Jobcentreplus, I’d like that half hour of my life back please

March 24, 2011 § 6 Comments

Ah, the great British ‘system.’ My HR department gave me a handout from Jobcentreplus about Maternity Allowance as I haven’t been working for them long enough to claim Statutory Maternity Pay. The handout gave me details of the MA1 form I must use to claim and the number to call to request a copy. It’s been at the top of my personal admin pile for a while. So yesterday I finally get around to calling the number.

After navigating through the holding pattern I finally speak to a human (well she seemed human initially) who informs me in a monotone that “the call will take half an hour madam. Do you have half an hour to spare at this time?” I look longingly at my book and reading glasses. “Yes,” I say. “Provided the baby doesn’t wake up from his nap.” “I need you to be able to commit to a half hour call madam” says monotone woman. Me: “but I’m only after a form.” Monotone woman (let’s call her MW): “well we need to first assess your circumstances in order to assess your eligibility for such a form.”

So I agree, and I am then taken through a list of questions relating to my personal circumstances, including partner details, children details, due date of current pregnancy, hours I work per week, inside leg measurements. All questions are read out slowly and precisely, without a note of personality. She even fails to snigger when I mistakenly class my relationship as a ‘civil partnership’ responding in true monotone style that “this classification is for same sex couples, madam.” I feel MW might have missed her true calling in life as a guard in Abu Ghraib, introducing a new interrogation technique of submission-by-monotone.

As soon as MW establishes that I have a partner, I am read out, in full, every single question again relating to my partner. I try saying “all this applies to my partner too” but no dice. A sample slice of our conversation goes thus…

MW: “are you suffering from an industrial injury?”
me: “no”
MW: “are you currently underaking any industrial action? That means strike action.”
me: “no”
MW: “is your partner suffering from an industrial injury?”
me: “no”
MW “is your partner undertaking any inustrial action? That means strike action.”
me: Sigh. “No”
And so on.

We complete the process.  MW considers the evidence in front of her.
MW: “I’m sorry but you’re not eligible for Maternity Allowance at this time.”
me: “Why not?”
MW: “you need to make the claim within 14 weeks of your due date.”
Me: “but I only want a FORM. I don’t actually want to process the claim yet.”
MW: “I’m sorry madam but you’ll have to call back within 14 weeks of your due date.”
Me (plaintively): “can’t you just send me the form? It doesn’t mention this on the handout I have in front of me. It just says call this number to be sent your form.”
MW: “our website clearly states that this claim will only be valid within a 14 week period of your estimated due date.”
me: “I don’t suppose by any chance my details will be stored so I don’t have to answer the questions again when I call back?”
MW: “I’m sorry madam but the eligibility questionnaire will have to be completed again in full.”

After I’ve hung up I quickly try and calculate when I need to call back. Yesterday I was 25 weeks pregnant. Today I am 26 weeks pregnant. You guessed it. I was ONE DAY too early. Gotta love British bureacracy. 

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