I posted the below on the Guardian site following the report of one of the latest Tory Election Posters on cutting benefite for those who refuse to work. My experience from last year rather proves that the problem is more complex then people seem to think In the context of a place like North Staffordshire a range of long term, secure well paid jobs do not exist. For many remaining on benefits and there are now about 24% of the population is the safest option. In my experiences the real problems occur when you try to break out of your predicament
“I worked for a private training company based on Merseyside between 2006-7. I can confirm some of the comments made about A4E. A number of computers at the centre did not work although saying that there were a number of the young people who were unrealistic and lacked drive. The older ones were better motivated.
I should add that I heard Blunkett on Radio 4 a few months ago lambasting people who lie in bed when others are out working early. Blunkett receives a paid directorship from A4E. S its in his interest to point out this problem.
I was out of work myself from March to November last year. I found the Job Centre I attended in Stoke chaotic. Many of the people attending were people who had worked for years and were unused to how to go about the system. Staff at the Job Centre were very variable and many simply ignorant of procedures- I do some voluntary work for the CAB. In one example I was speaking to one claimant who was told to go to a job interview for a warehouse job. He turned up- the interview required a 30 mile round trip- to discover that the warehouse on a new site had not even been built.
I took an exam invigilator job for 4 weeks in may/June to discover that my JSA was stopped instantly even though it took weeks before I was paid by Staffordshire. Sometimes being honest with the system can be counter productive. It took 11 phone calls over 4 days before they they re-instated contributionary JSA.
Now it is true that there are people who don’t sem to want to work. In my experience they are in a minority. Life on JSA is not an easy one on £64 a week, how could it be! But people make choices and the marginal tax rates from moving into work are extremely high especially when council tax and housing benefit is concerned and the local Council is rather wolfish in chasing you when you get into Council Tax arrears as my experience in the CAB again proves.
In November I took a job on the tills at the local supermarket. Its part time 14.25 hours a week. I am 55 and finding a job has been very hard. I made about 80 applications before getting this. Many of the jobs that are advertised are temporary or part time and I guess the difference between this recession and the last two in the 80s and the 90s was that in this area of North Staffs there were jobs that still existed in textilles or the potteries, not anymore. I checked out where the nearest pottery worker job and it was in Rugby about 80 miles away.
I am hoping that my self employment options also work out I do a history/ghost walk in Leek where I live- shriek in leek – as well as family history/ local resarch to go alongside the supermarket work.
I am a graduate and I have post graduate qualifications.
To recap, Its not easy in my experience in getting back to work and I think that the majority of people approach the crisis of being unemployed in the hope that their predicament is a temporary one and work hard in changing the situation. However the Job centre in Hanley I went to cannot cope with the numbers and lack the know all to help too many are inexperienced staff. There are people who work the system, but I guess they make economic decisions especially when the tapering effect of benefit withdrawl is taken into account- not everyone can access WTC. On the dole at least you know that you get the benefit on a certain date and time and you can budget accordingly.
And finally vacancies which have dried up from the numbers of 18 months ago. The local paper- as an indicator- used to boast that they advertised 700 jobs a week now that number in North Staffs is probably down to 150 and a number of them are voluntary.
The solution well I favour the Basic Income approach perhaps if you scrap the present system to provide a liveable income and perhaps people such as my exam invigilator experience would be willing to try short term pieces of work”