I have been unemployed since July 2013, and I’m angry at those on the left and the right talking about those who are unemployed and claiming benefits. I don’t blame immigrants, and I don’t blame the current Government – clearly, I’m odd. So far, in the 211 days that I have been unemployed, I have applied for 276 jobs – just over 9 jobs a week. My advisor at the Job Centre has required that I do 10-15 things to look for work. In an average week, I will look at job sites 3-4 times, use the Job Centre website twice, receive a daily email from MarketingWeek, and I walk around Chester on a weekly basis. I also use LinkedIn, and send speculative letters to prospective employers.
Is life all about job hunting? No, of course not. I play on my PS3, I browse the internet, I attend college every Thursday night, and I exercise. I don’t smoke, and the only alcohol I’ve been drinking has come from my parents. I have a HD TV, as well as the aforementioned PS3, a laptop and – shock horror – I have Sky TV! All of these things have been portrayed as reasons benefit payments are too big. The TV, the (second hand) PS3 and laptop were all bought before my unemployment. Sky costs £42 a month. That £42 includes £22 for the basic TV package, £5 for the unlimited broadband, and £15 for the phone line. As broadband elsewhere costs around £15, it is easy to say the TV package is £12 a month. I’m not trying to justify this – merely pointing out the reality behind the headlines.
Now, for the juicy bit – money.
The total benefits I could claim for was £100 per week – £70 job seekers’ allowance and £30 housing benefit. After 6 months, my JSA is now no more. I am not eligible for income-based JSA. For the last few weeks, the extent of my benefit claims has been just £30 per week, and all of that comes from the local authority in the form of housing benefit. I have received no support from the Job Centre itself, save for a mandatory appointment with a Careers Advisor who told me my CV was very good and the most important thing on any CV is to state that, if true, you have a car and a full driving licence. I could have been put on courses that are designed primarily for those who have never worked – such as how to write a CV, working in the NHS, and working in administration, although there was a course on how to drive a forklift truck that I could have taken up..
The Job Centre has been, bluntly, a waste of time and effort. I walk there, wait for 20 minutes, someone looks at a screen seeing all the jobs I’ve applied for, calls me over, signs a bit of paper, and off out I go. It would be easy (although pointless) to lie about applications. No-one asks for proof, they just take your word for it. No-one at the job centre has ever helped me find a job to apply for – it’s a tick-box exercise that wastes millions of pounds every year: so much so that I’m quite probably now one of the many who no longer ‘signs on’, despite having found no work, as a result of the pointlessness of the whole exercise. Does this now mean I am contributing to the ‘fall in unemployment’ statistics?
I believe now is the time to either reform or scrap Job Centres. As my own experience demonstrates, they fail to do anything remotely substantial to help people into work. My own belief (cemented by a statement made by one of the employees there) is that job centres are there exclusively for those people without a CV, who haven’t worked, or haven’t worked for a long time. For everyone else, they are a nuisance – such as delaying the payment of my JSA because I had the cheek to have a job interview on the day I was due to attend.
To paraphrase, job centres should be for the many, not the few.
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