Wednesday, 10 August 2016

'The Evidence': Unemployed? Prove it!

If you’re unemployed, can you prove it? Actually, can you even prove you exist? And, if you do exist, can you prove you’re you? Apparently, I can’t. Not according to Universal Credit’s Mail Handling Site B in Wolverhampton. This must be a common problem because Site B felt the need to send me one of the standardised letters. You know, the kind of letter typed up by a robot.
“You must provide evidence to support your claim to Universal Credit,” the letter goes. “We asked you to provide some evidence to support your Universal Credit claim, please contact us on the number above. It is important that you provide this evidence as your payments may be delayed or your Universal Credit claim closed.”
So I could have to restart my entire application because I have no idea what they want from me. The letter does not specify anything. I received this letter after a week out of town. It was sent out on the day after the last timeI went into the job centre.
As requested, I provided copies of my passport, tenancy agreement, bank account, birth certificate, change of name deeds and my national insurance number. What could the evidence be? I suppose I’d best call them, and sit through Vivaldi’s Spring once more, to play it safe.
Of course, there is no name on the letter, just the title ‘Office Manager’ to sign off with. Although the letters are churned out en masse, I do like to imagine Site B as a soulless factory floor, complete with dead-eyed staff and a conveyor belt, feeding countless letters to waiting vans.
Clear sheets of paper are passed through row after row of printing machines, the same words pressed onto them in unison, to be sorted into envelopes and neatly stacked. Every letter requires a different address, so the paper is filtered by a set of robots armed with ink and the right details, before heading facing human eyes.
I like to think the main task for the human staff is to check for typos and provide the necessary saliva to seal each envelope. I feel for them. At least the machines can’t get sad. It’s an assembly-line of bad news just for the people trying to claim benefits, but especially for the people who forgot to include a bank statement. It is meant to be efficient, but it’s just not.
How many addresses do they get wrong? What happens if one of the robots breaks down? Is there a vast sorting machine for hate mail sent back? Perhaps there is a special conveyor belt to carry all the angry tirades directly into the mouth of a blazing furnace.
This would surely keep Site B going all night long. Imagine it: A public building powered entirely by despair. It would befit the benefits system devised by sadistic politicians and their half-witted and cretinous bureaucrats. Maybe this is the answer to climate change.
Woe to the people who work in such places. What truly miserable lives they must lead. The machines can’t cry for them, but they should.
This article was originally written for Notes from the Underclass.

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