The day of reckoning has come way too soon. Your account is in overdraft, it’s no longer in the realm of the living, your finances have been handed over to the bank (Gringotts head goblins). Your life now relies on nonexistent money and you’re almost a minus away from poverty. You have been left with no choice but to swallow your pride and head over to the Jobcentre.
What will they do for me? When will I get off? What type of people sign on? These are but a few of the questions swirling around in your mind. Job centres aren’t the warmest of places, the staff aren’t always the friendliest and if you feel like you’ve made it to Mecca and the adviser will do all the work for you, you are sadly mistaken.
Allow me to paint you a picture of a day on the dole(loosely based on my own experience). The local aggressive drunk is a place ahead of you in the queue. It is cold and the job centre becomes quite appealing. Nothing sucks more than having to queue in front of the job centre as the buses holding the employed pass you by. You’ve left the miserable cold behind and you’re now in the bosom of the job centre i.e. reception area. “Can I see your appointment card?” the security guard hastily asks you. A bead of sweat runs down your brow as you frantically search for it- luck’s in, you’ve found it! Luckily you had your card on you or your 2:45 appointment would be made at 3:00 (you would think they were prison guards asking you for a visitation order to enter a maximum security prison). You finally reach your adviser and realise there’s a hoard of people before you (appointment times rarely fall on the designated time).
If you’re blessed with a decent adviser, they will go through the run of the mill steps with you.
- Oral Job search: discuss with you what jobs you’ve applied for through the methods of face to face interaction i.e. handing out cv’s on the high street, asking peers and family members for job opportunities.
- Digital Job search: go through your recent job notes to see if you’re on track (I advise you to have a gander at the leaflets plastered all over the adviser’s desk, sometimes you can find gold in the pile).
You weren’t so lucky and you received Ursula, and the wicked witch of the west’s genetically modified test tube baby. She has talons and she’s full of spite, it’s time for your appointment and she’s tapping away at her keyboard. You notice the chair in front of her is empty and you logically approach it, seeing as it has approached the hour of your appointment. Wrong choice! You dared to implement logic and now the adviser’s come down on you like a ton of bricks “Did I tell you, you could sit there?!” she screams “well….” before you can even respond, your head’s been bitten off for the second time “you will sit in that seat, only when I tell you to sit in that seat, clear!”
And the ugly
The decors ugly, that is all …
Either good or bad, both scenes set a worrying image that needs to be addressed at that’s the issue of poor staff training. Many staff ‘Advisers’ (and I use that term lightly) – are only able to advise you on your next sign-in appointment. Advisers have to deal with some of the most vulnerable in society, its also a role that needs adaptability, specific training is needed to equip them with the skills they need to deliver on their role-a training scheme that combines social work with recruitment savvy. Staff who are meant to serve as the first port of call when searching for work, have instead become the face of a marginalising system that perpetuates an old ineffective structure. The job centre has moved far from its original good intentions of matching the unemployed with employers who were short on labour. The infrastructure has become a double edged sword, hurting the people it was originally intended to help. The regimental constraint of out dated policies, shaming tack ticks and untrained staff have kept the structure stagnant its a tried and tested solution that hasn’t bared fruit. So, why hasn’t anything been changed? An overhaul is sorely needed if the government intend on combating the rise in unemployment, it’s not only disheartening to those who have found themselves out of work but it is also taxing on the economy.
Without the garish yellow and green, the Jobcentre can be seen from a mile off on any high-street due to its brutalist architecture. Colours such as yellow and green-colours that usually remind us of nature are plastered over a pebble dashed concrete block in an attempt to work as a guise, blinding the public from its true nature. The interior isn’t any better than the exterior, the drab decor of birch wood everything and grey carpet sets a mood that mirrors the staff and job seeker’s unwillingness to be there. The psychology of colour plays a large role on how we connect and perceive things. Colours hold the power of symbolism and can connote a variety of meanings, adapting to its cultural representation. Apart from yellow and green conjuring up an image of a bed of sunflowers dancing with the wind, stationed upon a dewy meadow, the colours simultaneously form an image of two bin men taking out the morning rubbish attired in green overhauls against a neon yellow high viz jacket. I hate to say it but the second image is something I connect with the job centre.
Recently I was in the same predicament as some of you may be facing currently, out of work and on the dole. I had left an internship a few months prior to my Job Centre introduction and I managed to save a few bob which I lived off till my bank balance ran dry. I held it off for as long as I could; skipped mills; regurgitated outfits until I was forced to come to the realisation that I had only two options starve or enter the belly of the beast. After choosing the latter my Job Centre journey began. JobSeekers allowance-the pocket money provided for the jobless, the process of weekly sign-on’s almost acted as a form of humiliation- the Government’s exclusion room for the poorest of society. The staff’s mentality of all job seekers fitting into a uniform caricature of a work-shy layabout is only part of what I found wrong with the system. Yes, there are those who have no intention of finding work; families with generational gaps out of the workforce, but a select few don’t speak for the masses, as a person who doesn’t fit into that category I felt pacified instead of supported. Being on Job seekers is an extremely hard situation you have to forfeit your pride once you enter the building. It’s not an ideal situation many believe it to be. Yes, you are taken care of financially as you seek work but the support you really need is lacking. The lack of career advice is astounding and the advisors unfortunately aren’t qualified to the standards needed. Weekly appointments are based on checking your Universal Jobmatch notes, to see if you’ve hit your weekly target of a job a day. Speaking from my own experience I presumed the set up would be closer to that of a recruitment agent, advisors helping job seekers out with tailored job searches, but that wasn’t the case. Advisors rarely help you find work in the field you’re qualified in and there is a strong emphasis on taking anything, which in the long term does nothing to solve the issue of unemployment. The emphasis on a short-term fix is a useless system; if people take any job going the likely hood of them returning to the system is inevitable.
There is an upside! Everything may seem pretty doom and gloom at present but keep your head up, don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of playing the cat and mouse game-the cat being you and the mouse playing the role of your measly £57.90 a week allowance. If you’ve fallen into the habit of not really looking for work, just doing the bare minimum to ensure you receive your allowance. I’m here to tell you, that it’s a game without a progressive future. You know your worth, you don’t need anyone to tell you. Don’t allow any circumstances to dictate who you are and what you have to offer, finding a job is a bit of a waiting game-just stay resilient as something amazing is on its way.