Did you know that when you are jobless you lose all right to privacy? No? Let me explain.
At the beginning of October last year I was made redundant. I decided I didn’t want to become a statistic immediately so didn’t sign on. Come November I decided to visit the local job centre. Now this was the first time in over 10 years I had visited a job centre, so it took a bit of courage for this 60 year old woman to enter it. The first thing I notice is 2 big burly G4S security men, now that’s new, I thought to myself. What I didn’t see was any sign of a reception desk so I wander around aimlessly for 10 minutes thinking, What do I do? Where do I go?
Eventually I notice a queue forming at what is little more than a shelf attached to a column and realise this is the reception desk. Eventually a young lady comes out and deals with the queue. When it’s my turn I ask how I register for unemployment, she tells me I have to do so by phone or online and proceeds to give me a piece of paper which, as I eventually found out, had the wrong url on it.
I decide that I’m not ready for this yet so leave it a while. Come the end of January and finances are such that I really need to do something, so I search out the online application and fill it in. Having given them everything from my NA number to my bank account details I sit back and wait
for my identity to be stolen. Eventually I receive a text informing me of an appointment today.
I arrive a few minutes early, the shelf is again unmanned. When they do deign to send someone out to the shelf I’m told to sit on the first sofa and wait. Whilst I am doing so I hear every detail of job searches of the two claimants either side of the desk just a couple of feet in front of me. I wait and eventually a young lady comes and sits on the sofa with my online claim details printed out which I am to read and sign. I do this and eventually, 15 minutes after my stated appointment time, I’m called to her desk.
Whilst she is photocopying my life I hear all the sorry details of the Polish couple sitting at the desk next door, including the fact that their bank accounts are empty and they only have £150 in cash as their savings, most of which they seem to be handing over in cash to some guy whose house they are living in. I’m sure they wanted me to know that – not!
Without discussion, other than what sort of job I’m looking for, I’m given a Job Seekers Agreement to sign and told that if I don’t my claim won’t continue, so what choice do I have but to sign it? I’m also given an activity sheet to record what steps I’m taking to find a job, including every website I search. Finally I’m given a green signing in book and told to report next Monday to sign on and next Wednesday to meet with an adviser. I’m sure whoever is at the desk next to my adviser, or sitting behind me, is going to enjoy listening to my personal search for work.
Meanwhile the signing in book, the first two pages are full of reasons as to why they may stop Job Seekers allowance. In fact I found it all vaguely threatening.
Oh and all this is before they decide if I’m entitled to Job Seekers allowance! I’ve to wait for that decision. Meanwhile I’m off to close my curtains.