The road to benefits is full of potholes

Graduation means time to face reality - financial demands that may come as a surprise to those unprepared for life outside university. Welcome to the joys of council tax, income tax and national insurance, and kiss goodbye to free prescriptions and dental treatment. In addition, as soon as you start to earn anything worthwhile, student loans will need to be paid back.

There is often an uncomfortable pause between graduating and the first steps up the career ladder, when a job is impossible to find but the bills begin to mount up. That is when you say hello to those nice people at the Job Centre - not only should they help you find a job but they can also give you benefits.

Unemployed graduates can qualify for income support, and if you are claiming the maximum, you qualify automatically for council tax benefit and housing benefit as well.

Income support is claimed from your local Job Centre in a process that initially appears to be very simple: attend an interview, sign lots of forms, and promise to apply for at least three jobs every week. But behind this veneer of simplicity, there are inconsistencies in the benefit system that can confound the most determined job-seeker.

Ten days ago, I decided to get on my bike and come to London to look for work. My Job Centre in Leeds was encouraging. "Ask your local Job Centre in London for a UB90 and you'll be paid benefits as usual," I was told breezily.

My friends were more sceptical: Eleanor, 23, who graduated from Manchester University last year, had been given the same advice. When she arrived in London, however, her new Job Centre told her that she had to cancel her original claim and make a fresh one. When she protested that she would be going home in two weeks, she was told that on returning to Manchester she would have to cancel the claim made in London and re-apply.

If a claim is stopped, housing benefit and council tax benefit are automatically cancelled. When a fresh claim is made, there is a 10-day pause before the claimant receives benefits.

Making two new claims in two weeks would have left Eleanor unable to pay her rent or council tax and without any money for 20 days.

With no savings or overdraft facility, Eleanor had to return to Leeds in time to sign on that day - a journey that wasted pounds l3.50 of her pounds 37.90 weekly claim. Other friends have lost out in the same way.

I was expecting similar treatment from the Job Centre in Kentish Town, London, and I got it. I was told by a member of staff to make a new claim, which I would have to cancel on my return to Leeds to make another in its place. When I explained what I had been told in Leeds he said this was not the case. We battled it out until he lost patience and told me that if I did not believe him, I should go and ask another member of staff.

I chose another official and asked again for a UB90. He nodded and fetched the form and filled it out for me. I signed it and was out of the building in five minutes flat. Not a word was said about cancelling my claim.

You lose some, you win some, I suppose.

And while the benefits system has never been easy to navigate, don't expect much from the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance in October to replace both unemployment benefit and income support. There are fears that the jobseeker's allowance will lead to more claimants losing out through cancelled claims.

o Amelia Hill has just graduated from Leeds University and is going to City University in London to study journalism this autumn.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

£200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone