UB40 - A way round the wheels of government

Reggae band from Birmingham in the UK. 

An administrative form, the Unemployment Benefit Form 40 (abbreviated to UB40), owes its fame to this band name. In the UK of the seventies unemployment benefits could be claimed at the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS). The UB40 form that was used during the process is said to be on the cover of UB40’s debut album, Signing Off. 

UB40 band name - Signing off coverWe doubt however:
a. if the form on the cover is the form concerned and
b. if what is shown on the cover has ever been provided to job seekers by the DHSS.

The image on the cover is an Attendance Card, so no application form, but a card used to keep a record of how often a job seeker could work up the enthusiasm to check in at the Benefit Office. And this card looks far too neat and well-organized to have ever come out of civil service machinery – so we have no other option but to see this as a convincing piece of art work.

The UB40 form by the way has been replaced a long time ago. Nowadays English job seekers do not receive an Unemployment Benefit, but a Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). That is, if they have signed a Job Seekers Agreement (JSAG) first. Always good to see officials persevere.

Active: 1978-present, GBR



Anonymous said...

Yes, this was the actual card, I remember it well, from the late 1980s. It wasn't just a case of "checking in" at the benefit office, you absolutely had to attend on a particular day and then sign a form to say you were still unemployed, or you wouldn't get your benefits paid. No one ever called it a UB40, it was called a dole card, and the benefits were called dole, and you signed on at the dole office. The bright yellow colour and the 'signing off' stamp are artistic devices though. If you got a job, the card had the DHSS address on the back and could be folded up and posted to them.

Robin P Clarke said...

Round my way in the 1970s they were called UB40s, hence why that (local!) band adopted the name. They were straw-coloured and folded in half. Lots of things were made of card before the modern plastic "cards" took over. It was thought that many people bunked off work just for the relevant hour to fraudulently claim UB.

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