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I was ten minutes late today. Not that it mattered, the JC is inexplicably short staffed on Fridays. I'm not sure what kind of contract the DWP operates, perhaps they have a four day working week and just don't bother telling the people that do work on Friday. Today was pretty empty, except for the queue of people waiting to be seen so I still had to wait. To be fair it's usually not so bad, although the amount of pointless admin they all seem to have to do in between each signing could I'm sure be reduced to improve things. The system is its own worst enemy. 

Today, for the first time since Christmas, I was seen by 'Sue' (not her real name, though actually it is) who seems to be an officious, target driven, pedant. She was bad back then, not least of all because she lacks tact and subtlety when dealing with claimants and can be heard right across the office, which is always a good trait to have when dealing with particularly sensitive claimants. Sue seems to lack a sense of empathy that might otherwise inform an adviser that she might be dealing with someone that doens't like being treated that way. This attitude sums her approach up completely. I had a premonition of my treatment when I realised it was the Sue I knew from Christmas listening to her quiz the claimant before me. Even the security guard shrugged. I get the impression Sue's approach hasn't really won round all her fellow workers. Certainly hasn't won me around; I think she's ridiculous.

First things first she calls me over with a rather business like tone. There we go, off to a good start. At her request I produce my jobsearch and she produces her metaphorical fine tooth comb. The first entry, from two weeks ago, simply records the fact I looked on the JC website. Now the form has a number of columns for entering one's search efforts: what you did, when, what happened and what you will subsequently do afterwards. The rest of the columns were left blank for obvious reasons: there were no jobs that day to follow up and consequently nothing to follow up on. Essentially the form records what I did, not what I didn't do or the fact that nothing came of it. This wasn't good enough for Sue; she starts forensically picking the form apart as to why I didn't write down that there was nothing to write down. It seems I'm remiss in my approach to jobsearching in that it is better, according to her, to take such an illogical approach that would surely, by lack of expediency, make it harder to process. She needs to be told that nothing was found on that particular day's searching, she can't assume that to be the case from the evidence at hand. This sort of stupid bureacracy helps noone and just makes us all a bit more stupid. Fortunately the futiaility of her position dawns on her in time to give up and just sign off on the search.

Sue's biggest problem is that her attitude is egocentric (a word I'm probably cheerfully misusing). Everything revolves around the claimant because that's the only thing she has any control over despite her exhorting claimants to help her achieve her targets (like I give a fuck). So when she asks me how close I am to getting a job - how long is a piece of string, I might retort - she can't accept the reality of the situation of the labour market. How many interviews have I had? None. Why? Because no one chooses to interview me. Who's fault is that? Obviously not the people responsible for organising interviews, ergo mine. Whatever happens to someone or not happens while they are signing on is always their fault or their responsibility. This is dangerously ignorant in my view; it excuses those actually responsible for hiring and firing and puts the blame on the most vulnerable and most dependent. But Sue is only interested because it makes her performance look better, not because it's in my best interests. She isn't acting for my benefit, she is acting for her own. 
I am asked why I haven't contacted employers for feedback. Why haven't I asked them why I haven't got the job. This is just ridiculous. What does she think they are going to tell me? Does she think that it's all some grand mystery in pursuit of self knowledge? Sartori in the JObcentre? 

Ignoring the fact that most employers don't want to be contacted what does she think they will say? They will just tell you that you weren't good enough/the standard of applicants was too high/you lacked experience - all the stuff that's perfectly obvious to begin with. All stuff that Sue presumes one can work on; that I can take this esoteric knowledge and gain labour market enlightenment. It's an absurd pop psychology approach that completely ignores the reality of the labour market: that there are tons of people unemployed with more experience and less issues than I, and not enough vacancies for just them alone. Nope; instead it's easier to just assume the claimant is lazy and at fault for their own circumstances. 

This simplistic approach is the problem. It's a defencive approach that hasn't the means to really understand or perceive the nature of the problem. It resorts to simple minded psychology and puts far too much of the responsibility in the hands of the claimant. Conditions within the labour market, within society, government policy, the effect of neoliberal capitalism on the economy can all be damned; it's the claimant not doing enough. 

She then exhorts me to register with employment agencies (mainly because I stupidly said that I hadn't, even though that's true!). I point to the jobcsearch record where I had recorded (truthfully, as it goes) visited the websites of all the agencies I could think of. Apparently that's not good enough: inexplicably Sue believes that agencies don't put all their vacancies onto these sites and that instead, through me registering, they would ring me everytime a new vacancy comes up. Really? Like bollocks. What else? That these websites, then, are ineffectual and that presumably I'd be better off spending £7 a day travelling to each agency to see what's come up that day - which is exactly why they archive vacancies online! I don't want to deal with these agencies and I don't want them potentially ringing me up whenever they like. Surfing theit sites I can look at my own leisure and be in control of the situation. This isn't good enough for Sue and so whatever efforts I do make aren't worth a damn. 

It's just something she can say to tell me to do to make her look good. Again it's the attitude of whatever you do is never enough simply because I'm still unemployed. She can't take a more holistic and realistic approach to the situation, she has to behave like an officious twat with an axe to grind. It doesn't occur to her to consider whether I have mental health/anxiety issues. It doesn't occur to her to treat me with any consideration of such. I left with a combination of feeling mortified and angry and managed to slam the door on the way out, not intentionally though I suspect she thought otherwise. The fuck do I care, I managed to sign on for now, though unlike the other advisers she didn't show me the computer screen showing me the money going through. I signed as normal and hope that she puts it through otherwise I really will kick off. 

The problem is the complete lack of understanding: she doesn't consider for a moment what my week has been like, what problems I might have been experiencing. She doesn't consider the uselessness of the Work Programme. Fortunately that wasn't brought up. Life for people on the dole is tough enough, managing money and worrying about whether or not you are going to get sanctioned. Factor in anxiety and mental health issues and it gets tougher (and tougher still if you're dying and ATOS think you can work). Yet not once does any of that register on Sue's radar: I am there simply to help her career.

On the way out I accidentally slammed the door. Consequently Sue probably now thinks I'm a right bolshy sort. I was pretty pissed off with her attitude (though not surprised by it), but the door was lighter than I assumed and I ended up looking like a petulant kid slamming his bedroom door. Oh well, if my money doesn't come through then it'll get a lot worse than a slammed door!


  1. I always worry when they say contact the employers, first they may not have time to reply to all the why havent i got the job, second if you do bother them they may remember you as someone who wants to know everything which may not sell you if there is a next time. I am on a lot of agencies, gpw, adecco, prime time and others, they never contact me, i think they have given up on me;) I print mine off i put the local papers, the sites i visited, even if there was nothing, if she asks say travel is a big issue because of where i live..

    1. It's just easy for them to say all this sort of stuff. Unfortunately I waqsn't particularly on the ball. I should have said that I have registered with agencies.

      I don't want to work for an agency, i should have that right surely. Even so I look on their websites once a week which, imo, is perfectly fine. But in the eyes of 'sue' i should be queuing up at their doors each morning to see what's available.

      It just gets ridiculous as more and more desperate and redundant suggestions are pushed. Most everyting is done online now: companies have recruitment pages and people can be emailed.

      You are correct to believe that haranguing employers and chasing up applications in the belief that the response isn't obvious is just going to annoy them. It assumes they are at our beck and call all day long and will provide the sort of detailed analysis that 'sue' thinks is just waiting for me. It's bollocks and pestering people won't help at all. It's obvious why you didn't get the job.

      This is what I mean by egocentric. It's an approach that singles out the claimant at the expense of edaling with the reality of the labour market and the current economic mess + austerity. But that's beyond the scope of 'sue's' remit, so she instead reverts to chasing targets and being unpleasant; consequences be damned.


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