Job Cent-argh (with addendum)
January 12, 2009
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After being out of work for nearly two months now, I finally got my arse in gear to do something about National Insurance. I don't want to claim jobseekers' – having to claim it for three weeks in 2001 put me off for life; pen-pushing staff who wanted to get me into any shitty job and wouldn't take 'I've joined my own agencies, thanks' for an answer ('go look at our job boards, dear'), and patronised me when I tried to patiently explain that the reason I was saying there weren't any jobs for my skills was not, actually, a lack of self confidence but that my industry had just collapsed and, funnily enough, employers tended not to believe that someone with a degree wouldn't stick at their menial job for more than a couple of days / hours.
Unfortunately, to get National Insurance credits or whatever it is (I got really lost on the phone) I have to attend Catford Job Centre tomorrow for an interview. Which will doubtless consist of a similar non-listening bureaucrat and make me want to tear my ears off in frustration.
Suddenly I'm seized by an urge to call up every agency I can find and make them find me a contracting job.
Edit Tuesday afternoon: 90 minutes down at the local Job Centre Plus and it transpires I can't get National Insurance credits without being paid Jobseekers' Allowance and dealing with the attendant bells and whistles; going down there every two weeks and promising, like a good Girl Guide, that I have been checking my websites twice a week to someone who hasn't the faintest idea what I do – even the computer didn't have a vague match for my job title and then threw a fit when it didn't have a code it could use. Thing is, they only realised that I'd have to take Jobseekers' after I'd spent 90 minutes there, so they had to book me in for a different interview on Thursday.
I got home and called another helpline. 'Does it make the blindest bit of difference if I have a small hole in NI contributions?' I asked. 'No,' says the helpful woman. 'You only need 30 years full contributions so I wouldn't worry about it.' So I'm cancelling the Thursday appointment.
This is what drives me crazy about the benefits system – it's one size is supposed to fit all and completely doesn't. Why couldn't someone at Job Centre Plus have talked to me about why I didn't want JSA and had an intelligent discussion about the options? Why couldn't we have looked at my financial situation (actually pretty good) and whether it was worth wasting taxpayers' money on me when I don't need it (yet)? Instead, the guy just launched into his set spiel of making me swear on my life that I'd be good and look for work (and I had a hell of a time telling that it would be appropriate work, not just any old shite that came along) so the government wouldn't take away the £60 a week that I didn't want to begin with.
For £60 a week. It's not worth it.