UK Dopers: what is ''The Dole" and what does one do on it?

I often hear about people in the UK being “on the dole”. What exactly is it? I’m guessing it’s something kinda like being on unemployment in the US. Am I close? How long can one stay on the dole?

Yes - it is what used to be known as “Unemployment Benefit”, but, as the government loves changing names of things, for the last several years, its name has been “Jobseeker’s Allowance”. [sic] I’d have thought such a title and such placing of the apostrophe would imply the existence of only one “Jobseeker”, but what would I know?

As for how long, well, the rules are just a bit Byzantine, so I think I’ll see if I can find a good website, rather than get it all wrong.

BAH - my connection is dreadful. Try following this link, although I can advise that you might be none the wiser afterwards (official government sites being the way they are). :slight_smile:

It will not work for me at present, but it might for you.

BTW - I see you come from Savannah - is it anything like as intriguing as in John Berendt’s book, “Midnight in the Garden etc”?

Just as a point of info. The word existed many centuries before it’s early 1900’s usages as a term to refer to an unemployed person’s weekly out-of-work supplement.

Prior to that it simply referred to things(usually food or money) given out in charity, usually by organizations. It goes back to the 1300’s.

I have a question about this, too. I understand that one can get on the dole after being “made redundant” (you know, being “laid off” doesn’t make any more sense as a term for losing a job when I think about it), but how long can one stay on the dole? From reading the Adrian Mole books I got the impression that it’s possible to be on the dole for years- unlike in the US where we can only collect unemployment for a matter of 20-odd weeks- and I’m not sure that I’m getting an accurate picture of reality from the books. Although I came away with the same impression of Ireland after reading Angela’s Ashes…

Strictly speaking, you can only collect dole for one year, after that you apply and claim social security benefit.

There are slightly differant rules for each, but for the vast majority of claimants you will have no difficulty switching from one to the other.

There are lots of rules about claiming benefits, if you were made redundant and were paid off, you would have to wait until you had one through your money, but the time you would be made to wait seems variable dependant upon the mood of the benefits staff.If you walked out of your job you cannot claim benefit for up to six months, if you were sacked you might not be able to claim for six months if the opinion of the benefits staff is that you were to blame - but this judgement is very arbitary and seems to depend on which way the wind is blowing that day.

The system of benefits claims is weighted against those who rarely use them, that is those who generally keep in employment.
Such folk do not know the labyrinthine rules, nor the right things to say.
Those who make a career out of unemployment tend to know all the get outs, exceptions and the half truths to keep on claiming.

Every so often there will be a hit team from one of the main regions that will try to chase people off benefits, they use “interviews”(which is a euphamism for intimidation) but they usually end up hitting those who do not know the system well, the regulars have become used to these clear outs and have developed various strategies to deal with them.

The system does not effectively address the long term career claimant who will not work, instead every new measure seems to hurt the honest claimant.

Being on the dole is seen in many circles as being a stigma, though with the current employment patterns this is much less than it used to be.
Long term claimants tend to live on council estates so they are doubly stigmatised.

Being on state handouts for most working people in the UK is pretty crap, it feels demeaning and the way benefits staff treat you makes you feel even worse about yourself.

What is a council estate?

A council estate is a scheme of what would probably be referred to in the US as public housing. It’s basically accommodation provided by the state at low rent to those who can’t afford to house themselves.

It’s the welfare, and yo’ momma’s on it, which is why you can’t afford an ice cream.

Also known as the “rock’n’roll” in rhyming slang. There is slightly less of a social stigma about it over this side of the pond: the dole has been a rite of passage for most people I know at some point in their lives, in both the UK and in Ireland.

To supplement mwap’s answer, the term I’ve heard in the US for Council Estate is “projects”, though again there’s less of a stigma about it.

I’d just add to casdave’s pretty complete summary that access to unemployment benefit is dependent on your previous record of National Insurance payments (think compulsory unemployment and medical insurance, run by the state) - if you don’t qualify, you go straight on to supplementary benefit (or whatever it’s called these days), the “safety net” designed to stop paupers from starving to death in the streets. Which is about all it does.

It is possible to spend years living like this. I’ve done it. I don’t recommend it; as soon as I got a chance at a job, I took it. People who choose to live on benefits are generally fiddling the system one way or another - working on the black economy and fraudulently claiming benefits as an additional source of income. Contrary to much Thatcher-era propaganda, it is not possible to live comfortably on state benefit payments, unless you’re some sort of ascetic. And yes, the DSS is full of morons who treat you like dirt - I couldn’t believe some of these people had jobs, when I couldn’t get one. (To be fair, there are also dedicated and professional civil servants who will do what they can to help - I was even lucky enough to meet a couple.)

Of course, some of us aren’t eligible for benefits. Which, admittedly, has the small benefit of removing the stress of dealing with the DSS from my life. Getting a National Insurance Number was bad enough.

Curious about your thoughts on the matter…

After speaking with many Brits, I get the impression that the stigma attached to being on the dole isn’t too bad. Almost as if everyone knows someone on it, or has been themselves. Whereas where I come from (Colorado), if you were to claim unemployment, sheez! What a grade-A loser you’d be. Your friends would hassle you, no girl would date you and your parents would be ashamed to be with you in public…I myself could have claimed it a couple of times, but I never did because I couldn’t handle the ego blow…so I racked up credit card debt and worked menial labour jobs.

Do you see this as accurate? That one might get hassled a little, but near everyone would understand?


Read my post three above yours, Tomcat! :wink:

It hasn’t been all that long since the UK economy was seriously in the crapper and unemployment was high. With so many people out of work, being on the dole was seen less as a personal indictment than as a symptom of the state of the economy.

Particularly as, with the decimation of the British manufacturing sector, unemployment tended to happen to whole communities at the same time … difficult to feel stigmatized when everyone’s in the same boat.

Basically everyone I know signed on at one stage or another. I was on the Dole on several occasions and on assistance twice.

No real stigma attached apart from having no money at least as far as I was concerned.

Do the Brits get butter vouchers? We did and free meat every now and then was given out in some poorer areas. Pity they never dipped into the EU wine lake. Now that would have been a popular move :smiley:

Not even close. The whole case was blown out of proportion. “Lady” Chablis is nothing more than a second rate female impersonator. You won’t find old black men walking invisible dogs downtown. NOBODY talks that way. I’ve lived here my entire life and have no discernible accent. The worst you’ll get a slight “country” twang, but no “Tara” accents.

No, and I have to say I laughed my head off when I got them when I first signed on in Ireland. Free meat I could understand… but butter? It’s not exactly a staple. I’m guessing this occurrence was the result of pressure from the Milk Marketing Board back in the mists of time?

In the US the handout of butter and cheese to the poor is a side effect of dairy farm subsidies – the government keeps the price of dairy products low by keeping the supply high (through subsidizing dairy farmers), and buys the excess. I’m guessing that the military gets some of this, but some gets handed over to needy folk. Who then get heart disease from high cholesterol, but that’s another issue.

Some shops take them for fags so it wasn’t as if you had to buy butter with them :wink: