Monday, March 26, 2007

Mea culpa

The following excerpt from my Dole Diary charts the day after the day after I realised that I'd forgotten to sign on at the appointed time. This provoked a flurry of form filling and a litany of mea culpas. The incident is a good example of the tactics employed by the system to boot you off of Jobseeker's Allowance.

Thursday, 5 May 2005
Early to bed early to rise. I am aiming to get to the Jobcentre close to 9 am. I charge across the Rye, then succumb to temptation and laziness and hop on the bendy bus. It manages to travel as far as the next bus-stop and stops. It's not going anywhere. There is total snarl. Good job I didn't waste my bus-saver ticket on that trip. I get off and along with everyone else dodge along the pavements breathing belching bus pollution while avoiding sides of beef; trucks mounting the curbs; twin buggies; the crazies out wandering and the lady shouting 'You bastard'. I dash past a news headline for the South London Press: ‘PECKHAM MUM ADMITS COOKING HER BABY’. (I return and photograph it.)

The Late Signing Officer sees me straight away. I say that my ordeal puts me in mind of extending my hand so a teacher may hit it with a ruler. In fact, I'd rather that. She smiles. She accepts my paperwork. Next, I queue in the post office to obtain proofs of postage for the council tax form and one for the building society (a duplicate of the one I sent them last week).
I have been properly chastised by all this palaver resulting from the missed signing appointment. I have suffered frustration and mortification. I shall never forget an appointment again. Another thing that's happened is that whereas the first time I contemplated Peckham Jobcentre, I couldn't face going into it: to becoming a supplicant, an applicant, a ‘customer’, now, I just breeze in. I see myself as one of the infantry. Wounded but walking.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005
Today’s post includes two manila envelopes. What must the postman think? He must know. Not that we have just one postman for our neighbourhood able, should he be interested, to chart people's lives. But, if we did he would have seen that previously much of my mail was addressed to me as a managing director, but now it comes in an unappealing shade of brown and it's from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Today, it's a 2625/3010 that informs me: 'We cannot pay you an allowance' from the date on which I failed to sign on. It continues: 'This is your final payment of Jobseeker's Allowance'. It is accompanied by a INF1(JSA)10/04 telling me what to do if I disagree with the decision, and a leaflet entitled : 'Jobseeker's Allowance Hardship Provision' illustrated with a picture of a spaced-out looking young woman. Is she staring into the abyss?

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