Sound and fury, signifying nothing

I forgot to sign on a couple of weeks back. Neither more, nor less. I just forgot. By the time I’d remembered that I’d forgotten, it was two days later, and the next day I went to the Jobcentre to ‘fess up. My biggest concern was whether this degree of memory loss was some sort of ghastly precursor to incipient Alzheimer’s, but for some reason this was not shared by my advisor. (Advisor – why do they call them that? I’ve never had any advice about anything, but let that pass.) No, the advisor took me royally to task.

I remonstrated that this was a very unusual occurrence, and that I’d try extra hard in future, but this was clearly insufficient.

“Why did you forget?”

“Er, I just did.”

“But that’s not really good enough!”

“Well, I’m very sorry, but what would you have me do? Make up a reason? I just forgot.”

When you’ve been a naughty boy in this way, you have to fill in an excuse form, a bit like the ones you forged from your mother when you forgot your PE kit. The advisor said that just writing, “I forgot” would not wash. I had to have a reason for forgetting, and I could tell that offering early stage Alzheimer’s as an explanation was not going to go down well.

So I decided to write the real, unvarnished truth. There was a reason behind my forgetfulness, and it was as brazen as it was simple. I am entitled only to what’s called “contribution-based benefit” and this lasts for only six months, after which you get nothing. My six months had elapsed, well, six months ago, and since then I’d had the indignity of the signing-on process for no benefit whatsoever, either metaphorical or literal. Thus the incentive to see the ritual of showing up at the Jobcentre every two weeks as of any importance is small indeed. There are in fact many more important things that I need to attend to, not the least among them the filling-in of yet more applications and supporting statements.

When she read my excuse, the advisor shook her head and muttered darkly about some shadowy other figure to whom she had to show my form. This person would not take kindly to my impudence, and might stop my benefit. What?  I’m scared, really scared.


5 thoughts on “Sound and fury, signifying nothing

    • Oh, I loved your piece! It reminded me of my 13-week interview.

      “Have you seen many jobs on our website?”

      “Well, not really. I was thinking of perhaps not going for jobs more than £30K below my previous salary.”

      “How much were you earning?”




      “Oh, I don’t think we’ve got anything like that!”

      “I rest my case…”

      And somehow it felt all the worse that I was being offered coaching in job-seeking skills by a 16-yr-old…

  1. I’m just signing on for my NI too after my contributions ran out.
    I was denied income based because of my partner’s ‘working hours’. They based their decision not to pay me on that. I tried to explain, that due to the nature of my partner’s work, he’s not paid an hourly wage, he merely receives a royalties cheque every few months, which could be £200 or could be £1000 or anything else. But no, more than 25 hours (which was an honest number of actual time he works self-employed) and that’s set in stone. Seems a bit unfair.

    Anyway, so I still plod along to the job centre every fortnight to sign on. Maybe I do it for motivation.

    Last fortnight I only found ONE, count ’em, ONE, thing worth applying for. There’s just nothing here – all the advisers and external help I get to search for work, clarify my complete lack of anything to apply for every time I see them. But I was scolded – you have to apply for at least four jobs. IF there were four jobs, I’d bloody apply for them, obviously. ‘It could affect your benefit’, ‘I don’t get any, you just pay my NI’. I’ve been out of work for more than a year now. I live on nothing.
    If it wasn’t for the fact my mother died two years ago, and we were lucky enough to get a reasonable house on her bungalow afterwards that I am not driven to madness, those savings will eventually go to if nothing picks up.

    What’s worse is I have a Christmas job working at a Royal Mail sorting office, I don’t know if I’m going to be chased into work every morning at 6am by raging, striking postal workers. I just want some cash for Christmas.

    Anyway, rant rant.

    • Thanks for sharing your rant – and one I can totally empathise with. At the moment my lack of benefit is based on my vast riches of more than £16K in savings. After 35 years’ uninterrupted employment, you’d think perhaps I should have saved a lot more!

      I certainly hope you’re not attacked as a scab… 😦

      • I’m hoping that it’s all over by then, because, even though it’s a world away from the work I actually want to do, there’s always a possibility that RM may offer me full time shift work after Christmas. That won’t go down well if I have to break a picket line to get into work in December, I doubt I’d make friends in a new role.

        And I didn’t mean reasonable ‘house on her bungalow’ I meant ‘price’ but my brain clearly didn’t like that.

        Good luck to you with your job seeking also.

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