The Final Week [insert massive cheer here]

OK quick update since I didn’t write about week 5 and I think I missed something that happened in week 4.

Well here’s the gossip on week 4. On arriving at the course provider place we were told that we might have to be sent home. Eh NO! The reason for this was that the previous night all the computers in the place had been replaced and nobody from their IT department had left the passwords so that we could sign in. Eventually after the ‘tutor’ had made several phone calls we had passwords. YAY! you might think, but no some of them didn’t work. So eventually about an hour after we had all arrived we were all logged into lovely new computers with new Operating Software – Windows 7 we were told. The ‘tutor’ didn’t really know how to use the new OS so it was a case of helping each other out if we got stuck. I wasn’t sure about the new software being Windows 7 though and it wasn’t until one of the girls went to log out and couldn’t find the start button that we realised it wasn’t Windows 7 but Windows 8.

So onto week 5 and bear in mind that the new computers and software have been up and running for a week now, so all should be running smoothly. Think again! This time most of us did manage to log into the computers first time, so that was a bonus. Well after some searching for jobs I found one that sounded good, only thing was it wasn’t an online application so I was going to have to fill in a good old fashioned application form. So I attempted to print the form off but was having no luck. Tried again by sending it to another printer. Nope, still no luck. Turns out that none of the computers were actually connected to the network printer. So bang went the idea of printing out the form there and I had to do it at home. Oh and on week 5 there was another group of people started, so while my group were using the computers, the ‘tutor’ was busy explaining how things worked to the other group.

And onto week 6. Final week, enter the room thinking we are going to be doing some job stuff and probably filling in our exit forms. Well nope, didn’t happen. Enter room to find all of the new people from last week there to. Well it turned out all we were there for was to fill out our exit forms to say what we had done and what we would do next to help us gain employment. He did go over a little bit about CVs so maybe I can say I did learn something. Not much mind you, but he did try to slip in a little bit of learning, even if it was in the last 10 minutes. Oh and guess what? There were about 12 people in the new group all trying to use the computers which have now been up and running for 3 weeks. Yes you’ve guessed it, they still were not working properly. Out of about 14 computers only 7 of them were working. The login details were not working on most of them, not sure if they were now connected to the printer though. This is a company who the Government have probably paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide a service to aid jobseekers find employment. Yes they have managed to purchase wonderful new computers but it would have been great if they had worked properly or even if the person supposed to be helping us knew how to work the new system. I am hoping that I won’t be placed on anymore ‘courses’ with this company but knowing my luck I probably will get placed on their CV course.

Ok so 6 weeks on this course and did I get anything from it? Well to answer that, NO I did not.

I did meet up with some people I hadn’t seen for a long time, so that was good, but probably not the point of the course.

I learned that you can be sanctioned for really stupid reasons and met people who had been, but once again not the point of the course.

I did learn that new computers and an IT Department don’t mean that computers will work.

I also learned that when you have a prearranged telephone call with the Job Centre that it is classed as an appointment and that if you miss the call then you will be sanctioned.

So in all did I enjoy my time there? Well other than the fact that I met some lovely people, my answer to that is not really. I would have much preferred to have spent my time learning something that will help me find employment. I already have access to a computer and the internet, I already job search at home, so why place me on a course that is just giving me the same resources that I already have. There are still many people out there who have no access at home to the internet or a computer, my space on this course would have been much better use to them.

Also another snippet of information that I picked up was this – If you cannot afford to stay in your home and give it up to go live in a friend’s spare bedroom. If your friend works, your benefit will be stopped as they say your friend can ‘keep’ you. The person in question is male and his friend is female (with a boyfriend), so I presumed it was because DWP thought they were a couple but he said he asked this and was told that if the friend was male they would still presume they were living as a couple. So now because this guy is trying to sort himself out financially he is now living without any benefits. You can’t win when it comes to the benefit system.

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Job searching rant [insert random profanities here]

OK so week 3 and 4 at my wonderful course have been exactly the same as before, 2 and a half hours of searching the internet for jobs. I told the guy taking the course that it wasn’t what I was expecting before I came. He asked me what I expected it to be like, so I told him I expected us to come along and actually learn something, be shown things, have our CVs reviewed, interview skills training, stuff like that. I didn’t expect to have to sit job searching the whole time, only getting help if I asked for it. Don’t think he was to impressed though when I told him the course was just The Work Programme but with a different provider. The other people on the course are lovely though and we bounced some jobs around the place if we found one that we though might be good for somebody else. So I guess a bit of team effort was made on our part. Although today me and one of the other ladies got told of whilst talking to each other cause we kinda used a few curse words.

Well onto the good news from the last 2 weeks. Last Friday I arrived home to find a brown envelope had arrived in the mail. Made myself a coffee and sat down to open it. Well what did I find? Only a letter saying my benefit had been sanctioned for 4 weeks for missing an appointment. The appointment I missed was actually a prearranged telephone call to discuss how the first day of the course had gone with my advisor that.The call had been arranged for 11.40am and unfortunately I was alone in the house and in the toilet when the telephone rang at about that time. I checked the phone and the call was from an unknown number and no message had been left – generally unknown numbers who don’t leave a message are call centres so I never thought anything of it. I stupidly thought if it was them then they would call back. Yes I know I should have contacted them to say I hadn’t received a call from them, but stupidly I didn’t.

Had to contact the local council about my housing benefit as it has now stopped, meaning I will accrue rent arrears. Also had to visit the local Jobcentre to fill in a Hardship form, which I may or may not get. From what I’ve read this is about £40 per week which would just about cover the cost of gas and electric for the house but since I have to pay £10 per week for my extra bedrooms then I’m assuming we will have to go without gas for the time being. The joys of boiling the kettle for hot water! Thank god we have a shower and not a bath.

Went to sign on at the Jobcentre on Thursday and was kept waiting 15 minutes after my time. Didn’t get to see my usual advisor as she was running behind so got taken by somebody else. Well I had a little rant about if I had been late I would have been sent away but as usual it fell upon deaf ears. Was asked how my interview had gone, so told her fine and I would hear by the end of the week hopefully. Then I asked her if she could tell me when I would next receive a payment, so into the computer she went and she then preceded to tell me that I had been suspended for another 12 weeks because I had missed another phone call the week before. God I hate getting phone calls to see how I am doing. I would much rather have an appointment and see somebody face to face than talk to them over a phone. So now my suspension ends on 15 May which in total gives me 16 weeks for missing 2 telephone calls. Believe it or not the calls are to see how I am getting on at the course. I will quite happily accept the first 4 week suspension as it was my own fault for not contacting them when I hadn’t received a call from them, but then they should have left a message. I know 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but it’s so frustrating. The second one I will appeal against as I explained at the Jobcentre why I had missed it, which seems to have been a waste of time, well either that or she maybe thought I was bull shitting her with my reason.

So now I have to wait for the second suspension letter to arrive so I can try and sort things out. I did get the news that I will be getting hardship allowance and it will be £86 every 2 weeks. First payment will be in my bank on 18th March.

I am very grateful though that I have a wonderful family who are more than willing to help me out if needed. I know there are probably many people who have ended up in my situation who have nobody to turn to, so for my family and friends I am very grateful.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

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Let’s see who reads this!

Ok I’m not a massive blogger but I tend to write here to remind myself of things or to have a little moan about stuff. I know people do read it because they tend to comment on the link I’ve posted to it on Facebook rather than actually on here. But let’s see who actually does read it.

Well unfortunately I’ve been unemployed for a while and the longer I’m out of work the longer it is taking to get back into it. Employers don’t seem to like gaps in your employment history and the fact that I am getting older and my qualifications are becoming outdated isn’t helping. It’s not often I get to the interview stage of a job application and it does become quite disheartening to apply for job after job and hear nothing back. Well today for the first time in ages I attended a job interview with the local Council. Yes! me at a job interview. I was a wee bit nervous about it (not as nervous as I am going to the dentist but that’s another story) but off I went.  Had everything prepared everything the night before – qualification certificate found, birth certificate found, went to print off a form I was to fill in and take with me – FAIL. My stupid printer refused to work, well it did work but it wasn’t printing properly so this morning it was off to a local shop called Mailbox to print it off. Oh and I even died my very greying hair.

Interview was at noon so I arrived early at 11.45am knowing that I would have to sit and wait. Turned out the interview room wouldn’t be available until my interview time because although they had originally booked it all morning, several people phoned to cancel their interviews. Instead of interviewing me first I was taken into the main office and sat down in front of a computer for a short ‘test’. I think I managed it ok though, although it was a document with numbered sections and for the life of me I couldn’t remember how to do it – 2, 2.1, 2.2. 3. 3.1, 3.2  (and such like). The actual interview seemed to go quite well and I’m hoping I came across well. They said they should have made their decision by the end of the week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I’m seriously in need of some good news due to the fact that DWP have decided to sanction (suspend) my job seeker allowance for 4 weeks because I missed a phone call. I may bitch about this in another blog though.

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Back to work training courses

Ok so once again I’ve been placed on a course that will help me get back into the work force. The course sounds very similar to one I completed 7 months ago. Well I’m not so sure it’s a course, they call it Jobcentre Plus support Contract module. It’s delivered by a private company.

The information I received about the course was:

  • Free access to resources including internet and stationery
  • Support with creating and email account to help with online job searching
  • Coaching and advice on job search
  • access to employer recruitment days specific to the sector you are interested in
  • Training on searching and applying for vacancies online and creating electronic CVs
  • Completion of application forms (written and electronic)
  • Letter writing

Sounds interesting doesn’t it? Well fingers crossed it is. I have to attend for 2 and a half hours every Friday for the next 6 weeks.

Well I wrote the part above before I started the course so now have completed 2 weeks. Let me tell you a little about it so far. First week I went, there were about 12 of us there, a mixture of ages and split about 50/50 men and women. Firstly the guy taking the course explained a little about what we would be doing, which unfortunately was starting to sound very little like the stuff I listed above. Secondly we were asked if we all at least had basic computer skills. Turned out that about 4 people knew nothing about computers and had been told they would be shown how to use one as part of this course. Well that was wrong and a bit deja-vu on my part, same thing happened on the course I was on last year. Also it turned out that before being placed on this course we should have had a discussion with our Jobcentre advisor to figure out what we needed to help gain employment. This course should have been mentioned to us as a good place to start but guess how many people had discussed it with their advisor. Yes, nobody knew anything about it until they received a letter to say they had to attend.

So on to the exciting part. What do I actually have to do on this course? Will they look over my CV make sure it’s ok? Will they show me how to do anything? Well to answer that in one word – NO! What it actually means is that I go down there for 2 and a half hours each Friday to use their computer to job search which is what I did the second week I went there. Will they help me? YES, but only if I ask for help. To me it’s starting to look like a 6 week version of The Work Programme.

The previous training course I attended last year called Stairway to Work was for 2 weeks. They reviewed our CV, helped us update it, reword it if needed and made sure that everybody left the course with a good CV. Over the 2 weeks I think most of us left feeling as if we had actually got something from the course, even if it was just a decent CV.

Oh one thing I did learn. We were having a discussion about attendance on the course. This came about because the second week of the course the schools here were on holiday and 2 of the women had young children and weren’t sure if they would be able to come in. We discussed whether our benefit would be sanctioned (suspended) if we didn’t attend. Out of this discussion came an interesting fact. The guy taking the course mention that one of the strangest reasons he had heard for benefit being suspended was not having a mobile phone. We were all a bit shocked until one of the guys mentioned that it had happened to him. He was told the reasoning was that potential employers would not be able to get a hold of him (although I’m pretty sure the guy had an address and that we do still have a semi-decent postal system here) so I’m not sure how that one works.

So from this I will see what happens with this course (I shall call it that) for the next 4 weeks. Totally nothing to do with it but I do have an interview for a job next Tuesday for a position with the local council. So something to look forward to there. Now all I need to do is find the cash for a haircut.

 

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The Minefield that is job seeking

I am unemployed and currently pissed off with the jobs that are available on the Directgov website. The jobs I can apply for I apply for. But there is that minefield when it comes to figuring out what a job title really is. You now also have to consider whether a position really exists or not according to the latest stories in the media. While jobsearching I constantly see the same positions listed week after week, by the same companies. Let’s see, here’s a little list of job titles that have been posted in the last 2 weeks.

Retail Sales Developer

Retail Homes Sales Consultant

Home Shopping Retail Development

Field Retail Operative

Retail Sales Personnel/Business Development

Retail Sales Operative

Retail Sales & Marketing Distribution Operatives

Retail Executives Required

Home Shopping Business Development

Trainee Sales/Retail

Work From Home – Retail & Team Build

What do they all have in common? Well other than all being retail jobs as you’ve probably already guessed they are all actually the same. They are all for home shopping catalogues, either Betterware or Kleeneeze. There are loads of these posted on job websites all over the internet and if like me you’ve stupidly ‘applied’ for the position then be prepared, you will be bombarded with emails from them, with links so that you can access their ‘training’ videos. I applaud anybody who has actually managed to make a career out of these companies (we have somebody locally who has done it for years) but it has recently made me wonder if the people offering these positions get commission for anybody they get to actually sign up. The best job title I read for these positions was Outdoor Field Operative, yes I kid you not. In the past 14 days there have been 30 of these positions posted by the same company within Central Scotland.

Then there are the jobs that take you to very basic website – many different job titles take you to websites like this. Not saying that the website I’ve linked to is not real and I know how wonderful computer programs are but it looks a bit dodgy to apply for possible 10 totally different jobs on the same template(In my opinion). It can often take hours to search for jobs because unfortunately you cannot exclude these home shopping jobs from your search. So it’s a case of trawling through virtually every job title 1 by 1 and applying for the ones that you can.

Oh and one I forgot about that I stupidly applied for – Payment Processing Agent . Sounds interesting doesn’t it? Well it turns out it’s actually a money laundering scheme and YES this job was advertised on the Job Centre website in December last year. I am still getting emails from them nearly 3 months later.

That would be my random rant for today.

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The Mask We Wear

The Mask We WearSecond post of the year and I’m hoping I don’t depress and chase people away. The poem above was written by me on a really dark day in our family last year. On 1 September 2013 I awoke to the news of the death of my Aunty.

She was the the Aunty who was always happy, always smiling, always there with a witty comment, always there for her kids and grand-kids. She smiled and laughed a lot and was friend and confidante to many. She was one of a kind. She was a singer of karaoke and put her heart and soul into every song she sang. She had her own sense of style and loved nothing more than trawling the charity shops looking for bargains.

But what lay behind the smile? We will never know because now she’s gone and we miss her like hell.

How many of us actually want to REALLY know how someone is when we ask that question ‘How are you?’. This year on 6 February it will be ‘Time to Talk‘ day. We don’t need a day to talk, let’s start now!

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Happy New Year

 

Well as a not to regular blogger, I would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year and all the best for 2014.

My new year was pretty quiet. It consisted of sitting in my living room with a lukewarm cup of coffee watching the fireworks over Stirling Castle. My son was in his bedroom, my husband fast asleep and the dog curled up at my feet. It was bliss. I lazily moved my computer chair into the middle of the living room floor and admired the view from my window. Fireworks exploding over the castle while listening to Michelle McManus and crew belting out Auld Lang Syne on the tv. Not everybody’s ideal New years eve, but I enjoyed it. Not often I get peace and quiet.

I’m not going to make any resolutions for this new year. Why you may ask? Well like most of us I start of with the best of intentions and they slowly fall by the wayside. So for me, I’m gonna make the most of what I have at this moment in time and enjoy life as it comes along. I am going to try and do some stuff this year but I’m not going to depress myself by promising that I’ll do things then fail.

Some things I hope to do this year –

1 Write on here more often. Even if I all I post is a picture, a memory, a random thought.

2 Continue with my volunteering. I was placed on a mandatory work placement (forced volunteering) as part of the government program for job seekers. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to continue doing a few days per week.

3 Get my teeth fixed – my major drawback from gaining employment is the fact that I have the most awful teeth and a major fear of dentists. I’m fine at interviews and have the skills to work but the minute I open my mouth – BAM! all hope is gone. (this is one I know I really, really have to do)

4 Get a smaller house. Currently stuck in a 4 bedroom flat. This means I have 2 extra bedrooms so have to pay the ‘bedroom tax’. God knows what I’m going to do with all the junk I’ve accumulated over the 14 years I’ve lived here.

5 And of course then the usual good old ones. Eating healthier, get more exercise (the stairs in the volunteer place may help this) and once again stop smoking.

So this is me and this is the 1 January 2014. The list above is my little tasks for the year. No promises that I will complete them but I will try damn hard. I’ll sign of on this in the words of James Dean.

Dream as if you’ll live forever
Live as if you’ll die today!

 

 

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