We’re all about branding nowadays, and getting the dole is no exception. Thus the good old-fashioned labour exchange has had yet another makeover. Calling them Jobcentres was always the triumph of hope over expectation in any case, but even that’s no longer enough. Oh, no. Now the job centres have had something added, presumably, in order to justify their “plusness”, but you’d be hard put to discover what.
Perhaps a process of elimination will help to identify the elusive additional ingredient. We can rule out a welcoming atmosphere right away. The first people you meet in a jobcentre are not jobcentre staff, but security guards. And, it would seem, security guards that failed to get jobs in supermarkets or as bouncers because of their lack of social skills, or indeed, even the power of speech. I present my dinky little plastic wallet containing my laughable “job-seeker’s agreement”, only to be met with a grunt and a vague wave towards the seats already filled by my hapless comrades.
OK, so it’s not a warm welcome. Perhaps it’s staff who are attuned to your particular circumstances? Nope. “Well, Mr No-Job, what have you done to find a job this week?” I say that I’ve perused the GuardianJobs website, and followed up some contacts amongst recruiters I’ve used in my previous job. “Have you looked in the local paper, there’s lots of jobs in there?” Oh, for God’s sake.
Well, surely it must be increased efficiency then? Erm… On my second signing-on day I gave in my plastic wallet and sat down to wait. And wait. Eventually, someone asked me what I was doing there as the place was about to close.
“I’m waiting to sign on.”
“Where’s your wallet?”
“I left it on that desk, as I was asked to do.”
It was nowhere to be found. I was not best pleased as it had all my sensitive data in it, and I muttered darkly about the data protection act. Eventually they discovered that they’d given it to someone else, who fortunately had looked at it on their way home, and had phoned in to complain. The poor bloke had to come all the way back. We exchanged wallets cordially. Our joint resentment was reserved for Jobcentre Plus. Oh, resentment. Perhaps that’s what’s been added.