I recently received a charming letter from the lovely people at the department of works and pensions. You can tell its from them as soon as something that looks like brown toilet paper lands on your doorstep. It’s that or her majesty’s revenue and customs requesting money for tax and I haven’t made any money yet to pay tax on, so the job centre it is. In this lovely letter they pointed out that I could only claim job seekers allowance for 182 days and I had at that point in time already claimed for 160 days. Can’t fault their maths. Apparently many people do, though, as the remaining 2 sheets of A4 paper were dedicated to a lengthy explanation of how I could appeal this “decision”. In short though, my next appointment at the job centre would be my last.
I did briefly flirt with the online system that lets you know if there are other benefits you can claim for, however, I am fortunate enough to co-own my own home so that rules me out of any benefits. I am curious to know how owning bricks and mortar automatically provides you with an income though. Could I turn the house into a B&B for small residents? Can I start charging my children for breakfast extras like golden syrup on Shreddies? Where do they get their income from? Without questioning this infallible logic though, I turned up to my last appointment, and jauntily made my way to sign on. With the familiar smell of the carpet on the way up the stairs, and the unfamiliar smell of the man coming down, I finally reached my final destination on level 2 right on time. Left with the usual 10 minutes to kill, I noticed that of the 10 manned desks, only 4 had anyone signing on, whilst there was quite a queue forming. Reluctantly my last unnamed female dragged herself away from her essential chatting to get me to sign the little electronic pad.
That’s it, I’m done. No more £72.10 a week and high quality advice in return for the blood, sweat and tears of job seeking effort.
However, after I had scrawled my name, she handed me my next appointment, following the normal ritual of not checking whether this is any way convenient at all. I politely asked if she thought there was any point in me attending this next appointment given the delightful letter I had recently received? At this point UF let me know the delightful news that I could indeed keep attending, with the same commitment from me to find a job, the same process, and the same expectations of me from the job centre. In return I would get no money. However, I would continue to be considered as making Class 1 National Insurance (NI) contributions.
Anyone who does not understand Class 1 NI contributions is a) breathing and b) statistically higly likely to be working in a job centre. Just for kicks, I asked the UF what value the Class 1 NI contributions had? For example, if I were foolish enough to refuse their generous offer, how much would I have to “contribute” financially, myself to be eligible for the delightful process of applying for JSA again in the future? This is where UF reached for Google. I’m not even going to start. I’m sighing as I type.
Oh sod it, I am going to start. You’ve poured yourself a coffee before sitting down to read this, right? If you are employed to do a job, as in provide advice based on a knowledge set not widely held by “the crowd” then how does this situation ever arise? If you can be replaced by an electronic stylus and Google, then organisations should do exactly that. It would be cheaper surely? How am I sat on the unemployed side of the desk, being “helped” in my career advice by an an Amstrad computer from the 90’s and a search engine? The ergonomic mouse that looks like an iron and the bent keyboard that could summit mount Everest if it was only a couple of inches higher must have cost more than the rest of the IT hardware on the desk combined. Without the human at the desk you wouldn’t have the repetitive strain injury of clicking “I feel lucky” in Google and the costs of signing me on and answering my questions would have been reduced 100 fold at least. I could still use the electronic pen to write my name and for any questions I might have, I could read a hand written sign, on a sheet of poor quality, recycled paper just like those in the stairwell, that says “Google it”.
Rant over. After much clicking, confused facial expressions and at one point a frankly defeatist attitude to the whole process when she thought she couldn’t find the data I needed, the following information was gleaned:
If I apply for JSA again, I can’t apply before the first Sunday of next January 2016. At that point in time, my Class 1 NI contributions for the two tax years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 will be reviewed. If I have earned, more than 50 times the minimum weekly earnings limit I can successfully claim JSA. “Whats the minimum weekly earnings limit?” I hear you cry. Well, I did ask, but obviously UF had to go back and google for that (&^*%&^O*^%!!!!!!!!) and could only find the numbers for 2012. I didn’t start. Apparently “it doesn’t go up much each year”, £107 was the magic answer.
Right now I’m having a tiny panic. Is this Class 1 NI contributions or income I have to have paid? There’s no way I can calculate Class 1 NI on any of my previous 24 years income, no-one can. If it’s income, over what time frame do I have to have earned £5,350? UF female stepped into my thoughts and informed me that if I earned “say” £6,000 (I suspect UF can’t multiply 107 x 5) between April 2013 and April 2015, I could claim JSA again next January if necessary.
Be still my beating heart……
Whilst maintaining my best smile, I politely declined her generous offer of my next appointment. I did point out that whilst the quality of the support I had received in my job hunting wasn’t quite worth the two hours driving and parking time, without the financial incentive as well, I really didn’t see that it was in my best interests to attend any more. UF couldn’t cancel my appointment though, she’s not qualified/trained/able to do that, I have to phone someone else and do that myself.