Job Seekers Allowance: On The Decline of Welfare & Employment
In December 2012 I was made redundant and found myself unemployed through no fault of my own. I had to make a claim for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and I was on that benefit until March 2012.Those four months were not easy in the slightest. It was a demeaning and demoralising experience and I’ll tell you why:
1) You do not get a lot of money; a little over £60 every two weeks, and if you think that stretches that far then think again.
2) The ‘Job Centre’ is a misnomer. It has literally no interest or desire to help people back into work. However, what they tend to do is issue veiled threats about what might happen if you do not make the necessary efforts to find a job. This can manifest itself in several ways…
3) attending a Workfare programme, which is usually an unpaid placement where you are sent to some vendor affiliated to the Job Centre to carry out some kind of work ‘to give you the necessary skills and preparation to enter into the workplace again’; or
4) you are sent to a ‘Job Fayre’, which is basically a place they send desperate people to take up low-wage jobs which require unskilled workers to take up menial tasks; or
5) you look at newspapers, websites, etc or go visit agencies or just apply for a myriad of jobs each week.
6) The ‘benefit delivery processor’ that I was due to attend an appointment with every two weeks, then became an appointment I had to attend on a weekly basis so the pressure and stress to find a job was duly increased… or the veiled threat of ‘this may affect your entitlement to benefit’ with every single meeting was ever present.
7) They want you to take ANY job, no matter what it is and how low paid it is. They’re only interested in getting you off the books so you can be a number they can strike off their projected targets stats.
How do I know this? Between the years of 2008 and 2010, I actually worked for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). I know the system. In 2012 I was the same person I had been trying to ‘nil’ before; by nil, I mean ‘Not give someone money’.
And the amount of ‘nils’ I got were there to satisfy a projected target; to satisfy government figures so their Minister for the DWP can prop up their prospective political party and say ‘hey, we’re putting people back into work…ain’t we great?’ whilst the people who work for the DWP are just taking people’s hope away right from the get go.
I had worked steadily since I was 16 and there were unforeseen circumstances in my situations as to why I claimed benefits in the first place. Still, no-one likes being on benefits. I hated it. I found it depressing. I felt ashamed and sick from the whole experience, and I wish it upon no-one. I felt stigmatised and experienced the sort of ignorance and bigotry about my situation that the likes of the Daily Mail expresses on a regular basis and it is disgusting.
I ended up having to take a part-time job just to get out of the system because the threats of sanctions, the pressure and urgency they were putting on me just to take ANY JOB AT ALL was bloody horrible because they ultimately want to make you feel like you’re less than human and undignified and an indelible stain on the conscience of the country.
There is a real ignorance and lack of social education on these issues, in great part due to mass media sensationalism and Government scapegoating.
I sincerely hope that no-one reading this has to claim JSA or ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) because it is a system which at the moment isn’t there to help people back into work but to coerce people back into work as quickly as possible by threatening them to take whatever they can, no matter how terrible it is.
I think that approach towards people who just want a normal life and a future they can look forward to is cruel, unjust and unfair and what my Comrades and I in the Radical Independence Campaign aim to do now and in the future is show solidarity with people who aren’t defended by the wider society and who are left behind by the policies of a government none of us in Scotland wanted or voted for.