Right, why I am writing this? I have to admit there are selfish reasons; I feel that it’s necessary to inform people about what been undertaken in their name. You see I’m one of the Unemployed and a claimer of a benefit Jobseekers Allowance. Yeah I’m one of those people who evade work at any given chance.
Aren’t I? That’s often the image of the unemployed given out not only by the media but the Government themselves. In reality I have worked, OK that was back at Christmas but it was work. Further to that I’m currently pursuing a career in the arts where you find the problems of finding work compounded by cuts to funding. This has meant volunteering, working (it’s NOT a hobby) in various roles from interacting with visitors, to trying to locate an artist at 2 A.M.
I am currently a writer and have begun to curate a live art show to take place later in the year. In short I’m making an effort.
It would seem that all my efforts are in vain well according to the DWP who have seen fit to send me on a mandatory work programme. Initially this didn’t bother me as I received a letter informing me that soon I will be given a call to discuss a placement.
This didn’t happen within a week I received another letter stating, demanding that I attend a placement at (name removed) in 4 days’ time, so I can work for 30 hours a day for the next 4 weeks. This seems very clever as it gives the Jobseeker little or no chance to complain or ask for a new placement as the complaint procedure takes 2-3 weeks. Most of my time before the start day sees a lot of angry googling and no information on the activities of ****** could be found. This felt like a bad sign. The next day I was due to see my advisor, where I was feeling OK coming off the back of having an interview for one of those job things.
I brought up the matter of the placement, voicing my concerns about the placement as no information about I would be doing on this placement. There was however a lot about what’s punishment would be metered out if I don’t go. I asked the one question that I really wanted to know ‘If I feel that there’s no benefit to me, do I still have go through with the 30hrs a week programme?’
The answer was: ‘Yes, it’s mandatory’ followed by the suggest that it will give my CV something current. Two thing my CV has something current and this is not going on my CV. I’m well aware that any potential employers are going to look at a CV work ‘mandatory work activity’ and think ‘Gee Whiz this guy was madedto work, he’s the guy for us!’
Already we have a in built redundancy, I suspect that I will gain nothing from this and begin to believe that this is simply a form of punishment. Given that the letter state the programme offers me the opportunity to ‘provide experience reinforce the disciplines of employment and enable you to make a community contribution.’ It has the whiff of community service.
To use a cliché ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’. Already I know I have to suspend any ambition regarding my voluntary work as for some reason one form of unpaid work is better than another unpaid work. Already I feel resentment to this work thing, well this form of work. The days leading up to the start day (the three days leading to the start day) involves lots of frantic internet searches leading to many stories similar to my own.
I also come across the ‘rules’ given to JSA advisors and I’m shocked and angered to discover that there is an actual rule that states the client shouldn’t be sent to a MWA if they are working paid or voluntary (No.17). The dole is well aware of my volunteering they make me fill in a form insuring that I’m not getting paid. Of course the reason many people like myself are being sent on these MWA is purely political a way of the Government and it’s very much the Conservative element of this Government. Who are currently chasing the votes heading towards UKIP by creating these schemes and to satisfy some imagined need for the punishment of people who through no fault of their own without work.
I’m I being punished for simply not having a job? A paid job that is I take my ‘volunteering’ as serious as paid work.
Or I ‘am being paranoid? Maybe it won’t be all bad after all its meant to ‘benefit your community’ (despite not being based in my community) maybe I’d just be picking up litter I can handle that, it will make the world a better place and hopefully I can listen to the radio as I work.
The day arrives and I find the place at the backend a backend of an industrial estate, and work into the main space. Which is filled with people in Hi-Viz jackets smashing window panes. I make myself known at the office and take a seat in the staff room with the other new recruit. The other recruit appears to have a learning disability as he can’t write I have to ask why he’s hear and not on some other programme, if he does have a problem with literacy surely he needs help not work activity.
Carrying on with the paperwork we come to the section about what I’m supposed to learn, things like timekeeping, working in a team, good communication skills things that already appear on my CV. I say to our liaison offer, that I honestly have no problem with any of these his reply is telling ‘some people are hear out of circumstance’ indicating there is no real reason for some people to be here, but hey that’s the system!
The following day will be my first proper day. As I said this will involve breaking up UPVC window frames so at 8am we begin. Now it’s not the concept of hard work I find troubling and in a parallel to current events last year I was in a warehouse working hard cleaning, painting, shifting for a major art project. Working on that project but there was a goal to it and I was selected to be a part of that project and was willing to work hard for it.
I wonder about the money provided by the Government to provide this business with an on-going supply of free labour. As after one day I don’t see the opportunities for anyone to become employed, there are few paid employees here and I don’t think they’ll be giving up their positions up. As for my fellow draftees they seem resigned to the fact that this is something to be endured rather then something which will assist them in life.
As for myself I already know that there will be no benefit from this activity and instead of building a supposed sense of confidence to makes me begin to dislike myself for allowing myself to get in this situation. For not standing up for myself. I try to look at it in a Charles Bukowski way but I keep reminding myself that he got paid and was a much better writer.
Why did I write this? I wanted to tell someone what was happening not just to me but to everyone in this situation, of a one size fits system that seems to failing the majority. It doesn’t really benefit me as I’m only two days in a four week scheme and I’m left with a choice do I risk being labelled as an trouble maker and kick up a stink ? Sign off in what feels like I’m saying I never needed this money. Again like many I’m trapped by a failing system without a clear solution.
I also feel trapped as one solution is to sign off JSA and risk being marked as someone who is ‘unwilling to work’ which I’m not the other is to work for someone else’s benefit and point everything else everything I care about into hiatus.