With all recent bad press about benefit claimant people could be forgiven for assuming that everyone who claims benefits is a scrounger hooked on drugs, drink or surgical implants but those people are just the ones who get written and talked about the most. So what happens when you are claiming benefits and you lack recent or any experience at all and you decided to take advantage of one of the part time college courses on offer? Which according to the job centre rules you are permitted to do while still claiming benefits and actively seeking Work

This is what happened to one claimant and her case is not isolated.

As she fears reprisals from the job centre she wishes to remain anonymous so for the purpose of this article I shall refer to her as "Pam"

Pam's last paid job was quite some time ago and her last voluntary position ended last year. When advertising job employers often look not just for experience of the job in question but also for recent experience and/or qualifications. With so many applicants the employers are in the position to demand more but offer less. In order for Pam to stand a better chance of gaining employment she opted to undertake a college course. Last year everything was fine with her JSA combined with her part time studies and the job centre staff seemed satisfied with her job search.

This year they have decided to order her in a rather patronising letter to withdraw from the course. They insist that this is to help her find work but fail to explain how withdrawing from her course before achieving her desired qualification will improve her job prospects, most likely because they can't explain this as it won't improve.

If anything, it will probably lower her chances of gaining employment and well as destroy her confidence. Of course there are jobs such as agencies and seasonal work which last for a matter of weeks and her chances of getting one of these jobs would be slightly higher than gaining long term employment but then Pam would be back on benefits again until the next time she is "lucky" enough to find such work again.

In addition to this course, Pam has applied for countless jobs and the job centre had no qualms with her job search but just ignoring this for a second the fact is that the job centre are breaking their own rules which allow JSA claimant to study part time. As Pam didn't want the time she has already spent on her course to have been wasted she went to her college who provided a letter outlining the job centre rules which they seem to be more aware of than the job centre staff themselves and pointing out that under these rules Pam is still entitled to benefits while studying 9 hours a week with them on a SFA funded course.

Pam has since handed over a copy of this letter to the job centre only to be reminded by the member of staff that she must remember to bring in the course withdrawal letter.

Although they did photocopy the letter so now all she can do is wait to hear from them if they decide to stop her benefits. She says she still wants to complete her course but if pushed into it she will have to give up the course as she has no other money coming in and cannot afford to buy food, pay bills or rent without her benefits.