Monday, October 22, 2007

Yet more moving faff

...but first, a knitting update. I have embarked on my first adult-sized jumper. The yarn (Colinette "Cadenza" 100% merino wool in "slate") is gorgeous, the colours are beautiful. It's mostly blue tones, but with patches of rainbows. Meanwhile, Left Mitt v1.0 has been tried on, the only adjustment needed is for the fingers-bit to be a little longer. So I've done that, and have nearly completed the matching Right Mitt too. After that, will be another identical pair for when this pair are in the wash (or lost), and a similar but smaller pair for my mum. Basically I'm reckoning that at any given time for the rest of the year I will have one project on regular needles (the jumper) and one on DPNs (the mitts).

Now. Today being the first working day after my Official Move Date, a certain number of things had to be done. I had to go to my bank and my building society to update my details (understandably enough, these institutions won't let you do that over the phone), and I wanted to go to the Jobcentre in order to check that everything was as it should be with my benefit (I still get the same amount of Incapacity Benefit but it has to come from a different regional pot) and find out about help available for disabled jobseekers in the area.

The mission started off quite well, really. Steve drove us into town, and then, fortified with tea/coffee and scones, we went to my Building Society, which I would be naming here to praise their good customer service to all and sundry, except I'm not sure how sensible it would be to put any of my financial details on the internet, so let's just call them my Building Society and I promise to email them direct.

Stepped up to the reception desk, queued for about a minute while the person ahead of us was dealt with, then was greeted by a friendly, smiling member of staff, the conversation went thus:

HER: Can I help you?
ME: Yes, I've just moved house and I'd like to update my address details for my account.
HER: (fishing sheet of paper on a clipboard out of a drawer) No problem, have you filled in one of these change of address forms yet?
ME: Um, no.
HER: Is the account a joint one, or just yours?
ME: Just me.
HER: Then you only need this one form. Would you like to fill it in now, or take it away and come back another time?
ME: (taking form and noting it is a single side of A4) Um, now is fine, we're not in a rush.
HER: Okay, here's a pen, there's seats round here, oh, or there's a desk over there if you'd like to use it, just bring me the form once you're done, and I'll be here if you need anything.
ME: Marvellous, thank you.

Sat at the desk, filled out the not-too-complicated form, queued again for a minute or so, gave form and pen back to smiling lady who thanked me, assured me it would get sorted out today, and we left.

At that point I felt wonderfully positive. So I kissed Steve and sent him off to the local park to take photos of ducks while I attended to my Bank and dropped in at the Jobcentre.


At my Bank, I was waiting for what seemed like ages (by the clock, probably not much over five minutes, but when standing is agony, your sense of time gets skewed) while a woman about my age grumpily dealt with the two or three customers ahead of me in the queue for reception, including going and having a rather unprofessional argument with one of the tellers behind the cashier windows. Eventually it was my turn, and she glanced up at me and opened proceedings with an abrupt "Yes?"

ME: Um, hi, yes, I've just moved house and I need to update my address details.
HER: Have you got ID?
ME: Yes, (opens foolscap folder) I wasn't sure what you'd need so I've brought all the ID I've got.
HER: Driver's licence or passport.
ME: I don't have either of those. (leafing through folder) I've got a full birth certificate, and my marriage and divorce certificates, several recent utility bills in my name, a bank statement, National Insurance card, P60...
HER: We only take driver's licence or passport.
ME: I can't drive and I haven't travelled abroad in years. To the best of my knowledge, neither of these things preclude me from having a bank account, or an address.

At this point she made a noise I'm more accustomed to hearing from Sister Dearest when she's in a moodypants. However, she finally deigned to poke my assorted paperwork and put my details into her computer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly sweetness and light 24/7, but then, I don't work in customer service.

Onwards to the Jobcentre, where no less than three advisors were standing about by reception - fair enough as there was no queue. I started with "I've just moved to the area and I want to double-check my incapacity benefit has moved with me," but before I'd finished, one of the advisors had moved to a phone kiosk on the wall, picked up the phone, and was impatiently holding it out to me. Confused, I took it. It was the all too familiar sound of the standard Jobcentre helpline, inviting me to press 1 for income support, or 2 for Jobseekers Allowance... I pressed 3 for Incapacity Benefit and a couple of minutes later, a friendly voice at the end of the phone was making sure that the "push", as they term it, was happening. I checked and re-checked that this meant there is nothing else I need to do and the friendly voice confirmed that yes, everything is fine, there is nothing else I need to do. Grand. I thanked her and hung up.

Back to the Three Stooges Advisors, interrupting their chat to ask about local provision for helping disabled people to access work, training, services, etc. The person who wordlessly shoved the phone at me before, stomped to the wall of leaflets and wordlessly shoved the generic national leaflet for Access To Work at me. By now I was quite cheesed off, so I flipped open the leaflet and said "you see here where it suggests that I contact my nearest Jobcentre? That is what I am doing. I have come here, to my nearest Jobcentre, to ask about what specific help there is available in this specific town, yes? I've already read this leaflet, it's in every other Jobcentre in the country and online too."

I immediately felt bad about being so snappy, but Wordless Guy didn't seem to give a monkeys and one of his colleagues had decided to join us. As Wordless Guy wandered off, Colleague asked if I'd like to speak to the Incapacity Benefit advisor, C, who might know more about the sort of services I was after. He ushered me to a seat and said he'd find out if C was available now or if I needed an appointment. A moment later he was back to tell me that C would be with me shortly, but that's another blogpost.


Mandy said...

I know exactly what you mean about that particular job centre. I went with son no.1 a few months ago and we didn't know how job centers operated. Lets just say they weren't particularly helpful. It will all come good in the end :)

Pandora Caitiff said...

Right now at Jobcentre Plus (I've never understood the plus part...) the policy seems to be closing as many Jobcentres as possible; moving all staff to Benefit Delivery Centres (callcentres) ; and encouraging as much contact by as possible (possible more than that).

Which is all fine and dandy for the average recipient of Jobseekers Allowance. Except that with the closure of all other types of benefit office, JC+ is the main port of call for customers of the Pension Service, the SA, and The Disability and Carers Service.

Ah-ha you would think - all of those are wings of the Department for Work and Pensions, it would be easy to speak to someone. And then, as you say, you get pointed to a phone, and wonder why you bothered to go in rather than phone the Local Rate number that will have you on hold for a good hour due to the staffing crisis.

Bitter? Me? Nope. I managed to escape to the Public Sector :)

Pandora Caitiff said...

Cat-like typing detected!

That should have read "as much contact as possible *by telephone*" and "escape to the *private* sector", among other gaffes!

Mary said...

Ooh, wait, I know this one.

It used to be that Jobcentre dealt with people on Jobseekers' Allowance only, and people claiming Income Support or Incapacity Benefit or similar went to the DHSS. By making the DHSS and the Jobcentre one office - the Jobcentre Plus - they got to sack half the staff, thus creating more clients for the new... no hang on that's wrong... well, whatever.

It was rebranding because rebranding was trendy at the time, and I think that's probably all there was to it.