Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Back On The Chain Gang

The Universe forced my hand, now Universal Credit insists I shine my light.


Following a brief spell of employment that now seems like an hallucination, I am back at Kennington Park Job Centre Plus, where all has changed. I now go up the fag stench stairs to the first floor, where we abide by the code of Universal Credit. If I obey the regulations scrupulously, on March 5th I shall eventually receive payment.

Under the old rules of Job Seekers' Allowance, I contracted to apply for a specified number of jobs each week, which was relatively easily done: search the Universal Jobmatch online to choose a few positions I wouldn't mind filling, in the unlikely event that they were disposed to take on a sarky, middle-aged left trans-radial amputee, & fire off my exhaustive CV, with a more-or-less facetious covering letter. I never had a reply.

Now, though, I'm expected to prove I spend 35 hours each week actively looking for work, or striving to improve my income. Seeking jobs must be one's full time preoccupation. Failure to demonstrate that I've done sufficient job seeking by filling in my online Journal could eventually result in a 'sanction'. This means I may be punished by not receiving any money for a month or more. That will teach me an important life lesson, no doubt.

"You get a bit of leeway for the first few weeks," explained Moses at my first work search review meeting, "but then they start to get heavy." I sat across the desk, relishing his choice of pronoun. Not, "we," and certainly not, "I," even though it was he and his colleagues who would be applying the weight. I briefly considered a quip about Nazi concentration camp guards, but thought better of it. Even though Moses had criticised my journal keeping and said my CV was useless, I didn't want to fall out with the fellow.

His name is not actually Moses; that's the person I was supposed to meet, as it had been on my previous appointment, the commitments meeting. On that occasion, another chap conducted the meeting instead of Moses and so it was this time, too. I suggested in banter that Moses was a mythical figure, but he seems more likely to be their Trainer. Neither geezer was local: the first was #NorfLDN, with a faint whiff of Gooner; the second from the Near East, plausibly Crackney. Nobody wants to be seen administering Universal Credit on their own manor, innit.

'Moses' told me I'd better re-do my CV: 'Change your format. Only put 3 of the most recent jobs. More in-depth profile based around your strengths.' He told me that Arial is the only acceptable font for a CV, but mine is in Liberation Mono. Arial is not among the suite of fonts offered by LibreOffice Writer. 'Moses' told me to follow the guidelines in a pdf document that he displayed on his desktop, but was unable to send me and seems beyond the ken of Google. Still, I shall comply, Google Docs willing, and thereby create fresh fodder for this, my blog, which is hereby re-launched.

'Moses' told me to play to my strengths, which consist of stringing words together like the ones you're reading, but I stopped trying to get paid to do that aeons ago. Which is not to say I haven't pimped myself out as a copywriter over the years because, believe me, I know copy. I craft the wittiest copy, as everybody agrees, at very reasonable rates. But one has inevitably dealt with sub-literate nitwits who feel their opinion of words' meaning and use of language is equivalent to one's own. In which case, they may as well write the damn thing themselves. No doubt they will pay themselves more promptly.

Sooner than soldier on as a word smith, as I entered my seventh set of seven years more committed to an occult path than a career in consensus reality, I chose to do manual work, mostly for a Yoda-like Jack of all trades from Lee Green. But to be a handyman one needs a pair of hands and I find myself one short. Still, I can type with the stubby digits of  my remaining hand, made for stabbing keys. Blogging the experience of claiming benefit must count towards my weekly work search commitment by showcasing my skill over 750 words. At least, that's what I'm planning to tell 'Moses' when I next see him.