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Showing posts from 2012

The Eve of the War

Nearly new year. The only celebration of the season worth a damn in my view. I'm not a religious person, but there are definite benefits to marking the end of one year and the beginning of another. I won't be doing that in any kind of social way. I can't afford to travel to somewhere and drink something. Besides the people I know will be with their families and kids. I have neither (not sure if that's a blessing or a curse) and I don't really drink (never really formed a relationship with alcohol; I rarely imbibe except the occasional cold bottled beer).
So where do we stand right now? I could mention IDS (hashtag Tory shitbag) and his rant in the Telegraph today, but instead I'll let Channel 4's factchecker debunk his hysteria instead. 
This has been my first year on the Work Programme - technically 9 months as I started in April, 13 months after signing on, which was itself 2 months after my ESA appeal ended. I never expected to win so I barely contested…

Season of Stupid part 2

I'm bored. Really bored. I wish the end of the year phase would hurry up and pass. Come to think of it, I wish Winter would hurry up and pass. Even though it's nice that it's not fucktastically freezing cold, everywhere is muddy and saturated and it's horrible. Also I'd know if my claim has been decided as well. I could do with learning to hibernate; store some nuts under a tree or something and live off that for 3 months.
According to the human side of the Post Office my special delivery was delivered, however their useless track and trace website doesn't seem to agree. I guess I have to accept I'm being told the truth because it would be too depressing and utterly outrageous for these people to lie to me. 
My god, but I've got £140 burning a hole in my pocket! I could spend that money sooooo quickly right now - and part of me thinks 'why fucking not, keep a little bit back, they wont' refuse your claim!'. But another part of me, perhaps m…

The Season of Stupid

Seasins Greeetings! On the 17th I managed to persuade my GP to write a sick note, due to the bullshit of the Work Programme and his agreeing that it was, indeed, bullshit. The following day I rang the ESA new claims number only to be told that there is a glitch on their system preventing people that have already claimed in the past from doing so again. He posts out a form. I don't discover the reason for this until Thursday when I try my luck again. I'm 'assured' this error is peculiar to the process of applying via telephone, even though that is the preferred method. On Wednesday I post off my JSA booklet with a signature to say I'm ending my claim. I send it recorded delivery. While doing my shopping early in town (early enough to avoid the seasonal chaos) I ask in the JC to see if they have a form to save waiting. I have to explain to them why they should give me a form and not be directed, by default, to the phones. They have no forms in stock. As I said, I tr…


On Friday morning, hapless BBC radio phone in host John Darvall presided over a discussion about the proposed welfare cash card; an idea put forward by some hapless no mark Tory trying trying to ingratiate himself with his betters. The idea of course is total bunkum and cannot possibly work; sadly that's the hallmark of good Tory policy these days. 
Naturally the discussion was filled with curtain twithers and ignorance. The comments were filled with the twitching received nonsense about welfare paying people not to work etc. These views are proffered in an almost plagiarised fashion.
At least four times, during the hour long debate, Mr Darvall (who comes across as some kind of low rent Alan Partridge, sans Lexus) explicitly referred to porn as one of the things that a card user wouldn't be able to spend their money on. Porn? Seriously? Why is this mentioned? Who has told him to refer to porn in the same breath as other things like alcohol or fags? How many benefit claimants …

...Into the Fire?

So now I have to make a claim for ESA! At the worst possible time of year to do so!
I rang on Tuesday: it's either that or pay the library a small fortune to print out the entire form (57 pages at 20p a pop). I don't own a printer. 
The gentleman starts to take my claim. You have to allow them to go through the process at their own pace because they have a very strict script that includes all sorts of legal stuff that you cannot interrupt. Ok, that's fair enough, some people will have complex answers and they need to understand what they are saying. Never mind the fact that ESA is explained as a benefit for those too sick to work which in practise it isn't (otherwise why would there be a Work Related Activity Group, which I'm trying to get into so the Government's own support systems can actually do their job).
Unfortunately there is a glitch. One that, when I tried ringing back today, is persistent: if you have made a prior ESA claim then it can fuck up the s…

Out of the Frying Pan?

Well I did it. I managed to convince my GP to sign me off. I explained just how the Work Programme were not interested in helping me, despite the vaunted covenant of the scheme, unless I was on the 'right' benefit. In the end he wrote a 3 month note. Now all I have to do is find some way to apply for ESA during the busiest time of year for the postal service (you can't apply online, so much for the IT systems).
To be fair, I have been quite critical of my GP, but today I think he finally started realising just how out of whack, out of touch and fucking ridiculous the welfare system is. In fact he was sounding quite emphatic about it and wanted to write to the local MP (a tory, sadly) to tell him just how ridiculous, as a GP, it is to have to operate this way. I'm not sure about that and wanted to wait until the claim is processed at least - one thing at a time.
I think part of it is having other patients with similar tales of woe. Certainly that's what he hinted a…


On the 1st I wrote a letter of complaint to the Salvation Army regarding my adviser who has behaved, in my opinion, quite poorly. I feel him to be an ignorant bully. That letter has yet to arrive so this morning I had no option but to ring up and discuss this personally. Yet another insight into a world gone mad.
I get through to the line manager concerned. I try to explain how the adviser has ignored my medical information which, initially, she confirms they have, as passed on by the DWP. I say initially because when I later said that back to her she decided to hedge her bets. 
Instead of initially discussing the guy's behaviour she points out that I'm on JSA, that's what her system (correctly) tells her. This means that there's nothing they can do because people on JSA have to be treated a certain way. They have to do jobsearch, apply for jobs and basically do everything the Jobseeker Agreement sets out. I know this. I explain that's what I've been doing and…

Odd Man Out

Today was signing day. As usual I'm anxious. I'm always anxious. But no more so than dole day. There are three people before me, and vulture faced Sue is on deck. I'm anticipating the worst: that she'll be my adviser. I don't like Sue; the rest are more or less ok, as advisers go, but Sue has an attitude. She's cynical, suspicious and really quite derisory. She talks down to people, and loudly. You could apply for 1000 jobs - and have the evidence - and she'll criticise you for not applying for 1001.
Each of the three people before me are asked whether they've signed with the Universal Jobmatch. Oh dear, I think, I see what's coming. Similarly they are also asked the token 'how's it going with the WP' (a pointless question since if things aren't going well they won't be interested). In each case these people, and by extension the majority of claimants signing on there, I assume, have no problem. In the case of Universal Jobfarce…

Delivering Hope?

Perhaps it's sheer bitterness that causes me to post this. Today's post includes the Christmas appeal for charity from none other than the Salvation Army. It's not sent to me personally, just the household, that would be too much otherwise. The campaign is entitled 'Delivering hope for the UK's most vulnerable'. 
I find this extraordinary: is this the state of our society? On one hand they can talk about how much it will cost, with your/my help, to give kids a few treats for Christmas, or to house a homeless person temporarily in one of their shelters, or to give a bit of companionship to an old person. Yet on the other hand their Employment Plus department, which, according to them, is fully a part of the Salvation Army, is quite able and willing to issue 'compliance doubts' leading to the kind of poverty they claim to campaign against!?! Is this reality?
"At tghe Salvation Army, we believe that no one deserves to be cold, alone or neglected, espe…

Data Protection

"Under the Data Protection Act 1998, the information you provide and we hold on record about you is known as personal data (e.g. name, address, etc). There are other information such as racial or ethnic origins, political opinions, religious or other beliefs, trade union membership, health, sex life or sexual orientation, criminal proceedings or convictions that you provide which are classed as ‘sensitive personal data’. Dixons Retail will process (e.g. record and use) your personal and sensitive personal data for it’s internal records and/or to assist in the selection for employment process, where necessary. We will not share your data with third parties except where we have legal obligations to do so."
This is from the Dixons careers page. If you pursue an application there it is processed online; currently I'm padding out my jobsearch (the UJ site is so crap I fear the worst when I next sign on as my record will be extremely lean) with an application for a jo…

If you looked at him, could he work?

That is the question of the day; posed by the BBC Bristol 9am anchor, John Darball. He hosts a phone in this morning discussing the welfare state. I tuned in as I suspected this would be up for discussion in light of the day’s announcement of the results of the Work Programme. This question was asked of a caller who had rung in talking about her apparently feckless daughter and son in law. The latter, it was alleged, had been on the sick for a number of years while also fathering 4 kids. When asked what was wrong with him this woman, the mother of the wife, couldn’t answer. She didn’t know. BBC researchers didn’t bother to vet this caller on those grounds, never mind that she obviously didn’t think, while demonising the father of her grandchildren on local radio, it pertinent to find out. Then the host asked the above question: if you looked at him, could he work? 
Is this the quality of journalism we can expect on this matter? A question so ludicrous it defies belief; what would eve…

Universal Jobmatch

Started on Monday. Got a leaflet today when I signed on (which went smoothly, fortunately). Thankfully there was no mention of compulsion to register, though I'm sure my new best friends at the Work Programme will regard registration as part of their 'compliance'.
It's shit. The old jobcentre search site was bad: jobs were organised appallingly containing text that was cut and paste from other sites with no proper explanation. The search parameters didn't work and it was a huge chore to search for anything. This site is still badly ignored, but to get the most out of it you 'need' to register. You don't have to, according to the DWP. In fact not every advert contains contact information that is gated behind registration. 
Why are we being coerced to sign? The owner is yet another private outfit, in this case Monster, so of course it's all about the continuing slow motion privatisation of the jobcentre. Sadly instead of objecting to this I get an ad…


When I contacted the Employment Plus a couple of weeks ago, having received notification of my appointment, I rang to ask why they needed to see a CV. Of course I have no problem showing mine, which I duly offered only to have it thrown back in my face with threats, I just object to them keeping it and sending it to all and sundry. I was told, quite clearly by the lady in the office that I didn't have to give it up. I told the adviser this on Monday, who of course didnt' believe me.
This seems to be a giant black hole; all the guidance and rules say on this matter is that it's entirely up to the Provider whether they can compel this information. I don't really know the Data Protection Act well enough to use it to support me, but at the very least - again - withholding consent would certainly be interpreted as refusing help that's offered. This seems to be the DWP's ace in the hole; after all why, they would say, would you refuse to give a CV to people who are …

I Fucking Hate the Work Programme

That did not go well.
My legs were wobbly to begin with as I closed in on the church that passes for the office of the employment wing of the Salvation Army. My appointment was 3 to half past. I really did feel sick. Pretty early on, when he asked for the forms he gave me last time to fill in, I knew that what was arranged on the letter (a short interview with me bringing my CV and jobsearch) was actually going to be much longer. I also knew that, come half three when I had to leave to catch my bus back ten minutes later, I was going to have problems. 
Unfortunately, though more for me I fear, it never got that far; at 20 past he terminated the interview citing my apparent 'putting up barriers' as the reason not to continue. This was because I refused consent for him to keep my CV. I asked why he needed it and offered, three times, to show it to him (that's all), he said it was to apply for jobs on my behalf. The EEC's need this information.
What's an EEC? Employm…

Did I Just Bottle It?

In preparation for my interview at Salvation Army Employment Plus today I spammed a load of DWP adverts with my CV on Friday. Unfortunately one of them just rang me back, completely catching me off guard. I didn't recognise who they were so of course I sounded entirely unenthusiastic and possibly (though hopefully not) unfriendly! Sadly this is the consequence of having massive anxiety problems. I don't get butterflies in my tummy; I get bloody great vultures. Upon further identification I remember who it was and she says 'the manager's looked at your cv and would really like to meet you. The next round of interviews is tomorrow afternoon'. At this point my belly does somersaults and I bottle it. I don't recall it being a job I want anyway, though of course that's no excuse. 
I don't really remember specifically what the job is at all so I check my email sent messages and it turns out it was another job advertised via recruitment agency (at least accor…

Dread part 2

A couple of days ago, foolishly, I rang Employment Plus on the number I have from their appointment letter. I wanted to know if I could be seen at a different time. It was really a silly thing to do because communicating with these people anymore than you have to just causes you to become more of a target, but I have been suffering really badly with anxiety these last two weeks. 
It got a little awkward because I didnt' want to speak to the adviser directly; as I've said before, he has failed to earn my trust (though I have to see him on Monday anyway). The person I spoke to said that she could email the area manager who would subsequently get in touch. I also mentioned, blurted really, my anxiety issue and that I was concerned about being seen by someone who isn't trained in these matters (which is to say their entire organisation). I never did get that call back.
Just been to the library to print out my CV to show them on Monday and i find that the adviser rang after I …


At my first WP appointment the adviser, who must have had the info referred by the JC because he had my phone number, ignored the information regarding mental health issues. Not only that but he insisted that I explain those issues to him there and then, in a tactless open environment (even though there were only a couple of other people present). 
Immediately I became and have remained defencive; how can i trust this person in this context? It's bad enough that I have to explain medical/personal information to someone in a biased environment (ie, the Work Programme - as opposed to an objective clinical/therapeutic context), but when they have already set the tone by lying?
This is why I dread my new appointment, on the 19th. I had no say in that appointment either. I was not contacted and asked, again knowing that I have problems, what works best for me. There is no give and take nor is there any consideration of such.
I rang the Salvation Army Employment Plus head office and as…

Taking the Strain

This week hasn't been good. My anxiety has gone through the roof. I really don't feel up to dealing with full time paid work (part time you say? Not really enough to live on, especially figuring in bus fares). Of course I would say that; the phrase that will guarantee you not to be taken seriously.
I wen to see the doctor on Tuesday - a different one than usual as the arrangement of duty staff at my surgery is dreadful (I have tried to complain twice but get fobbed off by someone who simply doesn't understand what I'm saying). Same old story; they don't get it. I explain the consequences of being sanctioned, as a consequence of not being able to deal with this wretched system, but it just goes over their heads. It's the same old prejudice: why would you fall foul of the system? Only lazy feckers fall foul of the system - ergo it serves you right if you do. She wasn't terribly interested in what I had to say and tried to talk over me as I tried to explain t…

Second Date

Guess what just came in the post... my 'invitation' to a second date. With the Salvation Army Employment Plus. 
On the 19th I have a half hour appointment at a time I didn't make at a place that uses specific bus times to get to. It's a half hour appointment that ends 7 minutes before the bus home (during this I will also have to get my bus fare refunded). I say this simply because, in the language of Mickey Mouse and Han Solo, "I got a bad feeling about this" - I don't think it's going to end well.
The letter says:
"It is sometime since we had any contact with you and the Job Centre have requested we make an appointment to see you.
This I have made for the above date and time.
Please bring your CV and the last 8 weeks Job Search with you."
Then there's the conveniently BOLD threat warning me that if I do not 'undertake the activities required in this notification'....well you know the rest.
The next part is somewhat new:

Changing Attitudes?

Ed Miliband surprised me the other day with his welcome comment that Britain needs a better attitude toward mental health. While I'm no closer to being his greatest fan, any such comments, assuming they are well intentioned, are to be welcomed. Especially when they come at the expense of cretins like Jeremy Clarkson.
This is a man - a professional journalist (although that's being generous) - that believes people committing suicide on train tracks are selfish. He claims sympathy yet refers to them, bizarrely, as 'Johnny Suicides' which strikes me as especially flippant.
This is also a man that, live on the BBC in the wake of the public sector protests of a year ago, said of such people that they should be shot in front of their families. So Clarkson speaks of his concern of the traumatic effect of a suicide on train drivers but advocates that relatives should witness the brutal murder of their family members - while the BBC production crew laugh. Is there more odious …