Diary of a Benefit Striver #1: New Claim

This is the first of what I’m thinking of making an occasional series.

With the end of my Christmas job at Royal Mail, I had to reclaim JSA. After completing the online process, I was summoned to Hanley Job Centre to complete the claim, and that had to return the following day to sign on. Why this could not have been done at the same time is beyond me, but it meant I had to pay out two lots of bus fares.

Unusually, a bus pulled up within seconds of my reaching the stop.

Potteries Day Ticket Please, I said. The machine flashed £5.00 and spat out a FirstDay.

No, the four quid one, I said

That’s the Potteries Day Ticket, said the driver.

Er yeah, that is kind of what I asked for… I know I sometimes speak quickly, but “Potteries Day Ticket” and “FirstDay” don’t sound remotely similar.

But I digress. After negotiating the building site that the city centre has become, a ten minute walk brought me to the Job Centre. I had previously signed at Longton, which seemed a much more efficient place. The same cannot be said of Hanley. First, you have to run the gauntlet of more security guards than you’d find in a dodgy nightclub, then you queue for the so-called “Welcome Desk”. They sent me upstairs, to another welcome desk, this one empty. After several minutes, someone ambled over, and I got a terse “wait over there”. “There” was a small area with only about five chairs, the last of which I took. The signing time was 10:10 and I had arrived a few minutes early – “you must not be late,” the officer yesterday had said. That stricture seems only to apply to me: I wasn’t seen until after 10:30, with no apology. By the time I was called, there were at least fifteen people waiting to sign, most having to stand. Is this inefficiency deliberate, I wondered, part of the government’s plan to make us all feel like undeserving scroungers? Well, fuck that, it won’t work with me. I have worked and paid into the system for years, so I intend to get whatever I can back out of it. And I won’t apologise for it.

I was glad to escape. I wonder how long it will take before I get the first payment this time. It took them four weeks first time round. I wonder if they can beat that?

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