Jobcentre Minus

So, remember how I was impressed about the Jobcentre Plus and how it had lots of pluses? Well, I take it all back. Yesterday I went in to see my adviser, Blanche, or so I thought. Turns out, she wasn’t there. No-one told me why, they just said she wasn’t in that day. Did that mean she should have been and was ill or made an appointment with me on a day she wasn’t meant to work or what? Who knows? I certainly don’t. So that was disappointing because I had a few questions for her and the guy who just signs me on would not be able to answer them. How do I know? Well, he’s very quick. And by that I mean, you have to remind him that he’s meant to look at your little grey book and sign it because he’s in such a rush to get rid of you. Also, every time I see him he has a bit of a flap and starts spouting about how I should be going in on Wednesday and demanding to know why I’m in on Tuesday, to which I have no reply because I don’t know how these things work – I just turn up on the day it says on my green book. Yesterday was no exception but since I’ve become used to this odd behaviour I just let it slide.

Thing is, though, as I was leaving I received a text from J saying he’s just missed a call from the Jobcentre and did I know why they were ringing him. So I turned round, walked back in and asked the man at the podium if I could find this out. He said yes, there’ll be a note of it on my record if it’s to do with my claim – go ask the person you sign on with. Fortunately, he was on lunch, so I sort of pounced on the man sitting next to him, who proceeded to discover the Wednesday/Tuesday issue for himself and set about sorting that out. After a while, the woman who had the initial meeting with me (L) sorted it and gave me a new green book and said I’d have to come in on Wednesday (today) because I should have been signing on on Wednesdays all along and so signing in yesterday didn’t count. Glad that it was sorted, I left.

So today, I returned to the jobcentre, only to confuse the woman signing me on.

‘You came in yesterday, why are you here today?’ she said, fixing me with a stern look.

‘I was told I should have been coming in on Wednesdays all along and needed to come in today.’

‘But you came in yesterday.’

‘Yes.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘It’s because of my National Insurance number. When I first made the claim, I accidentally gave them the wrong one, which put me on Tuesdays, but I’ve sorted that out and should really be on Wednesdays.’

‘Who told you to come in today?’

I told her the name. She seemed annoyed at this. Personally, I like L – she seems like the only person who knows what they’re doing. Maybe the other staff resent her for it. Who knows?

‘Well, I’ve got to sort this out.’

‘I was told it was sorted out yesterday.’

‘Yes, well.’

Off she went to track down L and returned with her. L gave me a look of conspiratorial sympathy as she slowly explained the situation:

‘When she first made the claim, she had a temporary National Insurance number, which put her on a Tuesday sign on. But she’s got a permanent National Insurance number, now, which puts her on a Wednesday sign in.’

‘Yes but I don’t understand.’

Something had gone wrong on the system. Whoever had updated my information had failed to do it properly. L would have to do it again.

Eventually, she signed me on and told me Blanche would make a new appointment with me and I’d get a letter to that effect.

Still no idea why they called J but perhaps it had something to do with this confusion (the Tuesday man had been talking about Norwich quite a lot, and we were on a joint claim then because we were living together, so maybe it’s that.)

In all this I’ve discovered something about the Watford Jobcentre. When you go in, there’s a sort of limbo area with the man at the podium to tell you where to go – the room to the right or the left. The employees on the left are mostly idiots who are easily confused and don’t really know what they’re doing. The employees on the right are smart. I think I might start refusing to see anyone on the left. Going in that room is always something of a fiasco.

Well, hopefully I won’t have to go back for another two weeks. Or ever, if I get a job. Imagine that!

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