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Picture the scene. You are a small landowner, one of the last independent cattle rearing farms in Britain. You work close to land, and care for your livestock, and the quality of the beef you produce reflects this. You have the respect of the market and the agricultural society. By producing better quality beef, you can charge more, and you make a healthy profit. Times are good.

But then all your livestock contracts BSE and has to be burnt in a pit. Destitute, you are forced to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.

Postal Jobseeker's Allowance

If you live out in the sticks, miles away from your nearest Jobcentre, you can sign your declarations of Jobseeker's Allowance entitlement by post. Each fortnight, an ES10 (Looking for work booklet) and an ES24P (postal signing coupon) is posted out to you for you to fill in, sign and post back to your nearest Jobcentre office.

Being a postal signer is very much like being an ordinary run-of-the-mill signer. Instead of lying face to face to your signing clerk, you write your jobsearch lies down in your ES24P booklet. You are still bound by a Jobseeker's Agreement, but for postal signers these are typically less demanding, as allowances are made for the cost and availability of transport.

Very occasionally, you will be summoned to your Jobcentre office for an interrogation interview with your advisor. This has been likened to an appointment with the Gestapo, as no-one in the Jobcentre likes postal customers. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. When you are asked to come in, the Department of Work and Pensions will begrudgingly pay your travel expenses.

Hate mail and other annoyances

If you are really unlucky, then the signing clerk who has been assigned your case will occasionally ring you, or post you out details of supposedly suitable vacancies. Even worse, you might receive a letter that runs like this:


Your postal declaration

I have received your signed postal coupon today but unfortunately there was not enough evidence included of your job search activity which is a key part of your postal claim.

(You haven't provided enough lies in your Looking for work booklet, or they haven't been very convincing recently. Or, I'm just in a bad mood today because that chick who works on New Claims has been ignoring my advances and I might as well take it out on you.)

On this occasion I have input your evidence but must point out to you that in future failure to provide this document showing an adequate job search may affect your claim and could result in us asking you to attend the office to sign in future.

(I have no real power to punish you, and this letter is just an idle threat. Please ignore me.)

I shall continue to monitor your job search activity and the very least I would expect to see is in line with your Jobseeker's Agreement, i.e. contact Jobcentre Plus twice a week, contact two employers a week and check the local paper once a week.

If you have any difficulty in filling in your booklet please let us know so that we can see what steps can be taken to assist you.

(If you have trouble reading or writing, or with defrauding the government, we can help!)

Yours sincerely,

For Business Manager

If you get one of these letters -- don't panic. It's largely idle threats. All you have to do is make sure that you say you have stuck to your Jobseeker's Agreement on your next declaration, and make sure it arrives on time. If you get two of these letters in a row, however, it might be time to rethink your job search strategy, and get in touch with your Jobcentre.

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