by Peter Styles (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Firstly, thanks again for all the kind messages of support, received both on the site and to me personally. It has been a tonic at a stressful time. Some heartfelt and very interesting stories have been left on the site, and I wish a happy and successful resolution to one and all.
So how did it come to be that I was sanctioned after applying for 67 jobs in a fortnight? Here’s the story as succinctly as I can put it.
Over the last year since losing my job I’ve been applying for up to 15 jobs a day, securing at least an interview a month and doing whatever I could to free myself from an increasingly precarious financial position – especially as the lion’s share of the Jobseekers’ Allowance is spent on subsidising a significant underpayment in Housing Benefit each month. With prudence, and occasional incredibly welcome help from friends and family, life and the search for work continued.
I have a good degree and an arguably impressive work record stretching back twenty years, but that elusive appointment seemed just out of my grasp. This was especially exasperating when most recruitment consultants seemed unable to really examine the calibre and experience of the candidate – the recruitment sector seems to have been reduced to a sausage factory, a cynical numbers game. Unfortunately, in turn, the method of applying for positions has become similarly mechanistic.
Just over two weeks ago I was told at a fortnightly signing that I would be forced to attend and sign every day. I objected to this, and said it would be completely counterproductive and demoralising, but the law is the law, and the DWP staff seemed only too willing to carry out Iain Duncan-Smith’s ill-thought out, vindictive and distinctly unhelpful measures.
I made my opposition to daily signing obvious to staff, and though I may have been brusque and irritated by this massive invasion into my personal freedom and movement, did not swear at the workers.
Their response to my passive opposition? To be ordered to sign alone in the screened area every day, being made to feel like some kind of offender – yet another tactic used to make me comply.
Despite this, I tried to keep spirits up and job applications going, and thought about the possibility of setting up my own business. A daily routine of emails, application forms and phone calls to consultants – though the routine was erratic because the time I was required to genuflect in front of the Job Centre staff differed every day, from 10.30 in the morning to 3.40pm.
I was compelled to apply for jobs entirely unsuitable to my experience, qualifications and talents – jobs which didn’t even require a cv to apply for. I did so, reluctantly, in order to avoid a sanction and keep the uneasy peace.
However, this was not enough – on the second Friday of daily signing the Executive Officer declared my job search was ‘insufficiently broad’ despite also having described it ‘good’ on more than one occasion that morning.
I asked to see a manager – and the fait accompli was squarely delivered when the other person with whom I’d experienced daily difficulties appeared – a state-sponsored kangaroo court.
Incensed, I told them both in no uncertain terms what I thought of their decision and immediately reached for my mobile to launch an official complaint while I still could – my phone bill was due to be paid on Monday and there were insufficient funds to cover it. Thankfully a friend lent me enough to avoid this potentially disastrous blow to my job searching abilities.
When I returned home, what did I discover in my email inbox than an invite to a job interview. Though welcome, the irony was not lost on me.
Feeling incredibly stressed, I booked a doctor’s appointment, and he signed me off for a month – a welcome respite from daily onslaughts from Duncan-Smith’s attack dogs.
Consequently, this has meant I have had to close my claim for JSA, and currently am in receipt of no state support whatsoever. Were it not for the discount supermarkets and the generosity of friends I shudder to think how even more precarious my position could be.
Currently I’m in a weird limbo position – job seeking though not a Jobseeker. Hopefully I can find paid employment within the next month or else I’ll be thrown back to square one – but with a vengeful government to answer to.
So – if anyone needs someone with experience as a journalist, journalism and public affairs lecturer, content manager, PR or copywriter or related disciplines please step forward – I’d be delighted to hear from you and end this insane chapter of my life.
Mobile: 07946 825926