As part of my agreement with the Job Centre Plus I had created an account on their online job search, Universal Jobmatch, a few days before my first meeting last week. The Universal Jobmatch website itself looks and feels as though it was made by a fourteen year old being forced to complete it for a school project and doesn’t care about the grade. As I have had previous experience with this years ago and it seemed at this point to have remained entirely unchanged so I assumed I’d have no other issues using it now.
As I am required to log my job searches on Universal Jobmatch I tried to log back in during the week and found an error that my Government Gateway number was incorrect, I assumed that I had written it down wrong and thought that I could quickly and easily solve my issues by clicking on ‘Forgotten your User ID?’. I was wrong. Very wrong. My attempt resulted in an error message reading “We are unable to find this user.” which is somewhat concerning considering I had already received E-mails from the account. I thought in a surprisingly lenient mood well I’ll just create a new account and chalk the wasted time up to technical difficulties. My renewed attempts resulted in the message “Email address already in use” so I now may or may not have an account which may or may not use my E-mail address but I can’t access it regardless. After many other futile attempts I made a last ditch effort where I decided to try a password reset, this sent me an E-mail to the address I was using however it didn’t help me log onto Universal Jobmatch as it still refused to accept that my E-mail was registered to an account. This is I assure you a very abridged version of what hoops I suffered trying to leap through that evening.
With an already somewhat irritated mood I returned for my weekly meeting with my ‘Work Coach’ and sat down waiting 5 minutes early. From where I was seated I could read the Department for Work & Pensions on a poster, this proved for an interesting distraction for 10 minutes. In my reading I learnt they would supposedly “Be helpful, polite, and treat you fairly and with respect” and “Do what we say we will do”. This from my experiences is objectively false, they have no interest in anything but getting me off Universal Credit regardless of whether it helps or not.
Eventually I was called over by a different ‘Work Coach’ than I was told I would have (which in fairness isn’t a particularly big issue). Apparently when asked how I was the correct response isn’t “wishing I wasn’t here” but I still maintain that it is true. I was initially asked if I had a recent bank statement on me, all the documentation I had given the previous week still hadn’t been sufficient. I was now questioned as to why I had not made an account for Universal Jobmatch so I preceded to try and explain the issues I’d faced but got cut off short. I was subject to a tone implying that I was at fault rather the lousy system and told that I had previously had an account therefore I would have to create another E-mail just to make a new Universal Jobmatch account. She seemed annoyed about having to repeat this, mentioning 2 or 3 times she’d said the same things in her previous interview, which merely serves to question why the problem wasn’t being addressed properly.
Next I was queried about whether I had signed up to a local job agency, I vaguely remember being told about it last week and they could help me but don’t remember being required to sign up. It turns out that signing up was in fact part of my ‘Claimant Commitment’ and so I was treated with threats that if I didn’t go see them today I would be penalised my entire benefits for 91 days. This essentially concluded my visit but I couldn’t help glibly asking if there was any jobs going in the Job Centre Plus. I was told I’d just missed out on an opportunity but if I did want to look into that area of work the best place to look would be www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk (I’m sure the irony of not using their own job search to find jobs there is missed entirely by my ‘Work Coach’).
Having left the Job Centre Plus I visited the job agency I was forced to and spoke to the lady at reception, she seemed uninterested in my cause and said I wouldn’t be able to sign up with them today as it was too busy for them but would contact her colleague to arrange an interview. Shortly later a cheerful lady in her mid-20s (I guess) came out to talk to me (I assume she was cheerful it may just be that by now I had seen so many miserable people that anything seemed overly happy). I was told that my CV was unlikely to fit any of the work they had but if I was desperate I could book an appointment for Monday morning, knowing they have factory work on immediate start I can only assume that I’ve finally found people that are aware it’d negatively affect me mentally and physically, this level of empathy was one I had not witnessed in weeks now.
In summary the Job Centre Plus so far has wasted a considerable amount of my time (that I could be looking for a job), degraded me, put me at a £10 loss due to bus fares, threatened me and given all responsibility of actually helping me to a private company. They have also managed to distract me from pursuing self-employment that I had hoped they would aid me with. All in all it’s not exactly a monumental success so far.