`We're the flowers in the dustbin
We're the poison in your human machine
We're the future…your future'
Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen
SALFORD SIGNS ON FOR THE RECESSION RE-MIX
By Mary Burns (name changed to protect the oppressed)
With the current climate (or things going to sh*t to you and me) it's proving difficult to keep your existing job, and even harder to find one. Which is why the Jobcentre is such a haven for us unemployed folk wanting desperately to find work…
…Erm, maybe not. Let me elaborate slightly…
I have been unemployed for a little over a year now. For the first year I decided not to claim jobseekers allowance, and instead, sell my personal collections of music memorabilia, old books and some childhood toys…plus anything I could find in home bargains worth selling on the world's online marketplace. I wasn't taking any tax payers' money. I wasn't taking a benefit away from anyone who needed it more than me. Plus I was making enough to live off without having to leave the house. Nice one.
That, however, didn't last forever and I eventually had no other choice but to enter Salford Baskerville Job Centre Plus. And to be really honest, I wish I hadn't bothered. The dreaded first appointment reared its ugly, judgemental head. In the jobcentre I am taken upstairs and asked to fill in a form. On which there a multiple choice questions such as `How well can you use a computer?'…`How well can you answer a phone?'…`How well can you blink?'. Ok, the last one was a fake but it gives you the idea. I am then sat with an `advisor' who enters my answers into the system, all the while not advising me of anything (How this person has a job and I don't I have no idea?!).
I'm then told to sit on a couch and wait for another advisor who will make an appointment for me to see ANOTHER advisor on another day. I wait. And Wait. And wait. Eventually, a man, who looks like he hates absolutely everybody, shouts my name. I sit at his desk, say `Hello' and get no reply.
`What have you been doing for a year?' he snaps at me. And I explain that instead of living off the government when I didn't have to, I used my initiative and helped myself for a while. He looks confused and says `Why?'
I reply "You have a problem because I WASN'T claiming before I needed to?"…the conversation ends. `This is your appointment, your advisor's name is Fred, don't be late or your claim will be affected, sit over there and another advisor will call your name to give you your signing day.'
So I wait again….get my signing day and finally I'm free and almost instantly light a cig. NB If you don't smoke now, you'll probably will after your first encounter with this place.
Let's skip forward to the more present and more relevant. Around eight weeks ago I tell Fred that I want to start a business, and I want help finding the right funding, and information on the first steps. He tells me to contact Business Link. So I do. I call Business Link. They can't help me, and refer me to a place called Blue Orchid.
Apparently the people at Blue Orchid are going to put me on a seminar which simplifies all the complicated things about starting a business and all I have to do is wait for a phone call. Brilliant. Until I get a call from Blue Orchid saying they can't help me for one reason or another. So, frustrated, I call HM Revenue & Customs and ask for some help. And I am told I will receive a start-up pack with everything I need to know in it. Six weeks on, I am still waiting for that pack.
So, to sum up, in eight weeks being in regular contact with Fred, the Jobcentre and everyone else who claims they can help you, I am STILL on Jobseekers Allowance, and still unemployed. In this space of time I have endured phone calls with dead ends, Fred's uncomfortable flirting, and half of our `back to work session' - in which I spent time with one woman who thought you could do a fast course to be a hairdresser; a woman who has a law degree and therefore was more important than all of us, and a man hosting the session who didn't have a clue what my first steps should be.
I have now found my own way and an accountant who has made the whole process seem loads easier and is actually able to help me.
My point is, if you are unemployed, at risk of losing your job or claiming any benefit at all, don't expect any real help from these guys. Use what you have at your disposal to help yourself, 'cause they really don't give a sh*t.
Graphics by Jamie Reid