Help to Work. Really?

A publicity shot from The League of Gentlemen depicting  vindictive restart officer, Pauline.

I’ve been out of a job for two months now, but haven’t been claiming any benefits in that time. I felt depressed enough about not having a means to provide for my family – being patronised and treated like someone trying to cheat the system was something I didn’t need. I’ve been working incredibly hard to find an appropriate new job and didn’t want to jump through endless hoops only to be treated like a scrounger, so that was that. We’ve felt the pinch a little, of course, but we’ve always been sensible with our money and happiness has to come first. Recently, however, I found myself starting to wonder whether my decision not to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance was a mistake. Until today.

The Help to Work (sic) scheme has introduced new measures which dictate that the unemployed will have to sign on every day or commit to six months of voluntary work or be stripped of their benefits. I can’t see how any of this is going to achieve anything other than making the politicians who created the scheme – who, having been born into wealthy families, have never had to worry about income or, indeed, do what the rest of us would perceive as a normal day’s work – look smug, another box ticked.

As far as the signing on every day bit is concerned, it’s not going to do much for jobseekers’ self esteem is it? But maybe a well adjusted workforce in waiting isn’t important to the future productivity of the nation? I’m also reminded of the scene in League of Gentlemen in which vindictive restart officer, Pauline, won’t let Mickey go to a job interview as it would mean missing a session at the job centre. And what if signing on means having to travel to another town? Petrol isn’t cheap and neither is public transport and it all adds up. Maybe the cost of getting to the centres will be subsidised somehow, but it’s still needless expenditure that could be used much more effectively elsewhere.

Then there’s the issue of forcing people to do voluntary work. If they’re not doing it of their own free will, it’s not volunteering. It will only cause unrest and division. Having been employed by a couple of charities myself, I know how much enthusiasm and drive volunteers bring and they willingly give their time and skills because they have a passion for the cause. They’re amazing people who do it not because they’re being made to, but because they want to. I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to charities and those who support them – as well as to those who are being unfairly thrust into a situation where they can’t win. It’s as if the Tories think unemployment is a crime and volunteering is community service.

So no thank you, Iain Duncan Smith. I’ll take my chances with what I’ve saved. Unemployed I may be, but I’m an honest and hard working human being too and won’t be made to feel like a criminal simply because I don’t have a job.

Comments

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  1. liska

    I was on JSA for 6 months in 2012 and would not recommend it to anyone. I worked hard for 24 years workaholic but got made redundant. Job centre is dire for self esteem. Long story but I used to spend the £70 to get the same bk. It was hell and going there stuck me in a huge rut. Running out of it was best thing ever for me xx

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      Tom

      Thanks Liska. Yes, the whole robbing Peter to pay Paul thing is ridiculous and, if it’s going to make you feel awful in the process, deciding not to bother with it is a no brainer.

  2. Hurrah For Gin

    I’ve been on the jobseekers a couple of times briefly when made redundant. I was keen to sign on as i felt i was entitled to some help, having payed my NI diligently for many years. However even then it was a pain in the arse, especially with young children. I certainly wouldn’t be able to manage signing on every day, what with the costs and palava that come with it!

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      Tom

      Yes, it’s a major faff and I imagine a key reason behind their ridiculous new scheme is to deter people from claiming in order to make the figures look better with an election on the way. But at least they’re making gambling and drinking cheaper for us plebs…

  3. Jonathan

    I totally agree with what you’ve said here about the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. It’s a real shame that so many politicians seem to spend more time stigmatising those who are not in work rather than trying to putting in place better schemes to help them get back into work.

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      Tom

      Thanks Jonathan. Yes, they don’t really care and, sadly, their thin approaches towards ‘helping’ the unemployed merely serve to show this.

  4. T D

    Hi

    If im honest i have mixed views having gone through it. I’m not the most disciplined at job seeking and the daily signing did give me push i needed – i so did not want to go back in that i was like a monk on speed getting through the applications. However, it’s come at the cost of hardening me against the system which I used to think was there to help me.

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