Month: October 2014

Contracts & Norms

20141023_142702If you had made an arrangement to meet someone and you knew that they were the type who always arrived 10 minutes early for any arrangement and didn’t like waiting around, then if you turned up half an hour late you would expect them to have been waiting and become annoyed and and you wouldn’t be surprised if they gave you a hard time.

Similarly, if you had arranged to meet someone who was less regimental in their timekeeping you might feel that being 10 minutes late is acceptable, and if you turned up any earlier, you might be the one waiting around getting annoyed at the casual regard they were showing towards your time.

Now imagine you had arranged to meet someone and were say 4 minutes late but as they hadn’t shown up yet you weren’t too worried.  However when they still hadn’t shown 15 minutes later you’re the one who’s getting a bit pissed off.  So you give it another 15 minutes  and by now they’re well over half an hour late so you decide to give them a call to see if they’re on their way.

Now how exactly should you respond when you remind them you had arranged to meet them 34 minutes ago and you’ve been waiting now for half an hour and they say, “hold on, you were 4 minutes late.  That is wholly unacceptable.  Consider today’s appointment cancelled.  Next time please arrive 10 minutes early or don’t expect me to agree even speaking to you again”?

This is the position that the DWP seems to think is completely reasonable.  Two years ago when I found myself without employment for the first time in about 20 years and having been paying around £2,000 each month in tax and NI for a good number of them I was sanctioned and lost my benefit, not only for me, but my whole family and not because I hadn’t been looking for work but because I had failed to bring evidence of the fact with me when I went to sign on.  I had mistakenly picked up the wrong printouts from my desk on the way out and when I had offered to go back and get them (I live only a few minutes walk from the jobcentre) I was ignored.  This was after a very similar experience to the current eye-wateringly frustrating one I am having just trying to get them to do anything.

Anyway, resigning myself to the possibility that the instructions given to the guys at the benefit centre are simply not to pay any new claims for at least 3 months, and then only if they are receiving daily phone calls from the claimant, at which point they should contact the claimant’s local jobcentre to see if anything can be done to sanction the claimant first, I waited until 13 October before once again calling to see how things were coming along.  See how I got on this time by clicking on the link here.

The Way of Dwp

A few days later I thought I’d better call my friends at the DWP again, just in case the passport which had been scanned and sent electronically to the benefits centre on Monday 29th had not been received.  I understand how ridiculous this might sound to the average person but I understand The Way of Dwp having read The Dwp of Physics many years ago.

It’s important to understand that all physical phenomena can exist in more than one state at any one time and crucially,  whether or not the DWP are observing the event determines the actual nature of the observed phenomenon in question.  For example, I took my wife’s passport down to the jobcentre and to me it was simply an ordinary passport obeying the laws of physics like any other.  However, once it is in the possession of the DWP it may momentarily exhibit payslip properties or indeed properties of any other document and it might exist in this state long enough to avoid acknowledgement once in the fax tray or inbox at the destination.

You can hear how the call went by clicking this link.

Once again a perfectly pleasant and helpful character but notice now how the date has been pushed back further to 10th October, whereas I was told it was ready to go and the latest date I would be looking at was tuesday the 7th.  Remember that I made my initial claim on 4th September?  It’s tempting to think that whichever day of the week I call I’m going to be given a date 7 days later.  Remember that I’m supposed to be spending my time looking for work, improving my CV and being positive, not calling the DWP again and again to find out if I’m even going to be paid anything.  If, shockingly, I actually get a letter from the DWP on the 10th then for all I know it may say they can’t pay me any jobseekers allowance. Meanwhile I must keep going and signing on and I must of course keep a written record to show them that I’ve done everything I possibly can to find work otherwise they’ll sanction me  before I’ve even received my first payment.  And I know they can do that because it’s what they did last time.

Telephone call 29th Sep

The letter informing me I was not entitled to jobseekers allowance was dated 23rd September (I made the claim online on the 4th) and I received it on Friday 26th and called the jobcentre on the following Monday 29th.

You can hear the phone call by clicking here.

So, I spoke to a perfectly nice, helpful guy who was as apologetic as could be expected about the fact that they still use a 1980s letter template for the main correspondence notifying claimants of the status of their claim.  It makes you wonder why 30 odd years isn’t long enough for someone to knock up an updated one in Word that actually communicates something useful.  The real reason why of course is that the DWP shows exactly the same behaviour patterns as the unfortunate individual who has lost control of their life and is in a state of denial, no longer able to open the mail because they know they can’t pay the bill, not even prepared to apply themselves to fixing the things they can fix because they prefer to avoid anything to do with that part failed part of their life and just hope it won’t all blow up today.

Anyway, it was clear enough, the problem was simply that they needed to see my wife’s passport and it would be signed off as everything else had been processed and it was waiting to go.  Signing it off though was going to take a team leader somewhere 6 days but the good news was that it should all be sorted by Tuesday 7th October so I’d better run down to the jobcentre quickly and get them to send the passport ASAP….

Which is what I did