who works for DWP and answers calls to the benefits helpline) that she wasn’t really sure, she just told me that because she thinks that’s what it probably is but she isn’t a benefits expert “is she” and someone else would call me back.

    I eventually got called back by a guy who apologised immediately, told me that the letter I had originally written clearing up the address issue that they had caused was not logged on file so my benefits had been sanctioned as they believed I had moved house…! I clarified with him that I hadn’t moved house, he apologied more and sent me a one-off payment with the promise that automatic payments would start.

    Guess what, a month later and no payment has come into my account and again we are reliant on credit cards and my wife’s benefits to get by.

    The thing that gets me more than anything is that I am astounded the people who work in these places manage to hold down their jobs. They seem to be so incompetent and operate withing a wholey not-fit-for-purpose organisation. It makes me sick that I am older than most of them, better qualified, have more experience, am a considerably better communicator, I am more efficient and have stronger people skills but I am being let down and looked down in by these people. If I didn’t have a wife and two children, a mortgage and debts to service, I’d give up altogether.

    The country is in the shit and sinking deeper.

    Ceri, best of luck in your job search and keep your chin up!

  35. Ok, perhaps some practical bits and bobs:

    Contact your local MP. Write to them asking them to look into your case or visit one of their surgeries. That’s one of the things they are there for.

    Write to the Secratary of State for Work and Pensions too explaining the situation.

    Speak to your local councillors and see if they have any advice. All elected representatives are there to help their constituents and can help in bureocratic issues.

    Good luck with the job search. Keep positive – it will happen. For those younger readers, use this experience to weigh up the benefits of apprenticeships… It may not be as fun as Uni, but it gives you a head start and a foot on the ladder in these difficult times.

  36. Something similar happened to me. I was sanctioned for not attending a DWP interview – after I had signed off for a week to do some work. Even my DWP adviser was a bit shocked by it all.

    I asked the job centre manager to stop the sanction as they had the proof that I had signed off for a week and therefore could not attend, but she just gave the usual bureaucratic response of “it’s in the system, nothing can be done.”

    Do appeal DWP decisions as they never change them at the lower levels, I presume so they can hit their targets. I won my appeal, took about a month to get paid. If you don’t win on the first appeal keep going up the system as its appalling how they treat people.

    Good luck

  37. They have targets.
    Sanction x number of “customers” or the boss don’t like it.

    A friend of mine was sent on a training course on his normal signing on day by the JCP
    The same JCP that then sanctioned him for failing to attend for signing on.
    If he had gone to sign on and missed the training, he would have been sanctioned.

    What is this Joseph Heller meets Kafka or something?

  38. I hope you don’t mind it if I signal boost this, because this is fucking horrific. I hope you win your case.

  39. which part of the UK do you live? I will check my business tomorrow and let you know if we have any vacancies in your area? You would fit right in with us? I’m sure you will have heard of us given your lifestyle. Email me your details, let’s see 🙂

  40. What unbelievably unfair treatment. Positively Kafkaesque. You might consider applying for the JET Program to teach in Japan, if you’re still having no luck in a few months (though I hope that won’t be the case.) JET pays the cost of the flight to Japan.


    I’ve literally just come out of a very similar experience! only difference, i have a house with my sister for which we are responsible for all the bills. and after approximately six weeks of me waiting to find out whether they will give me money or not they decide NOT TO, i tried applying for some kind of emergency loan from the government, again i am not applicable for whatever reasons…

    i felt ashamed to ask friends for money, £5.00 here and there just to get the train into central to look for jobs and print c.v’s! i am not even going to talk about food and shampoo haha!

    i decided to suck up by pride and call my old area manager. he got me a job within the week and wonga has helped this long long month a little. it now costs me approximately £7 to get to and from work every day which when your in retail is a massive chunk out of your daily earnings! and is a completely different subject haha.

    i also applied to be a teaching assistant in the meantime so i can work for something a little better. unfortunately i don’t have a degree and so may not have as much options. seems to me the only way to make any money these days is to create your own job! myself started a clothing line for extra cash. sold most of my precious belongings to do it aswell.

    Good luck!

  42. It sounds as though a huge part of the problem is the staff at these Job Centres. They should be made redundant, and their jobs given to people who give a damn.

  43. I really do sympathise with you OP. The communication between staff in JCP is mainly about heat magazine or who they cheated on their husbands with last week. Absolute bunch of blubbering idiots. I was cut off for a similar reason. Their new Jobsite Universal Jobmatch is what caused my sanction- I was wary about signing up in the first place because frankly it just sounded Orwellian, and when I was forced to sign up- there was not even enough jobs available on the site for me to apply to! I had applied for 5 that week and had proof of ten more through my gmail account- 15, well over the minimum six. But apparently the minimum six only applied to UJ… I was so angry… the lack of common sense is offensive… Why am I not allowed to use other sources in my jobsearch? I’d have no chance of finding a job if I stuck to that shitty spammy shit spam. My case was sent off to a decision maker- I sent them a long essay and PRINTED PROOF of the 10 other job applications through my gmail- but still apparently, that wasn’t enough for them and I was cut off for a MONTH. A whole month. My life stopped and shame took over. THE SICKO’S IN CHARGE COMMEND THE STAFF FOR SANCTIONS! The more people off of benefits- the better! The better the numbers and statistics look! They have been told to aim to sanction three people a week!!! DISGUSTING!!!
    OP, you have the advantages of university and experience all over the world- don’t let anyone ever tell you that that is worthless!!! It makes me think what kind of hope is there for people like me who are young, with little qualifications, no prospects, and mental illness? It just makes you feel like giving up- and that is unfortunately why so many people’s lives have been deeply torn under the name of “Austerity”. We understand you very well. It is a sad reality growing larger and larger at the minute.

    WE NEED CHANGE!!!!!!!

  44. I’ve been on and off JSA a few times as I am an agency worker. Every time I have had contact with the Jobcentre that have messed something up royally. These are just the ones off the top of my head:
    * When starting a new job the Jobcentre told the tax office I was working two jobs, causing me to be put on the wrong tax code. Took around 6 months to sort out as the tax office told me that I had to get the Jobcentre to correct the information, and the Jobcentre said it was nothing to do with them and a tax office error.
    * Apparently I was not eligible for JSA as I had been in hospital as an inpatient for 8 months. I’ve never been an inpatient.
    * Been put on a basic skills class as according to them I have no qualifications, when actually I have qualifications up to postgraduate level. The adviser was of an opinion that I was lying to get out of the course as she couldn’t understand how her precious computer could be wrong.
    * Been overpaid £300 because I was given the wrong information when I started up a 12 hour a week job. I was told that I could keep the money if I could prove that I was given poor information, but as it was a face to face conversation in the jobcentre I had no hard record.
    * Spent most of an hour on the phone explaining how I was working in an agency so my weekly hours were not regular and that the hourly rate was dependent on the job. They didn’t save the information, so I ended up being shouted at for working without telling them.
    * Ended up penniless as I had not been informed I was on contribution based and would need to apply for income based when the 6 months ran out. The first I knew was when the housing benefit office rang me to ask what I was living off as the Jobcentre had rung to cancel my housing benefit.
    * Not been told that they will only process my claim once they have copies of documents, leaving me waiting for money that would never come.
    * Been told I would have to leave my part-time 12 hours a week job to do an English course. If I didn’t I would be sanctioned. I signed off.

    They have inflicted more mess ups on me, but I don’t want to bore you. Now when I have work I save ever penny I can so I won’t have to go anywhere near them when I am not working.

  45. This is disgusting. As an ex decision maker for DWP, there is no way I would have stopped your money in these circumstances. Good luck at your appeal. Make sure you attend it.

  46. My relatives returned from 10 years abroad and have had no money for 18 weeks(!) due to “failing the habitual residency test”.

    That’s despite being British citizens, having returned to work in UK for several months three times in the 10 years, now living with their parents, their kids at local schools, applying for jobs on the UK and having no means to go abroad (or visible means of support).

    DWP’s position contravenes their own rules but habitual residency seems to be the current default technique to dissuade returning ex-pats from claiming benefits, even if it isn’t applicable.

    In the meantime, multiple agencies an appeal and a tribunal are being deployed to ensure my relatives get what they are fully entitled to. What a waste if time, public money and energy, the DWP should be ashamed.

    And all the while, two people who have always wirked hard and paid their taxes are being victimised and their children left to suffer.

    A national disgrace and an indictment of Iain Duncan Smith and his cold hearted, short-sighted puritanism. He and his ilk are ripping this country apart and costing us taxpayers money through his incompetence and blind dogmatism.

  47. First I’d go back to the Job Centre and ask to speak to the manager and calmly and non-confrontationally explain the problem and provide evidence of the interview. You might need to call Cardiff was it and get them to e-mail you proof of the extra interview day. If they still won’t change fire off a letter to your MP explaining everything and they will likely get involved of course that is a 4-6 week wait.

  48. I had to sign on when I was 17. They make you take your parent/guardian with you. And then they talk over your head about whether or not I should move out. Like I wasn’t even there.

    This is a joke. They need to sort themselves out and start acting like a professional company. total waste of time.

  49. Wow, reading this article was like reading my own life right now… it’s uncanny!!! Yes you are right this country has sadly become pile of *******, which makes me sad to say because I like to think of myself as patriotic. Yet there is only so much our generation can take. I am actually in the process of training to be a EFL teacher so at least you are one step ahead with experience etc. I hope to leave the country as there is nothing here for me…. no job prospects left in Britain. I too have been enduring the JSA merry-go-round. I’ve never known such a shockingly abysmal and disconnected organisation. Nobody at the Jobcentre seems to know what the hell is going on. Different people tell you different things. It is quite literally insane. Hope your story gets out! I reckon the Daily Mail will publish it if you send it to them! I can forward this article to someone I know at the Daily Mail – they might be able to get it in the news! Good luck with the job hunt!

  50. Ceri, I am so sorry that you’re going through this. When I first began to read your post it is doubly sad that I could almost have predicted what it was going to say, such is the way things are in the UK at the moment. I promise, the more you find out the more horrified you will become at the way the Government are crushing even the disabled at the moment.

    A friend of mine also read your post and was extremely angered by it, so much so that he also wanted to share his story with you and has asked that I re-post it here for him. His letter I shall paste, but before I do, I want to wish you every ounce of luck and success that you so deserve. Hopefully someone might read this blog who might be able to help you get out of this Monty Python, foot crushing system.

    My very best wishes to you,

    ” Have a read of this then as an example of bureaucracy.
    In 2009 I was diagnosed and treated for Bowel Cancer. Up until then I’d always been employed and for the previous 9 years was in a well-paid management position. I.E. was paying shed loads of tax (about £1200 PM if I remember correctly). I don’t like to play this card, but I’m also ex-forces (2 Para) and was in the Falklands, so I’ve done my bit for Queen and Country. Treatment took 18 months and I started claiming Incapacity benefit and Housing benefit when my savings ran out. Although medically signed off for a year I declared myself fit for work 9 months early (what a mug), but I was feeling able to get back into work and it seemed the decent thing to do. Then the recession hit and finding jobs to apply for was hard enough, let alone actually landing one. Six months later, I got a letter from DWP saying my case had been reviewed and my JSA would be increased by £1.80 per fortnight. Kewl, I live in London so that equates to a free pint of beer every 5 weeks. Still, I hadn’t asked for it, so thank you very much.

    5 months later I get two letters in the same week, one from my landlord and the other from DWP Housing benefit section. The landlords’ debt collection agent told me I was 3 months in arrears in rent and gave me 2 weeks to cough up, plus £50 for the cost of their letter. WTF ??? I checked all the pockets of my trousers and jackets and discovered I didn’t have it, so I gave the landlords a ring. The person I needed to speak to was on hols, The Dominican Republic, as it happens, like that was going to cheer me up, and wouldn’t be back for 3 weeks. Hmmm I’d be evicted by then. I wondered if there was a way I could find out where they lived, at least that would give me a week off the streets.

    I was about to contact the DWP to find out why my rent was not being paid anymore when their letter arrived, and gave the reason. “I had not declared the change in my circumstances”. HUH! What change in circumstances? Why has it taken you 3 months to let me know? It turned out, that 90p a week increase of JSA was the culprit. JSA and Housing benefit are not on talking terms; it was up to me to inform the Housing side of my newfound wealth. Obviously I appealed, a simple mistake had been made, and I explained what had happened. They reviewed my appeal and found against it. I went to the DWP drop in centre the next day with all the paperwork, and after a few hours wait spoke to a guy through the plexi-glass. He read my papers, heard my tale, saw me getting damp about the eye (I’d beaten cancer and was about to become homeless over 90p a week). He was outraged; he even said “This is outrageous”. I was scared, I can’t become homeless, you haven’t seen how much shit I’ve accumulated in my flat over 20 years. How the hell am I going to find that many shopping trolleys, how will I get them all to move? The guy behind the plexi-glass was brilliant. He told me to go home put everything I had told him in writing, and he would see that it landed on the right desk. I was back an hour later. He was impressed with my writing. Three days later and in the nick of time the decision was overturned and backdated.

    Only problem now, is what the fuck do I do with all these shopping trolleys.”

  51. Your friends on FB were right Cez, you should have stayed where you were. “Don’t come back, Cez. There’s nothing here anymore.”. The UK is done, well cooked. No, scrub that, its cremated like the proverbial overdone roast.
    I wish you luck getting that job, the life of an unemployed person in the UK is a life of hell. Utter hell. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. You are classed as a scrounger too, for having the cheek to not have one of those countless jobs that dont exist anywhere other than Iain Duncan Smith’s tiny, pea sized sociopath brain.

  52. This sounds horrendous. So sorry. I’m on jsa and have been for the last two months and only on my last appointment did they say they’d cover my travel costs to and from interviews. They said I just need to clear it first and bring the receipt/ticket. I would ask if they can for you too. One less thing for you to pay for. If they cover it in London they should everywhere. Good luck! Don’t let the b*****s grind you down!

  53. Just a quick note – the job centre will pay your travel to and from interviews if you provide proof of the interview taking place (an email or letter – if you haven’t got it, ask the agency/company to email you confirming the date, time and place it happened, they will usually do it quite happily) and, of course, the tickets or other proof of the journey – in London we tend to use oyster cards for everything and these make available monthly reports of where you went. You shouldn’t need to use all your money to go for the interviews.

    Don’t you just love these people who “swore never to sign on again” or “walked out and never bothered with them again”? They obviously don’t have the first idea of what it’s like to have NO OTHER CHOICE and NO OTHER MEANS OF GETTING MONEY!

  54. Please don’t give this country the benefit of the doubt. You said you’re an english teacher? You are very lucky as you can take that anywhere in the world. Don’t waste any more time, just pack up and go!

  55. The experience you’ve described is one I’ve read over and over again on blogs and in forums and twitter as well. You have my sympathy as you did everything right. It shows that the system doesn’t work, its simply not fit for purpose. I too am unemployed, sadly I think it’ll only get worse for the foreseeable future. I was also forced on the wretched work programme. I turned up to be greeted by someone I’d been to high school with who was now one of the advisers. That was pretty embarrassing as we couldn’t pretend not to know each other so it was all “oh hi… how ru? um, yeah, I’m not up to much…”.I only hope that the worsening situation encourages people to find out more about the benefits system and it’s failures as well as to realise how important a financial support system is for those of us who can’t find work. It’s incredibly unfair how you’ve been treated and I hope you manage to publicise this widely – only by exposing the DWP will they be forced into changing things. You’re not alone.

  56. lot’s of good advice above…can’t really add to it much except to show support and empathy for your situation ….pity this country doesn’t have more Brazilians living here…I’m thinking 10 or 15 million would do….then something positive might occur….good luck and best wishes to you

  57. Exactly the same thing happened to me. Don’t let the bastards get you down sweetie. It’s hard – I know. I first graduated summer 2009, and only through damned stubbornness on my part (and two more degrees), do I now have a good job. It is possible, but in my experience it’s not always easy.

    Just keep swimming lady, and use your down time (that’s how I started to look at it) to drink tea, read all the books, go for long walks. Everything will pan out.


  58. I hope that you will appeal against this decision as it is obviously unfair but that is the DWP for you!

  59. Whilst I understand your anger, I really do. I do have one remark as to a reason to stay. To make sure this thing doesn’t happen to our kids to fix this mess and sort our country out. To leave it in a better shape than it was. I realise I sound like some condem propagandist I am anything but, their economic policy is a joke and dot get me stated on their social policy. However leaving the country is allowing them to win and abandoning those not strong enough to swim to sink.

  60. Totally sympathise.

    The time I needed to get help from the State, it was a joke – I was refused help after losing my job because my wife was in a part-time job earning £400 a month, which was apparently enough for us to live on, so no JSA. Of course, if you can’t claim JSA, then you can’t claim any other benefits – Council Tax Benefits, Housing Benefit etc. We were privately renting at the time and our rent was £665 a month, with essential monthly outgoings (bills and food) of around £1000 including rent, and yet apparently we were earning enough to live on with that £400 a month. Worst of all, because Job Centres take so long to process everything I still had to go through a month of signing on before I got final confirmation that they wouldn’t give me anything.

    Then I find a job, and a year later my wife gives birth – suddenly the State is falling over itself to give us money in the form of Child Benefits and different tax credits. So, when I needed help most, nothing. When I didn’t need it, suddenly we couldn’t stop them from pouring money into our hands.

    BTW, to those spouting party politics, the state of the welfare system has nothing to do with the current government. It’s the fault of every government since the inception of the welfare state.

  61. Ceri… you are one of many that have to face this this under-educated, under-experienced and un caring workforce at what is laughingly called the JOB centre … how can someone who has never had to find work beyond their local job centre advise on employment potential across the country…and for the salary they get why should they care how successful they are in helping jobseekers… but having said that your story is worth telling but not here amongst the carnage that is facebook… go to the Daily Mail and give them the story… the exposure might just add to making a difference.

  62. Wow. I’m so sorry, Ceri. I wish I could send you a plane ticket and have you come stay with us until you get on your feet again. Good luck and keep fighting the good fight!

  63. Funny. I had the same where they mentioned about the strike. I prefer not to use a mobile. (I am mostly at home) and I got the same treatment. I have a couple of degrees. I once had a sign on the day I had to attend an interview and rather than sign on the day before, I had to sign on – the office was in one direction and the interview was in another.

    I also have a learning difficulty (dyspraxia) which makes working in some places neigh on impossible as I just don’t have the speed. I was even on the WP and I had no assistance with the dyspraxia to get through an interview (I tend to fumble a bit in interviews) and I was parked eventually – next to no help. You want to work and they don’t want to help you in getting there on time etc.

  64. That just stinks. You have my sympathy (fat lot of good that does I know) and I hope your appeal is successful.

    Sanctioned for attending a job interview – that’s not right!

  65. I feel for you. I just came back to the UK from Asia, where I taught English part-time, and later worked at a software company, full-time. I stayed abroad for over 2 years, and I might not qualify for any benefits; I’m living by myself and just managing to get by. I was also affected by the Job Centre Strike which delayed my application by another week. (I haven’t been paid at-all.) I made my claim for JSA last month on the 21st, and I took the Habitual Residence Test a couple weeks ago. Nothing so far. I’ve been told that I could possibly have to wait up to another 6 weeks for them to view my case. It seems as if most of the Job Centres just collect information and send it off to another office for it to be confirmed by the so called “Decision Makers”. Either way, it’s a bloody slow process if they can’t determine whether or not I passed an extremely basic test.

    The only feel likely at the fact that the people working at my particular Job Centre aren’t too bad. Although, I am starting to question if they themselves are actually qualified to be giving out CV advice, and job advice when they really don’t look into the jobs that you are applying for and the reasons why you are applying for those jobs. I don’t think they give a shit, so as long as you can get a job, that’s all they care about, but supporting you? Nope.

  66. I’m told that cleaners in the posher areas of London earn 12-15 pounds an hour. Also, there is scope for English teachers in China. Leave there at once, it’s Catch 22. You can’t win, those clerks have the Park Keeper mentality. I used to dream of coming back, but not now.

  67. Great blog, Keep the faith, You’re not alone. I’ve worked for nearly 30 years, Infantry officer, journalist for 25 years, running newsrooms and setting news agendas. I returned to the UK a year ago, I’m now working as a zero hours casual binman, I’m too experienced for my own profession, apparently, and not experienced to even work in call centres. I hope you don’t mind, but this shows my dealings with the DWP.
    Three months after I thought a debt I don’t owe was dealt with, they’re started after me again,
    This is my country and the politicians, Tory, Labour, Lib Dem (and UKIP if they ever get in) have let us all down. Time for a change.
    I work damn hard for an average of £200 a week and count myself lucky.
    Keep faith in yourself and never give up.

  68. You have all my sympathies. I graduated into the 90’s recession. I also went overseas and taught English. Get overseas as soon as you can and don’t come back till the economy is back on its feet. Good luck!

  69. I was in a similar situation after I came home to The States from studying abroad in Australia. My debt definitely piled high but thankfully, I wasn’t home too long and was able to leave for Korea to teach English about 3.5 months later. Like you, I was very lucky to have family to help me out and my sister was more than willing to have me stay with her for those months – which I called “limbo”, as I was in between jobs and ultimately, in between life-stages as well. I’m sure you will figure things out and get life sorted.

    I know it seems hard now but things always have a way of working out. There were times that I didn’t think I would be able to teach English abroad after all and after quite a few obstacles, things finally fell into place. I hope that you’re still considering teaching abroad. It’s a great opportunity to save money and pay back debt (which I’m still doing now, almost 4 months after getting here!) Good luck with everything!

  70. possibly the only solution , there appears to be a very regimented by diktat style of ” management ” …the orders for this stricter benefit regime scheme come from very on high , there’s no shades of grey , everything is in black and white , no discretion / flexibility and no authority ….to some ….it’s like the Moses and the Sermon on the Mount and the tablets scenario

    ….also there’s the pressure from on high to sanction otherwise the staff would be disciplined to be fair …………..the appeals must cost a fortune to administer …..this is the problem ….they may well catch the odd professional claimer / skiver but too many innocent people get caught in the crossfire

    Everything seems to be based on bullying people into non existent jobs , circles that can’t be squared …everything falling on it’s inherent contradictions …badly thought through schemes on the back of a fag packet found on a Eton playing field stuff – a Whitehall source stated …When we say tap dance …they tap dance .

    There appears to be a lot of paranoia from on high …they appear to be terrified that anyone could get one over on them …..going on Grayling’s spin about a lad who was working in a nightclub but declaring it , they’re trying to cramp people’s style so that they can’t do cash in hand foreigners .

    There’s an awful lot of nonsense emanating from Iain Duncan Smith’s dept at the DWP …all this rubbish about his so called Road to Damascus conversion , the far right Centre for ” Social Justice ” when he visited Easter House , Glasgow , the reality is the church people can’t stand him …they think he’s a fraud and a charlatan …….the reality is that they want the American Welfare system to replace the British one …it’s influenced by swivelled eyed people like Charles Murray ……the idea is to make out it’s the claimant’s fault …not the job market and the economic situation .

    The Betsygate scandal did a lot of damage to the Tory Party …IDS is in the last chance saloon …but paroxidically he knows where the bodies are buried too . The Tories aren’t that stupid , they know that the Universal Credit scheme is a car crash waiting to happen and wanted him to move to the Ministry of Justice …he wouldn’t move …so Grayling took the job …he’s trying to corporatise everything , again he wants a American system …taking Justice back ..quite literally centuries .

    You can tolerate necessary evils – if you go all holier than thou , they must expect to be challenged and contradicted …in this instance …it appears that the ” management ” are bolshie & militant …just a different twist on things .

    Seen this at work , very poor senior ” management ” in the public sector – a ” ambitious ” Centre Manager in Oxford …sacked the Area Rep on most probably trumped up charges , which immediately had the staff hot under the collar …enough to start a strike …….to solve the problem …the CEO Adam Crozier and the union DGS had to visit …as no one else appeared to have any authority to deal with it …otherwise .

  71. I’m sorry this happened to you, it’s disgusting but that is Britain today. I’m an unemployed graduate and in desperation asked my MP if I could work for them as an intern (ie for nothing) so that I could get an up to date reference. I was made redundant some time ago. And it’s easier to get a job from a job or at least with a recent reference. The MP was in London most of the time. The woman who ran the constituency office was ‘god’ and it was as uncomfortable to witness her fawning over the young men she clearly preferred as it would have been to witness some fat middle-aged bloke fawning over young women. One of these brilliant young things had been there for months and still couldn’t work the phone. She told me wrong information on how the phones worked but I sussed it and there seemed to be a race to answer before me which I thought was odd so I asked if I should answer, yet it still went on. Pathetic. I brought no lunch (no money) so had no break and as I was looking at a computer all day could hardly see by the end of the day. They chatted, I was clearly expected to get on with what I was doing. I asked if my son could come into the office as he had a day off and would be interested to see a constituency office. He sat there quietly. I asked a question about a parking fine – I was in the right but the council ignored that so I wanted to check the law and asked where I could find that (it’s their sort of thing). I was sacked at the end of that day and given a telling off for bringing my personal life into work (how? If she didn’t want my son in the office why didn’t she say no when I asked her? No it was the parking fine – apparently I’d asked one of her boys, a law graduate, a question he didn’t know and He is going on to great things and I shouldn’t have done that, so I’m sacked. But it would have been fine if I’d phoned as I’m a constituent, even though I’m sat right there). I asked if I could have a reference for the few weeks I’d given but when approached for a reference by my job co-ordinator she refused to take the call. I worked for a couple of weeks for no money and no reference and got a fine of just under £500 as I got no help. So do approach your MP, it’s their job. Just be glad it’s not my MP.

  72. Oh, further to my previous post, I forgot to mention the diatribe against ‘these people’ I had to suffer. I was told in no uncertain terms how awful ‘these people on benefits’ were. I felt obliged to point out I was ‘these people’ and was met with “oh not you, obviously”. I asked how they could tell the difference? If Iain Duncan Smith was sorting out ‘these people’ how could he tell the difference? I got no answer. Let’s just say I wouldn’t go to a Tory MP expecting help. I sincerely hope you have better luck .

  73. Hello, this is exactly the same thing that has happened to my son. He had an interview and was asked back for a 2nd one. He rang the job centre telling them about the interview and they told him his money would be sanctioned if he didn’t attend. He asked what he was meant to do and they told him he needed to go to sign on!He handed the phone to me as he was upset at how they spoke to him, I explained to them he couldn’t possibly be in two places at the same time and could he come another day or even later that day, their reply was ‘ if he doesn’t come to his meet his money will be sanctioned for 13 weeks as rules are rules’! I said he is a 19 year old lad who has been in further education until last year and is trying his hardest to get a job. The lady replied by saying ‘ well as i said rules are rules’! I was so exasperated i put the phone down as she was not budging. He now has no money no job and luckily is living with us so doesn’t struggle for food etc. It is absolutely disgusting how people are treated, it isn’t their fault they are unemployed. These people that work in these centres think they are holier than thou and need to be taught how to deal sensitively with people, especially youngsters who are trying to find their way in the world.
    Another thing is that because he is bright and has A levels he had to find 30 steps to look for work and apply for at least 8 jobs a week. Sometimes there was only 2 new jobs on the new vacancies boards! His friend who isn’t as bright only has to do 10 steps each work and apply for 2 jobs!!! I am thinking of writing a letter to David Cameron about this, it is all so terrible it really is. How are youngsters meant to gain confidence when you have these so called idiots thinking they are above everyone else because they are the ones that say you can have the money you are entitled to or not!

  74. It’s terrible to see you go through this, but I can’t say I’m very suprised.

    After leaving Uni and doing a few jobs here and there I ended up on the dole. It was an eye-opening experience as to how un-organised and frankly clueless they were.

    “It says here you have a degree? Would you like help filling out the forms?”

    I found a job for graphic design (which I’m qualified for), took it to the desk and they stated the extra info for me – tacked onto the end ‘Must have a head for heights’. I said that it can’t be a design job as we don’t go up into high places – we sit at computers all day, we make logos etc. They then threatened to give me ‘a strike’ because I had refused to go to the interview (which was in Scotland BTW!) and then to get out of it I had to lie and say that I’m scared of heights.

    The computers there were brilliant too:
    Search: Graphic Design
    Location: All UK

    Search: Graphic Design
    Location: Central London
    12 jobs found!

    So basically by searching for the entire UK it gave me no results, but searching specific locations did. There’s something very broken there!

    Years later I moved to Japan, worked for a few years and the contract ran out on my job and so I decided to use ‘Hello work’, which is the Japanese equivalent – to say that it was a stark contrast would be an understatement. Despite me not having perfect Japanese I walked out of there in the first week with about 10 decent interviews. They were perfectly polite and extremely helpful and they also didn’t ask me if I needed help in filling out my forms….that were in Japanese!

  75. I can sympathise. I came out a graduate, couldn’t find a job in the city I studied (I wanted to move in with friends) moved back in with parents, spent a long time on JSA looking for work, found some temp jobs, but for me the most annoying thing was, I was inexperienced and wanted experience to help me get a job (they all ask for experienced people), so I asked the job centre about voluntary work experience but said I wouldn’t be able to claim JSA if I worked for a non-charitable organisation. Which I found ridiculous, because there were places I could get sound work experience but they weren’t charities. I did end up giving up JSA for a short while after finishing a temp job to do some. But I thought I would be doing what I could to help me get into employment and wish I could have done more. When it did come round to a job interview for a job I wanted and was qualified to do they turned around and said, “you don’t have enough experience”, which infuriated me.

    When it came to looking for work whilst the people in my job centre were nice, there weren’t that many tools to boost me into work. They did eventually include a work experience scheme where you’d work for a business for 8 weeks. I was given an admin role and to be fair to them that was a valuable experience (it was for a recruitment agency and I made friends there), but soon after the media hit with controversy over businesses abusing this system for free labour.

    But I did find a job in the end, it’s something I hate, it’s call centre work, but I am glad I now have a job and I’ve been at it for 8 months now. It is a depressing thought though, spending years at Uni studying hard and putting yourself in debt to try and further your prospects in a career you’ve always wanted to do to only find it’s a highly competitive market out there with fewer and fewer people hiring. I remember in sixth form they were pushing just about anybody to go to University to meet a quota, but there were plenty of people going who didn’t need a degree. Now a degree isn’t really anything special, regardless I think it’s worth persevering in finding a career with, I know some people coming out of Uni who have managed to find decent jobs, some are luckier than others and of course you can’t win the lottery by not playing. Hence I’m still looking.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck. Something comes up eventually. 🙂

  76. Gob-smacking incompetence. Almost comical. Almost.

    After I graduated from my Master’s degree I was unemployed for a few months, and at one point was offered an unpaid internship in the industry and area I was hoping to get into. I asked the centre about this and was told if I took it, my JSA would be invalidated because I would be ‘unavailable for work’. Unbelievable. I tried to tell them if I got a paid job I would of course leave the internship immediately, but nope. It’s just a box and it must be ticked.

  77. The benefits system in our country is beyond broken. I lost my job in March due to downsizing and signed on at the job centre plus (does anyone know what the plus stands for?) and applied for housing and council tax benefit.
    Now I live in a private rented flat (read shoebox) and pay the princely sum of £105 per week. I was told by the council that the most I can claim is £50 per week as according to the government I am only entitled to live in a house share until I’m 35. 35! I’m 32 years old and a veteran of the RAF having done 5 desert tours in 9 years, and the government says I have to live in a house share, that I cannot live on my own.
    Here’s the rub, if I was further dependent on the state and lived in social housing, they would pay the full whack of rent. Because I found my only place to live, thus removing myself from their housing lists, I get half of what some chavs with a 55 inch TV gets (I’m using the ch4 “skint” as a point of reference here).
    So consequently more than half of my JSA goes to paying my rent leaving me with £80 a month to pay my bills feed and clothe myself, as well as look for work and attend signing on days (I had to walk 17 miles two weeks ago to sign on when I couldn’t find the £3.70 to get the bus in).
    You have my abject sympathies pet, and I hope you find rewarding work soon enough.

  78. I’ve always been a student or working, this was also when I was in a new city for uni. couldn’t find a job anywhere,I applied for 300 jobs before I signed on by that time I was skint and getting more and more depressed. The Job centre just made me feel worse and worse about myself (I asked them once If I could have a later time because of travel and I wasn’t feeling well she said “If you keep asking we’ll make you sign on even earlier”.) and I was getting so little after wards, I had about £9.50 a week to live on which as you can imagine is nothing especially since that without buying electricity and gas don’t get me started on tampons its embarrassing when you can’t afford it and have to use rolled up toilet roll. So I became an escort pleasing men for £120 phr I know escorts who enjoy it had good clients etc.. but I didn’t like it it made me feel even more depressed so I tried to kill myself in september but failed, Im on esa now still broke but at least I don’t have to speak to the job centre people. Im attending uni in sept again even though Im still very depressed because I can’t live on this much money and I can’t find work and even if I could Im feeling so ill/crap/hungry I don’t think I could handle it, Im quite isolated swell due to how little spare cash I have, so my social skills are getting worse. So basically JSA HAS NEARLY COST ME MY LIFE BUT IM ALIVE AND STILL FEEL LIKE Im not living at all.

  79. This is a horrible story! It is clear you worked hard, got screwed by a dying economy and are now being punished for actually trying to find a job!

  80. Fabulous read. So sorry you are having to deal with our highly inept systems of support. I hioe you find something soon and can continue with your life as was x

  81. Like many on here, I too have experienced the utter incompetence of Job Centre staff.
    I graduated from university in 2010 – with a 2:1 in engineering. I naively thought I’d walk into a job after a few weeks and that would be that… however, my optimism soon waned and I got stuck in a job-centre routine for around 3 months – I finally found a job through a friend (no help from the job centre) and I’ve been there ever since. I felt the staff were the ones driving my ‘routine’, their care-less attitude and failure to even check or discuss which jobs I’d applied for rubbed off, and I ended up not caring too much either.

  82. Good luck, Ceri, I feel for you. I have a daughter 2 years older than you who has a good degree and has spent the last 2 or 3 years doing menial jobs while trying to develop her degree level technical and artistic skills. She is currently unemployed and has suffered the same crap as you on a number of occasions. Fortunately, up to now, with no loss of money. The ‘game’ they play is to put as many obstacles in your way so you will either trip up or give up and they can take you off the register. Looks good on their stats without them actually doing anything. I do hope you get work soon but if not, don’t let them win.

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