On Yahoo! today, 28th April, 2014, is a Sky News report about the Government’s plans to introduce sanctions to those on benefits if they do not sign on EVERYDAY, or sign up to voluntary work for six months.
Now, aside from the fact that there is already a huge argument about the impact of existing sanctions on benefits claimants and the rising demand for food banks, these plans are a problem.
Not only do such programs not guarantee any kind of paid employment, and allow companies to get work carried out at minimal cost (when they already have the benefit of the hefty support of law behind them), but for some, making it into the Jobcentre isn’t always the easiest thing to do even on a weekly or fortnightly basis. They do it because they have to, and fair enough. And as I understand it, travel expenses can be claimed back, which again, is fair enough. But are the Government going to issue travel expenses to the millions of people on benefits who are going to have to sign on everyday?
Seems like a lot, especially for those living in more rural locations where access to the nearest Jobcentre is more costly. And what about the problem of having the money up front to travel to the Jobcentre. Quite often, people on benefits are living from one moment to the next. It can be very unpredictable. And I’ve been there, done it and got the fucking T-Shirt. The electricity might suddenly go and then you find yourself having to unexpectedly prioritise putting a tenner on the electricity key. But then you’re left with no bus fare to the Jobcentre and BANG! Sanctions.
You try telling some telephonist halfway across the country that you couldn't make it into your appointment to sign on because the electricity went and see where it gets you. My head has banged THAT brick wall many times.
No, no, no. It needs thinking about a bit more than this.
Iain Duncan Smith, Edwina Currie and David Cameron…all of these Tory snobs have NO idea. The day to day grit of life on benefits is far harder than they will acknowledge. They can sit at home, and they can say that they could easily spend a week on benefits to prove it can be done. They can spout that kind of shit all they want. But knowing that after seven days of roughing it, you'll be going back to your taxpayer-funded second home and a highly unjustified salary several times what anyone else earns, then the test of roughing it for a week is completely meaningless. In fact, it is an insult to those who are struggling to bring up kids, and live each day for an unknowable period of time.
When something breaks, you can't treat it worse in the hopes that you'll fix it. The unemployment situation is no different. You have to look carefully at the problem and get to the root of it and start fixing it at the source.
For a lot of people on benefits, the issue is often deeper than just a reluctance or refusal to work. Edwina Currie says that people spend their benefit on other things rather than food, and then plead poverty to get food-bank hand-outs and this is a bullshit cop-out. I've seen the truth. Lived the truth.
Remember Back To The Future: Part Two? Remember how Marty McFly and Doc Brown return to the 80s from the future only to find that everything as they knew it had gone to shit? How they deduced that an unexpected change had been made back in the 50s, and they could only fix the present by going back in time? To the source of the new problem?
Well, this is like that.
People on benefits have very often arrived at that place in their life because of other circumstances. If someone has a drink problem, they don't exactly choose to prioritise money on booze. The choice that most people think is a choice, is not in fact a choice. It is a state of existence. An alcoholic has to drink and there's no element of choice in the same way a bipolar sufferer doesn't exactly choose to fritter money away on a manic-phase spending spree.
Telling any addict not to waste money on their drug is not going to get you anywhere. Sanctioning such a person for not committing to six months voluntary work is not going to get you anywhere. You have to go right back to the start and cure the addiction. Make the person fit for work, not constantly slam him for being a useless drunk.
That is of course, unless the Government care so little that they'd be happy to see jobless people also refused state help. To see homelessness increase. To see people really starve, and to see crime escalate as people are desperate to feed themselves or their addiction.
As a criminal defence paralegal, I've met a lot of folk from a lot of different backgrounds, and there aren't many people whose ambitions once leaving school are to sign-on and stay signed-on. There are very, very few Career Dole-Dossers.
And I'm not saying there aren't people who don't want to work. Because there are. But life is far more complex, and people's personal circumstances so varied that you cannot lump everyone on benefits into the same category. You just can't.
But there are wider problems. These Tory bastards would have everyone believe that they're sorting the economy out and that benefits are a major hindrance to their efforts. That lazy slobs need to get off their arses and work.
But what about the following issues:
The Government says that there are around 600,000 job vacancies at any one time. I'm not one to just take a leap of faith on a figure that the Government release, but even so, let's just work with it for now.
As of today, the Office for National Statistics says that there are about 2.3 million unemployed, which only takes account of those on Jobseekers Allowance, because to be classed as unemployed you have to be seeking employment and able to start work within a fortnight.
There are about 30 million in employment and the population of England is about 56 million.Clearly, there are many more unaccounted for and on benefits like Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, etc, etc. So the number of people who do not work is larger than the 2.3 million figure relied upon by the Government as evidence of their achievement of the promise to reduce unemployment. But even so, even if there are only 2.3 million unemployed and job-seeking, am I the only cunt who sees that 600,000 jobs is not enough to go around? That even if every one of these jobs were taken, there'd still be roughly 1,400,000 job-seeking people without work?
In other words, there is a far bigger picture than just convenient numbers and bullshit propaganda.
One of the other issues is the nature of the job vacancies covered in that 600,000 figure. The Government have persistently shown reluctance to ban the Zero-Hour Contract, although it seems an investigation has been launched and that may be the best people can hope for. But what we do know, is that Zero-Hour Contracts are on the rise. And significantly. As it stands, the Office for National Statistics put the figure of people employed under Zero-Hour Contracts as about half a million. Which in my opinion, is half a million too many. The Government bull-shitters assert that Zero-Hour Contracts are convenient for some people. They fit in with their lifestyles, and many people find that they are getting a regular flow of work anyway.
Maybe so. But isn't that the danger? If you become complacent and expect those hours to be there one week, and they're not offered to you, what the hell are you going to do?
I myself once worked in a job where the contract effectively amounted to a Zero-Hour Contract. But it was reliant upon being able to drive. One day, someone broke into my car and wrote it off. For about three weeks I had no transport, and I had to pay for taxis to get me to police station custody suites within a close proximity (when you're called as duty solicitor, you have to get to the custody suite within 45 mins of the request so trains and buses are pretty much out of the question, especially at 2 in the morning). After a few weeks of this, I was eating into my previous months earnings, which meant that when I ran out of spare cash for up front cab fares, I had to turn work down. Turning work down meant less earnings the following month, and so on. A nasty downward spiral started then that resulted in debt, rent arrears and eviction. Eventually, when I had to take time off work because of stress, my employers found a convenient excuse to sack me whilst I was still unprotected by the laws for unfair dismissal.
After that it was all downhill. Depression, drink and continued unemployment. I'm now treated as a benefit scrounger by both the system and by society, and the system that let me down back then has rendered me totally unemployable. I'd no doubt get some sort of job. And that's fair enough. But I studied for years. I trained for years. I was good at my job, I was committed and I was loyal to my employer and I put in some serious fucking graft - only to be left with a CV that most employers won't touch with a barge-pole. I worked my arse off for years, paying into a system that now treats me with mistrust and contempt and it feels pretty damn unfair.
The Government have got things all wrong, I think. There was a time when the laws for unfair dismissal kicked in after working for one year. As of April 2012, you now have to work for two years before many of the legal protections and methods of compensating a grievance come into play. There was a case recently of a property manager who approached her boss within the first couple of weeks and enquired about pensions. Her boss didn't seem to like that and she was sacked.
In a society that allows this god-awful treatment of its employees, is it really any surprise that the system is falling apart? Is it any wonder people are de-motivated to come off benefits? They have no assurances of job security. Look at the HM Revenue and Customs...just two years ago it was planned that they'd axe about 10,000 jobs by now. That's 40,000 jobs cut since formation in 2005.
So be under no illusion...We live in a country that allows our employers to treat us like a used snot-rag, and then puts you through the grinder before it agrees to cough up what it owes. Even when it finally does, it won't stop giving you a hard time. It won't let up. ATOS may have quit their contract with the DWP, but that doesn't mean whoever replaces them will have a more relaxed brief when assessing people for Work Capability. They may be friendlier, but when it comes to the crunch, their objective is to tell the Government to get you back to work.
The monkey may have quit, but the organ-grinder isn't budging. And something needs to change...