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The Scounger's Contract

Also known as the Jobseeker's Agreement, the beating heart of the unemployment system. These are the rules the Jobcentre sets out that must be fulfilled, each fortnight (at first), in order to procure what the CAB calls a 'subsistence income'. In return for doing what you don't have any say in, the state gives you £65 a week.

And you don't have any say in it. It's not an agreement in any ethical sense of the word, unless you consider the choice to go without £65 a week a viable one. I didn't have any say in mine and having looked at it, I wish I did. I'm sure you could try and argue the point but I'm guessing that would be more trouble than it's worth, and I think there are certain requirements that are beyond negotiation.

The problem with the jobcentre is that it's their way or the highway. There is no agreement, no discussion nor any freedom to manuouvre. THey don't, indeed they can't, care. They aren't there to help you find work - they are there to administer this contract and if you fall foul of it your money is immediately stopped for a period. Is this how to help people back to work? There's no training, education, skill provision or anything other than 'here's a list of jobs that people have given us (often badly explained or copy and pasted - stolen - from other sites), apply for them or else'. Everyone that signs on when I sign will then have to apply just the same for all these jobs. End result increased competition for the same few jobs with no effort to moderate the process. Stupid.

My agreement tells me that I must use the local papers each week, use the internet every day (i look at the JC+ website, which is rubbish, every day anyway), and that I must write to and phone two employers a week. What's the point of that? Companies have websites, why waste time making me do something that I can't prove anyway. Letters will be filed in the bin along with the hundreds of other letters from everyone else that's in my position (including people with way more experience than I). Phone calls are just a waste of the employer's time and people looking for staff will direct you to their website.

I'm sure some will think I'm just lazy, but the fact is it's just busy work. There is nothing provided to back up what I have to do. There's no effort to even meet the jobseeker halfway. You do all that's required of you or your money is stopped. That threat is explicit, it's implicit and, like the sword of damocles, it's constantly abocve your head - and they make sure you know it. Can you imagine working in such a toxic environment? In fact, if you do work it would take a hell of a lot for an employer to legally be able to just sack you on the spot. Not so if you're on welfare. One transgression, however minor, is all it takes for the most severe of penalites - the only penalty - to apply.

But I've got health issues. My state of mind is not the state of mind of a hale and healthy jobseeker, but that is the point the jobcentre works from. Every claimant is assumed to be well enough to work - because if they weren't they'd be legitimately claiming ESA of course! That's the logic right there, the fact you are on the sick - plus the fact I failed my WCA - means that I'm not ill and that I don't have problems. Of course no human being transitions from ill to well overnight, like crossing a border.

A fucked up state of mind (though, again, not as fucked up as some, thankfully, though it's not a compeition nor should it become one) means that, for me (and I can only speak for me), things like the Jobseeker's Agreement are more fraught and difficult. Ringing up, writing to, doing this and doing that carries more baggage than it normally should. It feels like I'm being chased by that great big stone that nearly crushed Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, only there's no way out and I'm slowing down (and it's speeding up). There's an inertia to claiming that increases the longer you sign on that increases the pressure from the system; they start to believe more and more that you are a lazy sod and the conditionality becomes more demanding. Yet there's no interest in helping me with my problems, nor with helping me fidn the right kind of work. I have to tread a fine line in pushing this aspect in case it affects my claim, even though I have a letter from my GP saying 'take it easy'.

There's just no support, nor it seems any interest in offering any. Rules is rules is the rule that rules with the jobcentre and it's a one size fits all approach under constant pain of sanction (ie no more money).


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