When I rang the next day, the employee I’d originally spoken to was unavailable. The woman I spoke to said I should never have missed my signing on day, whether or not I had rung in, and that I needed to come to the office as soon as possible. She asked in disbelief whether I was really working from nine till five every day, with a tone that suggested that an unemployed person couldn’t possibly be working hard. When I replied that I was in fact working from 8am until 10pm she sighed and said that I would not be able to have any money for that week or the next one.
I was lucky. I was still living with my parents so I could still access electricity, hot water and food with or without the money. In fact I was extra lucky because when I went back the next week and spoke to my case worker, he told me I could have my money after all. I was grateful that this woman, whoever she was, was not my case worker. But what about her clients, who have to choose between getting enough voluntary experience to become employable and feeding their children that week? It’s so difficult to find jobs as it is, but without getting any experience it must be nearly impossible. So the job centre are telling people not to volunteer so they are free to sign on? Really job centre? And they think we’re stupid!