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Blog: The Dowager Duchess Of Dole

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On Friday I went to SIGN ON for the DOLE. I've officially been off work for AGES but until recently I was technically a full-time student, so haven't really been eligible, but now that I AM I thought I'd give it a go.

Several people have said to me "Ooh no, I couldn't do that again, it's horrible. They MAKE you go in for interviews and stuff." To this I reply in two ways: firstly, I spent twenty years working in Universities mostly in positions allied to IT departments, so am well versed in byzantine organisational structures, institutional incompetence, low quality customer relations bordering on madness, and sitting around doing nothing for huge swathes of time, so feel well prepared for the experience. Secondly, if they try to make me do anything TOO stupid and/or annoying I can always say "No thank you" and simply go back to the non-receipt of dole situation I was in before.

With all this in mind I was well prepared for what was to follow. On Thursday, while in Peterborough for the Extravaganza, I'd had two text messages to remind me of my appointment time, 11:50am, followed by a telephone call to remind me again. So far so KEEN. At 10:00am on Friday I got a phone call asking me to go in at 11:00am instead and then ten minutes later ANOTHER phone call explaining that the original time had been a clerical error, and could I go in at 11 o'clock instead. I happily agreed, then the lady said "Great, so that's 11:50 then" and hung up the phone. Excellent!

She'd told me that when I arrived I was to fill in some paperwork and then go to the first floor. I arrived at the ground floor at ten to eleven (EAGER, PROFESSIONAL) to find that they had done away with boring old fashioned things like a reception desk, and replaced it with a bunch of people lurking around trying to get the attention of the G4S security guy to see if he had any clue what was going on. Eventually he called over a "floor walker" who told me to go straight up to the first floor.

When I arrived at the first floor there was again no reception, so I had to wait until another G4S security man took pity on me and found someone with a desk to talk to me. This person asked me a) where my paperwork was b) why wasn't I on the second floor and c) wasn't I a bit early for my appointment at noon?

I went up to the second floor, went through the same non-reception confusion, and got waved at by a nice lady who eventually came over and apologised for keeping me waiting. "This is a rapid re-application isn't it?" she asked. My last application was in 1992 so I assumed there was a mistake, which indeed there was. She gave me a form to fill in and then made an appointment for me to go back in two weeks for a proper interview, at 8:30am. I BAULKED at the time, but realised that this was the end of my obligations to DWP for a fortnight, so smiled POLITELY and left.

The POLITE SMILE was indicative of my whole DEMEANOUR, and whilst waiting I realised that this was something I ALWAYS do in these sort of situations i.e. I act like a MINOR ROYAL on a VISIT. It was the same a few weeks ago when I had to have a hospital check-up, I become like MAGGIE SMITH or someone, smiling benevolently at all the dear poor people around me, remarking whenever appropriate how jolly nice it all is and radiating calmness and tranquility. I basically become like the QUeen Mum visiting the old East End during the Blitz.

On reflection I realised that this is an EXCELLENT way to get through such situations - after all, if it's good enough for our great nation's number one family of claimants, then surely it is good enough for me. Next week I plan to open a FETE!

posted 29/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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Mark, I would be interested to hear your views on the purpose of the dole: is it a safety net for people who can't get a job, or a grant for comfortably off people who fancy a change of career? POLITICS.
posted 29/9/2014 by E. Conomist

Hello Ian Duncan Smith, didn't know you were a reader! I'm on contribution-based Job Seekers Allowance, so in my case it's recouping a tiny bit of the 22 years' worth of national insurance payments I've made for just such an occasion, thanks for asking!
posted 29/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett

posted 30/9/2014 by Rocker Rosehip

Well that's a point of view, but surely every pound of benefits that isn't claimed is a pound that won't need to be cut in future? And I think all the main UK parties agree that cuts are necessary. Also, I thought the idea of insurance was to protect against future unforseen circumstances, not just a fund that you pay into and then withdraw from when you like.
posted 7/10/2014 by E. Conomist again

Welcome back E Conomist. Not sure where to start with this silliness, but a) i don't think DWP budgets aren't worked out on exactly how many people claimed in a particular month b) "need" to be cut? I thought you said it was a safety net, not something to be got rid of? c) the main parties do say that, because they're all Thatcherites d) if insurance is only for unforseen circumstances, does that mean pensions should be abolished, as that's entirely forseen? e) "when you like" seems to infer that I left my job, rather than had a long contract finish f) "comfortably off" from earlier would suggest you've hacked into someone else's bank account!
posted 7/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett

It's disturbing that you find this silly. You're not afraid to call others out on their ethics (rightly so) so I thought I would engage you in some robust questioning of your own. You seem to be a generally very ethically considerate person but I wonder if you've thought this one through correctly. a) I didn't say that. Not sure of your point. b) I wasn't suggesting that welfare payments should be got rid of. I was saying that ups and downs in public spending as a whole are a fact of life. If you are unnecessarily removing money from the public spending pot then you're encouraging government towards down rather than up. c) If you're going to write off all of the UK's mainstream politicians with a one-liner, I suggest you're not really taking a pragmatic view of how the economy could be best run. However, if you think radical change is needed, fair enough. But I still don't see how your actions are moving us towards a more equal society. d) No, because pensions are not insurance. They are a savings pot. People do talk of putting money away for retirement. They don't talk of putting money away in NI for a future career break. Although I concede that pensions are also funded from NI, so my point about "insurance" was maybe a bit tenuous. But I think most people see them as different things. e) I too am a contract worker. When I finish a contract (or before) I look for a new contract. If I decide to take a sabbatical, I do so at my own expense. The idea that I have money in the bank to support myself, but that instead I accept money from the state that otherwise could have gone to those in real need, is bonkers to me. f) No, I've read someone else's blog that describes their lifestyle in considerable detail! I've no doubt that you're not what Telegraph readers would consider "comfortably off", but I also assume from your blog that you're not laying awake at night for fear of eviction.
posted 8/10/2014 by E. Conomist once more

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