Random Drivel from your Average Tosser

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

On the Dole

In the current piece by Clairwil, about her hairdo, she makes some mention of the DSS (Department of Social Services) in the UK, which brought back a few memories that I have decided to share...

My first job on leaving school (I didn't go to Uni straight away) was actually working at the DSS (or rather the ESJ - Employment Service Jobcentre - as it was called at that point). I never graduated to be one of those desk jockeys who 'jobseekers' had to explain themselves to, I just did the signings for dole money and sometimes worked on the job search desk.

One thing that struck me was that everyone always banged on about the lazy youngsters who were happy on the dole or who were working and signing on, yet for the most part I saw young people genuinely desperate to get a job - to be able to move out of home, settle with a girlfriend, whatever. Those who came in dragging their feet actually tended to be those who had been made redundant from middle-management in their late-forties and who had adopted an "I'm better than this" attitude... those who were often the ones moaning about the young scroungers!Yet I felt sympathetic to them too - it's a bitch of an age to become unemployed, to be deemed 'obsolete'.

Since then I have been on the other side of that desk more times than I care to remember and, frankly, I find it humiliating. I hated having to queue up for cash that was barely able to sustain a bloody gerbil, especially when I was able and willing to work. It's depressing feeling your mind rotting as it goes unused... but, having worked at the ESJ and having a sense of ethics, I was always honest about my earnings. Until.......

Being the go-getter I was I signed on to a temp agency and secured a week long assignment pretty much straight away. Over the course of the week I would earn a half-decent wage and, although I would lose a weeks dole money and housing benefit, I would be a bit better off and feel able to hold my head high. Or so I thought, until I went in and declared my earnings...

My signing on day was a Wednesday. As such the week that I worked had stretched across TWO weeks of benefits. The amount earned was enough to cancel out my dole money for both those weeks. I looked at the figures and I was still slightly better off so, despite feeling this was a little unfair, I let it ride. Then my housing benefit envelope arrived...

...with no cheque, just a letter. As I had been signed off as working for two weeks I was no longer entitled to housing benefit for that month. I quickly did the maths and worked out that, with all my enthusiasm for work and my honesty and integrity, I was actually quite a bit worse off than I would have been had I just sat at home watching daytime TV.

So I will come clean. Since then, whenever I have been on the dole, I have not shied away from earning a few pounds here and there doing odd jobs for mates without declaring it. If I have had longer term or reasonably well paid contracts then, yes, I have told the relevant people - I am, at heart, an honest man - but I won't be shat on like that again for doing the right thing. Oh, and on one occasion I deliberately failed an interview that the ESJ had sent me to because I knew that it would lead to exactly the same situation.

So in their eagerness to clamp down on those abusing the system the bureaucrats have inadvertently created new abusers, ones who don't actually want to cheat or lie but who are getting the shitty end of the stick if they don't. Do they even realise that they are partly to blame...?

Cheers m'dears!

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At Friday, November 02, 2007 5:49:00 am, Blogger Clairwil said...

Spot on as ever. The government claims it wishes to get people back to work but if you take on some casual work when signing on you're nearly always worse off. Only the first £5 you earn is disregarded for benefit purposes which is hardly an incentive. Surely an army of casual workers reliant on a smaller amount of state benefits is better than people relying on them completely. I feel one of petitions coming on.


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