Monday, 21 September 2009

JobCentrePlus.......Plus what?

I had my initial face-to-face meeting at the Job Centre today at 2pm.

To register for Job Seekers Allowance, the initial interview is by a FreeFone number. The "Advisor" asks a long series of often repeated questions to ascertain one's circumstances and how one got there.

There then has to be a face-to-face meeting with "Advisors" at the local JobCentrePlus which in my case is Molineux House, Temple Street, Wolverhampton.

The guy on the 'phone told me my appointment was 2pm Monday 21st September with "Kirk". Miss Kirk, Mr Kirk or Kirk Something, he couldn't tell me.

So I've had my meetings.

With Allison and Mukesh.

Allison was the Financial Advisor. After I pulled out my letters from my last employer proving I was made redundant, my passport to prove I was who I said I was and a proof of address, she pulled out a load of sheets which were obviously printouts of my conversation with the JobSeekers Allowance Advisor.

She went through them with me and I checked my bank account details. Which I know off by heart and didn't require my bank card. She made me check again. With my card. Yep. Same. Then I signed on the bottom line and she discussed the benefits available to me.

Not many.

The newly arrived Mortgage Relief Scheme sounds worrying.

It kicks in after 13 weeks of entitlement to JobSeekers Allowance and pays off the interest only.

I tried tallying that up in my head.

That means it should start up somewhere around the third week in December.

Gulp.

She was bright, smiley, chatty and briskly efficient. She'd had this conversation too many times already and had several to go before her day was over. Such is the job market in Wolverhampton.

She wished me luck and told me to wait in another portion of the huge open plan office to wait for a JobSearch Advisor.

It turned out to be Mukesh.

He and I had a long conversation about what jobs I was applying for.........

Um. Anything I can do.

Where was I prepared to travel to.........

Well......Anywhere the buses go.

How long was I prepared to travel for........

About an hour, maybe an hour and a half, I said, as I remembered the mail sorting in Stoke-On-Trent.

He was impressed by that.

Noting the number of shell suits and trainers being worn around the room by the Job Seekers discussing their various situations, I could tell it wasn't going to take much to impress the people who worked there.

He printed off a letter for me. I was invited to a "Helping You Back To Work" Group session on Wednesday at 11am. Failure to attend could result in the curtailing of benefits.

Mukesh described a number of schemes which could be of use.

There was the Advisor Discretionary Fund (ADF) which could help with one off costs like fares to interviews, clothes for interviews and pieces of equipment like steel toe caps boots or HiVi vests.

The Rapid Response Fund was for people like me. It could pay for courses for people who had been made redundant to make them more employable.

I couldn't think of anything off hand.

He gave me a sheaf of papers which could be filled in for potential employers.

Work Trials.

If I got an interview and it looked like I was a serious contender, then I could waggle the offer of a Work Trial at them.

The Department of Work and Pensions would pay for a limited trial period at no cost to the employer and if they liked me they could take me on after that.

I looked at the crappily photocopied, off kilter sheets of paper and said I'd think about it.

He gave me his 'phone number and told me if there was anything else, I could give him a call.

I smiled, even though I felt sick and said thank you.

And that was that.

I walked home and trawled the internet.

It's starting to get very obsessive, this internet thing.

That can't be good.