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To claim or not to claim…

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Lulu Jones - Intern

Lulu Jones is currently interning at RTA from the Job Centre. Here she provides her opinion and some advice.

For someone who’s unemployed, job hunting day in day out is one of the most depressing and soul destroying things to do, but one that you have to do. Dealing with rejection becomes a part of everyday life, but you’re not alone, and there are ways to make your life a little bit easier, and help you in your quest for employment.  Not everyone feels like they can turn to the Job Centre when they’re unemployed, but I’m not here to bad mouth the service (though there are improvements to be made which I will discuss), instead I’d like to share the positive experience I’ve had, and how they have helped me, and how they can help you if you’re looking for a job.

I first went to the job centre after I graduated last summer. Like a lot of people, I was hesitant and a bit embarrassed to admit to my friends and family that I was signing on to the dole (I’ve since heard others in the Job Centre say exactly that).  I think this is especially hard if you’ve just graduated, as you feel that you should be able to get a job without the help of others since you’ve managed to get through uni and have a degree, but in actual fact you’re not alone, in 2010 a third of graduates signed on over the year. The media is filled with horror stories about advisors not doing anything to help people get off benefits and into work, an example being Grace Newton who got so fed up with her advisor she started writing joke entries in her work search book just to see if Job Centre staff noticed – they didn’t.  And then there’s the stereotype of someone who claims benefits, with stories about people admitting to spending half their benefits on binge drinking, and seemingly happy to spend their lives unemployed and on benefits.

RTA Job Centre Blog

Grace Newton’s Job Centre Form (Photo: North News & Pictures Ltd)

It does take a while to begin your claim, and one of my criticisms of the benefits system is the sheer amount of paper work required to process anything, though this may be a system put in place to try and stop benefit fraud, things take a while to happen. Having said this, my first advisor was friendly and helpful, I didn’t have any issues with my paper work, he gave me new job sites to look at and techniques to use when searching for jobs. I only went into the Job Centre twice before I got a temporary job. When my contract finished for that job, I signed on again. I didn’t need to, and if my previous experience with the job centre had been a bad one, I would have been a lot less willing to restart my claim.

This time my luck finding a job quickly hasn’t been so good. Though my new advisor has been a massive help, I’ve never felt undervalued, patronised or treated as lower than her whenever I’ve been in to see her. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be writing this, as she was the one who helped me get work experience at the Raw Talent Academy. I didn’t ask for help, but from looking at my CV, work experience and what I wanted to do, she thought that this would be a good place for me and suggested I come in for a meeting to make sure that the company and I would be a good fit, which led to me starting work experience here. I’m not saying that this will happen to everyone who signs on to JSA, but the advisors are there to help you get off benefits and into a job, and they have contacts with local businesses that will be able to give you the help you need to make yourself more employable.

What needs to change?

However, one of the obvious problems the Job Centre has is a lack of quality control across the country. There’s no way to ensure that every single advisor is doing their job properly, and the negative focus is put on the ones that do their job badly, rather than the ones that I’ve experienced who actually do their jobs well. I will agree that there needs to be more of a focus on each individual claimant, I’ve been treated well, and as an individual with specific needs, but I can imagine it being very easy for each person on benefits to turn into a number with paper work, with no consideration for them as a person and their personal circumstances. If the staff at the Job Centre were rewarded for getting people into jobs, and not just off benefits, the system may become a lot more efficient, instead of claims being dealt with in the wrong way, and leading to people losing their benefits through no fault of their own.

Is it worth claiming?

My advice to people who are thinking about signing on is to do it despite all the bad press.  Maybe you’re a graduate with all that university debt and just need a little bit of help, like I was. There’s no shame in using a service which is being offered to you, and they can help you, if you ask for help, you should get it. If someone isn’t doing their job properly to help you find a job, you’re well within your rights to tell someone above them so you can get the right service from your advisor, the Job Centre and the government.

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