Down at the Dole Office: A Lighthearted Look at Signing On! Part One


I am getting increasingly angry about the negative stereotypes being propagated daily by the media about people on social security.  Yes, some of these stereotypes are partly based on reality.  The woman who has had 10 kids with 10 different fathers whilst on social security, the man with bad legs playing 18 rounds of golf with ease and the chap still smiling through, after being turned down for the umpteenth job.  Sometimes the saints are almost as bad as the sinners when it comes to re-enforcing widespread views about people on social security.

I want to focus in this series on the in-betweenies, the vast majority of people receiving social security.  They are neither saints nor sinners, ‘just’ John and Josephine Doe doing their best to get by.  I will pen a separate article setting out my detailed definitions of the saints, sinners and in-betweenies in due course.

This series will be written in the style of James Alfred “Alf” Wight (also known as James Herriot).  There will be the odd Mr Biggins, a Tricky Woo owner or two and the occasional chap bravely facing up to the decision to put down an elderly, much loved, but ailing pet.  However, the focus will as much as possible be on the characters we all too easily forget, the ‘run of the mill’ types.

A Middle Class Sense of Entitlement?

I aim to stick with first hand anecdotes as much as I am able, but the following one seemed too good not to include in this series.

I was told this story by a colleague working in a Jobcentre covering an affluent part of the city.

A young lad came in to the Jobcentre for his routine six monthly Restart appointment.  When he was asked to sit down for his interview he did not do so alone.  He had been accompanied to the office by a well dressed, middle aged man.

We were not averse to three way interviews.  Often the second person was a great help in building a rapport, but on other occasions they were unhelpful and even an embarrassment to the person they were with.  Hence, we liked to find out who AN Other was before properly commencing an interview:

“May I ask, please who this gentleman is?”

“My father’s accountant.  He has looked over ‘my books’ since I started my claim and he thinks you owe me some money.”

Collapse of stout party!

Do not get me wrong, I do not approve of under payments.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, to bring along daddy’s accountant to back up a claim for a benefit review was novel to say the least.  I have to assume that the accountant was tax deductible!

The moral to this story is never allow yourself to be taken in by the line that the middle class do not claim social security or that they lack a sense of entitlement.  They most certainly do the former and are more than happy to display the latter.  They are also quick to show that they know their rights.

A number of Tory Members of Parliament were not slow in coming forward to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance after they had lost their seats in the 1997 General Election.


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