Covering a few things I have seen and people I have talked to over the last two weeks.
Yesterday I watched the Clegg Zombie with someone from the Jobcentre talking to a group of what looked
like teenagers. They were saying how much is available to help them into work.
A noble cause indeed, help those who need it to find jobs and transform them from benefit recipients to
tax payers. After all aside from a tiny handful of people who are able to milk the system for all it’s worth most
job seekers are not happy living on handouts and constantly poor.
However there is a real world out there that is a very different animal to the shiny helpful face I saw yesterday.
There is a large jobseekers support provider, I will not name them as I don’t want those who honestly talk to
me to be identified and sacked. But they operate all over England with untold thousands of job seekers assigned
to them by the Jobcentre.
Recently it seems the number of people assigned to them has fallen, they did not say it was because they were
getting jobs, just that the number of people on Jobseekers and assigned to them had fallen. I have my suspicions
as to why this was and its not hordes of happy people getting good jobs.
Anyway the company management had a meeting and decided to change procedures across the country. Rather
than making facilities like PCs and internet access available and having advisors who met with every ‘Client’ in one
to one meeting they would now do something new.
This new idea is to group all of the jobseekers into 15s and have every group turn up once a week on a rotating
pattern for an hour of mandatory job searching. Fail to attend and the jobcentre is informed that you are failing
to look for jobs and therefore risk sanctions and loss of benefits.
This started last week. A group of 15 was told to turn up at 13:00. 12 of them arrived and stood around for a while
since no one knew what was going on. Eventually one of the staff was asked to come out and explain the new
This was duly done and the 12 people were then told to job search for the hour or else.
There are six PCs in the office for them to use, six between twelve people. So half of them had nothing to do but
if they wanted to go home and job search from there they would risk sanction and loss of benefits.
Good plan this one.
Oh and the available staff, far too busy to stop and talk to people since rather than meeting people in one to ones
they now had groups of 15 at a time. So anyone with questions or problems either ended up waiting to catch one
of the staff or had to ask the other job seekers.
One woman was struggling to apply for a job since she had no CV there, I had some time and helped her set up an appropriate CV so she could apply for the job. Which she was then unable to do since she had no online email
service and the PCs in the office did not allow ‘clients’ to send emails.
This is the real world and the level of support being provided to job seekers. Our taxpayer money in action.
The Job centre plus rush people through signing on because the private sector companies are helping people to
find jobs so DWP doesn’t need to. Except that they are not.
Here in Taunton we have a small group of well meaning people struggling to function in a system that treats the unemployed as little more than rubbish, something to be dumped out of sight. To talk to some of these staff and
to see just how exhausted and despondent they are is very very sad.
After leaving the office I found myself listening to something very unusual and very pleasant.
Music, a busker just up the high street. Playing a harp.
He was skilled and it is always a pleasure to listen to a well played harp. But here he was begging in the streets
for loose change. Was he a job seeker so desperate for money to live that he was reduced to this, had he been
denied benefits and had no other source of income? He was too young to be retired.
He was busy so I didn’t stop to ask him.
From there the smell of flame cooked meat caught my attention, it was mid afternoon and I had skipped lunch
so the thought of a burger was enticing.
The local Burger king was busy, customers eating and staff looking miserable.
Being the person that I am I started chatting with them. They had been given one weeks’ notice a few days ago
and the place was closing at the end of the month. All of them were being sacked. The man who was about to
get married and was paying for the wedding, sacked. The manager and some staff who had been there 20
Taunton Burger King is one of those high street places where the kitchen and a few tables are downstairs and
upstairs is more tables. Except that the upstairs is always closed. Head office policy apparently, they don’t want
staff wasting time cleaning the upstairs areas since they cut back on staff numbers.
Now this week I’m told they have been getting in loads of customers as the news spreads so they opened the
upstairs area. The place is packed. But they are still closing down because it isn’t making enough profit. The rent
is too high so they are shutting down. Rumour has it they will reopen in a year or so out of town, probably at
the shopping estate a mile away from the town centre.
The young woman who was serving me had been given one weeks’ notice and as a part time staff member who
had been there only a year she was getting £200 severance. Some of the staff who had been there 20 years were
getting as much as several thousand pounds.
She has days before she finds herself in the ranks of the unemployed and she will find it a truly harsh place to be.
She will quickly be sent to one of the private sector job seeker support companies and find herself in a large group
fighting to use a handful of PCs.
Or perhaps she will find a job. Maybe a good job that pays a livable wage, not a zero wage job or something that
leaves her barely better off than the meager amount she would get on job seekers.
I wish her the best along with the other staff there, with them gone we are reduced to a choice of McDonalds or, well
it’s just McDonalds now.
Don’t let all those positive figures and good news reports from politicians fool you. When you talk to people at the
bottom things have not changed. People are still struggling and suffering and trying to live on tiny amounts of money.
If politicians had to truly live on benefits for a month I think the situation would quickly change. But will they ever
give up the £70k salary and the expense accounts and the subsidised food and drink and the parliament Champagne
to find out how the people they so easily insult and condemn really live.
I doubt it