Unemployment and JSA

I’ve been a lazy blogger, I have got a couple of posts percolating and have a new project which I’m going to try and launch proper this week. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve mostly been unemployed since leaving uni. There’s been a couple of fantastic jobs that I’ve been passed over for or have been withdrawn which has been quite depressing. But I keep on, applied for a pharmacy dispensing job today, which would be perfect for me in every way – temporary (finishes March next year), full time, NVQ training. So, fingers crossed for that.

I am lucky enough to have a fair amount of savings that I’ve slowly been trawling through, but, after much badgering and steeling myself (I have issues with asking for help, I see it as a weakness. I’m not even sure where that came from, and I don’t feel like unpacking it) I rang to put in a claim for Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Well, no, I wanted help with finding a job, but you can’t do that without putting in a claim for JSA.

I have a number of issues with our system for claiming JSA. The first one is there is no way of claiming except by ringing the hotline. Luckily the call is free from mobile phones as well. Getting through is an issue, even when you’re calling at the ‘quiet times’. Then you proceed to make the claim over the phone. More than once I had to scramble to find information I wasn’t expecting them to ask (My landlord’s name and phone number?) because they wanted me to make a housing benefit claim as well. My call got dropped twice due to bad signal from this (not their fault, but ugh, annoying). I have not managed to complete a claim yet due to signal dropping. Rawr.

The next thing that pops up is that I will have to make a joint claim with my partner, who is a student. The reaction I got from the lady on the phone is that, due to his savings and his income (by income I mean, student loan) I will get little to no money as he will be expected to support me. It works out over £100 a week, that should be enough for both of us, appears to be the issue. He, a student, will be expected to support me.

First issue: the student loan is meant for maintenance and equipment costs. Not for supporting me. also, if I don’t qualify for benefits, do I qualify for getting help from the job centre when it comes to looking for work? Of if I can be supported by my partner, do I not need a job badly enough? Do I not need help?

Second issue: They assume he’ll be happy to do this. What would happen if my partner was unwilling to help me out til I got a job? There was no way for me to make a claim without them taking his income into account, it had to be based on income. I can see why (so people don’t ‘fiddle’ the system (someone might go through an 1hr on the phone for £51 a week that they didn’t need!)) but I can also see how this assumption could be problematic. What if he had been just a flatmate?

Third issue (tangentially related to the second issue): This assumption that both myself and my partner would be happy with my partner supporting me is problematic. Hopefully it won’t come to it, but we’ve done this sort of thing before and survived – and I’ve paid the money back – we can survive it again. However, it could easily put a strain on the relationship. Resentment and guilt and anger and frustration could all lead to a fairly toxic environment. It also could put me at a disadvantage, it tips the ‘power’ balance towards my partner. If my partner was not the best man I’ve ever met and would never take advantage of this, I might be more disconcerted at this very real imbalance. As it is I can see issues as an abstract, I’ve read about these sorts of imbalances before, how they can be used to trap people – traditionally women – in abusive relationships.

Edit: A point I missed, not only does this assumption put me in a bad position, it also puts my partner in one. If he feels like he has to support me financially through this rough patch…what f he wanted to split up with me, but didn’t feel comfortable removing that financial support. Yes, I could put another claim in, and get all my benefits, but that’s still an awkward position. It’s a lot of pressure to put a relationship under.

But, I shall ring them again this week (this time with all the paraphernalia I’ll need) and try to make another claim. Maybe I’ll get something, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get help, maybe I won’t. Maybe once I’ve been through the system I’ll have more complaints (likely) and maybe I’ll even submit them through the proper channels (…depends on my issues with the system).

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