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With over 6 months experience of going to the job centre on a regular basis I feel I am aware enough to comment and review their services and my thoughts on them. This may differ from job centre to job centre but most follow the same set rules. I'm going to talk about one type of benefit, my thoughts on the staff and more.
First of all I will say I never expected myself to end up on JSA. JSA is short for Job Seekers Allowance: a benefit offered to those seeking work or work short hours and are eligible for this alongside it, but I did. You get a certain amount and although they list the weekly price on the direct gov site it's actually given every 2 weeks in your bank account or it can be collected at a post office. I myself get around £100 per fortnight. I used to have a job in 09' and got £70 per week but it differed as i worked according to rota. I can definitely feel the difference and do feel without. Personally I do not feel 50 per week is enough, they are willing to up it to £65.45 per week for people 25+ but people under 24 only get that set amount at present. It is a very little amount and may seem like it's fair but it always runs out after the first week and then you're skint for a week. I find it impossible to save as well since i'm bad at saving and there's no money leftover to save after you've used it on essential stuff.
How it works is to get this benefit you phone up 0800 055 6688 and are kept on the phone for quite a while (20-30 mins) while they ask a series of questions about you, if you have any savings, when you left work if that applies etc.. It was fairly easy to get it set up. Then you were given an interview time where you were told to bring ID/passport and national insurance card. Then I waited for quite a while as I did mine just before the Christmas period. I waited 2 months since leaving before getting JSA because I wasn't aware you could get it if you left the job of your own accord.
The Job Centre is designed quite modernly with brightly coloured sofas and modern looking desks. There are telephone points available where you can ring the main lines and job points where you can search for and print out jobs available on the jobseekers direct website. There are all sorts of people in the job centre and security guards at the reception and upstairs.
When I first started going there to sign my name it was every 2 weeks, then they changed it for young people to once per week which I thought was more annoying. They've since changed it back again to every 2 weeks and have moved me upstairs as i've been claiming for more than 6 months. What you have to do is fill in a chart of all the jobs you've applied for and show it to them, then they sign it and sometimes perform a job search which leads me to my next point.
A lot and I mean a lot of what the staff do is to make themselves look good. They're told to do jobsearches yet make out as though they're trying to help. The more they submit the better they look. They do this on their computer by looking at the same jobs they'd expect you to look at on Job Seekers Direct except when they submit it it's shown on their computer that they've done so and makes it look like they're doing more work than you. I don't object to the staff performing the searches, I can understand why they have to but I don't really appreciate it either because i know the reasoning behind it. Also some staff don't perform searches at all. Sometimes i've had different people on occasion and they haven't performed searches so I know it's not a requirement. The woman i've been signing with has also taken to sending jobs to my home address printed off (how was she to know I hadn't looked at them already?) also some aren't even suitable, in that they have a skill i don't possess. She must know this but continues to submit me for them, what good this does I don't know?
They have schemes such as future jobs fund (funded by govenment) designed to get people into jobs without skills. I went to an office job interview at a council in a different town and the interview was with 4 people asking me questions. I didn't get that job not that i'm surprised because I'd heard they were having interviews over several days. That's another point so many people are submitted for them that the chances of gaining a job are slim. Although i do think it's a good idea otherwise, but there's just not enough work for the scheme to be of use to a wide range of people.
I'm also aware of another scheme which my advisor wants me to get into. Where you work 25 hrs a week for free and still get your benefits. However they might be stopping it so I wasn't sent for an interview at another centre just yet, which was something I wanted to here because if this schemes not been all the successful anyway (why else would they be stopping/changing it) i'm not sure i'd want to work for free. I can imagine it's easy to get people to work and then drop them as soon as it's over, and they may not give a reference anyway if it wasn't paid work.
Overall I don't really like the Job Centre, I think some people seem to think it's simple but it's not, the amount of money is so little that it has no significance and you do have to fill in forms to get the money anyway as well as go there on a regular basis. It's just a place that deals with benefits but doesn't actually do much to get people into paid work although some make out/have the impression that it does.