OK so this time my blog is not so directly related to my disabilities, but I have to get this off my chest.
As a person on Job Seeker’s Allowance for a long time I have heard most of the negative comments and rude remarks I think are possible to be said about people on benefits. The most common of which is that I must be lazy, work shy and get money for doing nothing but sitting around all day. Well I would like to tell you how much work it actually takes to remain on job seeker’s allowance long-term and how hard I am trying to get a job.
Daily Sign On
Yes that’s right, you read that correctly, I now sign on daily at the job centre. Five days a week I have to go into town and sign at the job centre. This happens to long-term job seekers when they have completed the work programme and live within so many miles of their nearest job centre. Some who are deemed to live too far away are allowed to get out of this, but no doubt have some other tasks to do instead. I live within walking distance, about twenty minuets away, however when poring down with rain I would still rather take the bus, which I have to then pay for out of my own money, hence why most days if dry I walk. Mostly I do not mind the daily sign on as it is not that bad, but sometimes it can get silly. Like when I was on a course recently that I chose to do to better my chances of work, they still made me rush back each day after the course to sign on and that was from the next town. I had to get back before five when the job centre shut, I was lucky with buses and that some days we finished early on the course. I did ask if I could sign on at Torquay job centre instead as it was literally across the road from the course centre, but no, that would be far to logical for them.
Before daily sign on, I used to sign once a fortnight at the job centre and go to my work programme provider. My provider was Working Links in Torquay, so that meant a bus ride there and back once a fortnight. Working Links did pay my bus fare back which helped a lot, but it still took up a lot of time. I was supposed to be getting help from my case worker to get long-term work, but I was just sat at a computer and made to job search for an hour, and she would disappear for most of this hour just coming to check I was still there now and then. I job search daily at home, how it helped to do it on another computer in another location I have no idea. I complained about her lack of support and was given a new advisor. To be fair to her she was nicer towards me and did spend our meetings talking with me one on one, but she still never did come up with any of these links to companies and jobs that Working Links are supposed to have. After two years the work programme ended and daily sign on began.
Daily Job Search
I spend a good deal of time on the internet looking for work and applying to any jobs that I think I could get to and do. I try to find at least one job a day to apply for, as I have found it is a numbers game, the more you apply to the more likely you are to get an interview. Some jobs are just a simple matter of a cover email and attaching my CV, well I say simple, you still have to read the job description carefully and put the right key words in the cover letter. A lot of jobs however now come with online forms, and the employer never even asks to see your CV. Some online forms are fine, but some are very long. Most supermarket jobs now even come with an online test to check your customer service skills and other basic competencies. I also keep an eye out whenever I am in town for jobs being advertised in shop windows and always make enquiries about them if I can.
I have had many interviews over the years and go to every single one I am offered if I can. Before the interview I always research the company online and find out as much as I can. I make sure in advance I know exactly where it is and how to get there so I am not late. I try to dress appropriately and look like I made some kind of effort. However it is not always obvious what kind of interview it will be, will it be one on one in the back office, a group interview with quite a few of us being given tasks to do together or a combination of both? Some of the group tasks I have been given can seem a bit daft, as if head office has watched the apprentice and decided that is how they should do interviews. I honestly try my best in every interview, but I never seem to get the job.
My first job trial was for a fish and chip shop last spring, I did three hours work and they gave me a free fish supper. The next so-called trial was at a McDonald’s Drive Through, they called it a trial, but I only served two customers at the window and made up one cold drink! Not sure how they could judge me on that as I am sure I was not there for more than ten minuets at the most. I enjoyed a two-hour trial as a barrister in a Weatherspoons pub. The current barrister showed me how to make various drinks and use the coffee machine and I thought I was getting the hang of it quite well, but clearly not well enough for them. My last trial was a four-hour shift as a waitress in a restaurant at a local tourist attraction. I liked the job and the other staff seemed nice, but no job offer came from it. I like job trials somewhat as I learn from them and gain more experience, but maybe they show employers that I am quite slow to pick up new practical tasks, although once I get the hang of them I am very good at them mostly.
I have been on two mandatory job seeker courses. Both were run by charities who support people trying to get back into work. Eat That Frog (the name still puzzles me) were not too bad in some ways, they did respect us as adults and tried not to be too patronising, but teaching us how to job search was a bit of a joke as if we could not job search we would have had our job seekers allowance stopped and not be on the course. Active Plus was actually not a bad course, instead of looking at our CVs and changing them yet again, they did things with us to boost our confidence and teach us team work. They are run by ex service men who were discharged from the army due to injuries or mental health issues. It is a way for them to use some of the skills they learnt in the services to help others. They introduced us to Learndirect, a place that runs courses to help job seekers get the qualifications they need. I then went on to do a course with Learndirect and am now qualified with a level two BTEC in hospitality and catering principles. I loved my eight-day course with them as I learnt a lot including food hygiene which is often asked for in the jobs I go for. The courses are all free to those on job seekers allowance and they offer you a lot of support along the way.
In the past I have done quite a lot of volunteer work. This was partly to keep me occupied in the early faze of sign on, when less is asked of job seekers, partly to have more to put on my CV in terms of experience and because I enjoy helping others. I have done various things including charity shop work, administration at my local children’s centre and as a front of house steward at a local theatre. I found them all rewarding experiences and they gave me an insight into various job roles. I would have gone back to volunteering, but right now the job centre are keeping me fairly well occupied with daily sign on, various courses and appointments.
Everything I do towards getting a job has to be written down both online and in my job seekers booklet. I am not sure why I have to write it in two places, but I do. Everything from every job I apply for, every interview I get, to every course day I attend. Everyday when I sign on I have to take my booklet with me and show the advisor, despite them also being able to access my online record. I update my CV regularly to make sure it has all the current relevant information an employer may want. Then there is the cost of transport to every interview or job trial I get, which despite asking them nicely the job centre never pay me back. I also footed the bill for the travel to my learndriect course which being in the next town was not cheap, but I saw it as an investment in my future so worth it.
This just goes to show how if I was sitting around all day doing nothing, they would of stopped my money a long time ago. I also really do want to work and am trying my best. Trust me job seekers is not the easy option.
Think I reached this point sometime ago