Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Why the Job Centre probably can't help you get work

I just had a ridiculous interaction with my Personal Advisor at the Job Centre which I need to write down because it perfectly documents the inefficiencies of a system which is bursting at the seams with unemployed people  and which will fail again and again at successfully supporting people back into work.

The background
I received an invite to interview for a job in Newcastle* on Saturday 2nd June inviting me to attend an interview on Monday 11th June. I immediately got myself online to look for train tickets from Preston to Newcastle.


At that point the cheapest option available on Trainline was an open return ticket for £69. Luckily I'm all about the train travel. I know how to work the system so I set about doing all the searches and managed to find the same journey for £45.20.

I thought to myself "Surely my friendly Job Centre, who so wishes to support me back into work will be able to refund my travel costs. Particularly when this trip will be using up over 2/3s my weekly Job Seeker's Allowance."

So, once the Jubilee Celebrations were out of  the way and the Job Centre was open, I rang them and explained the situation. The helpful person on the end of the line told me that because I was coming in the very next day after my interview I could sort it all out then - just to bring along proof of my invite to interview and my train tickets.


And that brings us up to today...

The conversation with my Personal Advisor
Advisor: Did you have anything you wanted to discuss with me?
Me: Oh yes I did. I had an interview in Newcastle yesterday and I was wondering if I could claim the money back that I spent on my train tickets.
Advisor: I'm sorry we can't process travel claims retroactively. You need to call up beforehand.
Me: Well that's interesting. Because I did. I called up and was told that I should bring everything with me when I came to see you.
Advisor: Yeah we can only process them beforehand and then we need 4/5 days to process it.
Me: But I did ring. I rang as soon as it was humanly possible to do so because you weren't open over the Bank Holiday
Advisor: [Apparently ignoring everything I'm saying] Yeah because we would need to make you an appointment to come in and see me who would check that you have an interview. We'd need at least 4/5 days to do that and currently I'm booked up for the next 4 weeks...
Me: So basically you're saying that you'll never to be able to help people claim back travel costs? Because if you 're booked up for 4 weeks how could I make an appointment to come and see you before my interview?
Advisor: I mean I could try and get you an appointment with a different advisor but yeah it's unlikely.
Me: Amazing. Thanks for that.

My thoughts on this nonsense
I am baffled as to why you would need to come in to the Job Centre in the first place - I understand that you would need to verify with a company that someone would be coming for an interview - but that can all be done over the phone - why would I need to come in to give you that information?

But yes, basically, it won't happen. You won't be refunded on your travel costs, despite the fact that your travel is more than likely going to take up a significant amount of your JSA.

So the message I'm getting from the Job Centre, is don't try and find work that you might be suited to do. Don't be so open to getting employment that you are willing to look anywhere in the UK. Instead you should just apply for jobs in the city you're currently living in, where you won't live up to your potential.

Luckily I'm not the kind of person who will still take up an offer of an interview and find a way to pay for the travel - but I wonder how many other people just aren't bothering or actually genuinely aren't able to take up offers for the sake of a train fare?

And I wonder how much of the money that could be spent helping people like me gain employment is being wasted on inefficiencies in the system or propping up people who are possibly not taking every opportunity they get to gain employment.

That is all.

*The interview went ok I think but I'm unlikely to be taking the job if offered because the pay is just too poor to be able to relocate. (A post will be coming soon about my job hunting before anyone leaps down my throat about potentially not taking a job that's being offered to me.)


  1. Dumbfounded. Just dumbfounded. No wait. Why would I expect anything more.

  2. That's awful, How is anyone expected to find a job if they aren't prepared to help?

  3. Gee, sounds like the US doesn't have the market on that sort of thing. It's a government thing but not specific to any continent. Shame isn't it, that governments are like that?

  4. I'm not at all surprised. I work alongside a govt agency and all I see all day is this kind of bureaucratic incompetence. Any chance you can claim it back from the company who interviewed you, I've done that before? Otherwise I wouldn't let it lie, make a complaint in writing (not an email) and follow it up. Good luck!

  5. Afraid to say I'm not surprised. I hated every experience I had with a Jobcentre. No-one ever gave me any actual help and they all contradicted each other when I had a question.

    As Lucy in the Clouds says, you might stand a better chance claiming travel expenses from the companies that interview you. I've done that before and they weren't exactly spangly big-money jobs either.

    Good luck with the job hunt!

  6. Oh for goodness sake! This is ridiculous that they are so incompentent!!!!! AhrghHHHHHHHH on your behalf!!!!!! Good luck, I hope that something comes up soon.

  7. Its all a bit soul destroying isn't it. I am watching my 18 year olds confidence erode in front of me as he has spent the best part of the last year trying to get a job that will give him more than a 3 or 4 hr shift on minimum wage. Jobcentre has just proved to be another regular depressing experience for him. Good luck with the interviews/job hunting - hope all works out for you soon.

  8. Bloody systems...they suck...so many people work so inefficiently and backward...there are faults in everyone of them....makes you mad!!! xxx

  9. You really should be able to claim this back from the company that interviewed you. Ideally it is best to ask the receptionist or someone when you're there but I'd give them a ring today and ask them what their procedure is.

    I've got all my fingers crossed for you!

  10. I used to feel terrible about my husband paying for my travel to interviews. I felt like I needed to take them all, but they could be such a waste. My fingers are crossed for you that something will come up soon!

  11. Jobcentre is just inefficient in general. I was made unemployed, and ended up back in employment before I even got an appointment with an advisor (6 weeks I was unemployed! That's just too long to wait for one measly appointment!).

    In any company I've worked for, they've comped costs people have occurred coming for an interview (in one, teeny-weeny company they even paid for a guys' flights from Italy to the UK!), so that's definitely something for you to think about!

  12. same every time....this time - found job, far away, relocation costs support? u can always ask but the answer will be no. - so Ive got no chance to start work even if I'm willing to and JC's interest is not me finding job? (so Im continuing asking) what would u think and do in my position bearing in mind that u are certainly not able to comprehend mine? - (the answer) Id better stayed unemployed (???!!!) - (my answer) so how can I maintain if u dont pay me a penny?? - (answer) so I dont know why even I am talking to u ....

    I think it should get revised by Tribunal.....but only try to get them to one. Disgusting, humiliating, incompetent ....and its all from our taxes and in the name of the law.


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