The Jobseekers Stigma

16 May 2017


So, this is a post I've had in my mind for a while now, but I can't remember exactly how it's come into fruition in my mind. Though, I feel like it's important to talk about.

We know that unemployment rates are high, and there's so much talk about benefits - benefits getting cut or benefits not going to those who actually need it. In short, there's a lot of talk, and rightly so. There is also a stigma attached to one particular type of benefit - and that's jobseekers. We know the stigma, but in case you're unaware;

"it's full of junkies and alcoholics who have never worked a day in their life and are only scrounging after taxpayers money so they can buy expensive holidays and clothes while I work my butt off in my 9-5!"

Okay, let me just say now - wrong. This is such a toxic outlook on the service - but I don't claim to be innocent in having this viewpoint either. Here's a shocker for you all, at only 23 years of age I've had to claim jobseekers allowance twice. Yes, twice. And I know people who've found themselves in a position where they've had to claim more than that. If it wasn't for jobseekers allowance, I wouldn't be where I am today.

Before I went for my first interview, I remember I was shaking. I was so nervous. My job centre was located off the main road, and was hidden, like an embarrassing secret. I remember I felt physically sick at the thought of having to sit in that building and feeling judged - to feel like I was scrounging of the government. It took me months before I'd even gained the courage to start my claim, despite my mum reassuring me it wasn't as bad as I was picturing, and I only did it when I had no other choice. It was a horrible build up.

Sure, it's true that there are people out there that are looking to scrounge the system, and in those cases then yes, there should be tighter regulations on who's granted the benefits. However, advisors are easily able to identify who is and who is not sincere in their job hunt. They use an attitude test on you when you're in your interviews and if they realise you're willing to job hunt and follow the rules, then it's plain sailing. If you're there to abuse the system, they won't be as nice.

My first time claiming jobseekers I saw 3 or 4 advisors, and was only on for an extremely short time (I'm talking a couple of weeks) before I was asked, given my school grades and my age (I was 18) if I'd be interested in a college course being funded by both the college and the council's employment and training unit. I agreed and I got a place! I had to keep claiming for a few weeks until my funding was sorted out but this was something known to both the council and the job centre, and, once I was advised when to do so, I stopped my claim via telephone. It couldn't have been easier. (Even if I do get a little bit of telephone anxiety.)

Flash forward two years and I'm back sitting at the job centre, enduring my claim interview. I was a pile of nerves once again, and after the interview I was being asked how my mum and my brother were getting on, (she then explained who she was and turns out she lived two doors down the road from me when I was younger and I was friends with her son!) and soon after I was sat talking to my next advisor, who knew that while I was looking for a job, I was only planning to claim until I was able to get into college - as I had interviews. She told me not to tell employers this information (one of the colleges was 3 hours away, which I nearly went to!) and helped me to search, saving some jobs on Universal Jobmatch for me to look at. She only got annoyed at me one time, and that was when I'd saved a job but didn't apply for it because it mentioned needing to answer the phone, which terrified me. She urged me to pick up an application form and that job actually turned out to be the chippy job I was at for over a year and still pop back into visit whenever I'm home!

So why could my visits be positive when everyone deems them gloomy?

They're not as bad as you've heard. As long as you've got the right attitude and you help your advisor to help you. That is, to go in having done everything they've asked of you (usually at least 5 job searches a week) and listen to their advice. Most importantly - treat them as a human being! If you piss them off then you're not going to get a good experience and you're going to rant about it to somebody who may find themselves in a claims interview, and you've just added to the stigma. It's a service industry, they work the same way retail and catering workers do.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to claim benefits, please don't worry about it. As long as you do your side of the agreement, and listen to your advisor while treating them with respect, then you'll be fine and you'll be in employment in no time! But the stigma needs to end. Please don't feel ashamed of yourself if you find yourself in a position like this, there's nothing nothing wrong with it, just be genuine.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

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