‘Hello there, I’ve been made redundant and I’d like to sign on.’
I was trying to sound positive, but this wasn’t easy in the setting. All of the ‘Jobcentre Plus’ desk staff seemed trained to brilliantly avoid the gaze of all jobseekers entering the building. My chipper smiles were not reciprocated – as they were unseen. The security man was muscle-bound and looked very tense. A young man shouted into the freephone by the door, encouraged by his girlfriend.
I’d asked for directions at the local library. They sent me across a large car park:
‘Just on the way to the tip, you can’t miss it.’
The three signers-on ahead of me were all signing on at rearranged times. They had missed their allotted signing on times. I found this intriguing and wondered what had detained them elsewhere. I thought it best not to ask.
‘Have you signed on before?’
‘Well you can’t make your first claim here. You’ll have to do it online – or over the phone. Do you have a landline? It’s free and takes about 40 minutes.’
‘So I can’t just do it here, at the ‘Jobcentre’, face to face, like these other chaps?’
‘No. Here’s a leaflet.’
I left with something short of a spring in my step. The leaflet was a wonky photocopy and the web address was misprinted.