Fresh from our embarrassing and uninvited visit to the Job Centre, (it’s fine we just peaked too early). I now had a new number to call to process my ESA claim and make an appointment to progress it … guess where, at the Job Centre.
Nevertheless, I made the call. The government call centre’s are automated; you mainly just press numbers but they do ask you to speak your postcode. Postcodes, remember, are important because they determine if you can claim Universal Credit. Universal Credit eligibility enables you to claim ESA etc, etc. Anyway I have no idea why they make you speak the postcode? Wouldn’t it be interesting to discover how many calls fail due to frustration at this stage? I certainly gave up, albeit after six attempts, and in at least one of them I was shouting at the phone.
It is not as if we have an obscure post code; it concludes with an F, so I always use the phonetic alphabet for clarity, especially on the phone. However, the auto-Matilda didn’t permit that helpful approach (this reference to the Handmaid’s tale not entirely misplaced). Neither does she have any tolerance for the well spoken Scottish dialect. So I hung up. Fuming.
I re-dialled when I regained my composure two days later. In my defence I was not well and was easily stressed. I had a couple of gobstoppers stored in my cheeks to aid diction. And, with all the determination of a lemming driving blindly towards the cliff’s edge, I managed to navigate the system just before I was lost in the abyss. A cautionary note, during this process Matilda will ask questions about your Universal Credit claim. Be warned this is a trick, don’t fall for it, keep listening and wait for the option that takes you into ESA. It is not easy but DO NOT LOSE FAITH at this stage. Just persist, persist, persist.
Once I passed through the crystal maze I waited a further 90 minutes (wondering at this stage what the key performance indicators might be for this call centre?) to be spoken to by a human person. I was again perilously close to the 6pm deadline which I’ve since realised heightens the chance for errors. If you are able to make the call well before 4pm; catch them fresh.
What should happen ( although this was not made known until much later in the process) is that the call taker should have verbally taken me through the form and completed it at their end (some 50 questions= Some 60 minutes). Then an appointment is made for me at the local job centre to do the same all over again but this time in person. Crazy. However, as you will recall I’d already been sent the form and completed it, totally unaware this is not normal procedure. So the call taker, half an hour to finishing time, was audibly relieved when I declared this and moved straight to making the appointment for the job centre. But I cannot walk, or sit, or travel to a job centre I panicked. “No problem,” says he “we will arrange a home visit.”
Well, I was taken aback by this offer and quite chuffed I’d achieved it. However, I waited, and waited, and waited but the home visit didn’t materialise. I began to worry, then I started to think they were spying on me monitoring my movements from a white van, to find ways to bust me as a fraud for asking to be seen at home. Never mind that I was genuine, applying for this benefit was beginning to make me feel as if I was some kind of cheat. I was feeling a lot like Daniel Blake…..