Tag Archives: unemployed

List of all the things the Government is doing to increase wealth gaps

 

Work Tax Credit

Sound good? Tax credits for poor people, right? Nope. Work Tax Credit is counted as “income” when calculating your Housing Benefit. So you actually get nothing. If you work less than 16 hours a week you won’t be entitled to Work Tax credit but that’s not so bad because you’ll actually pay the same amount of rent.

Did I say you get nothing? That was wrong. If you don’t need Housing Benefit then you get to keep the Work Tax Credit.

 

Housing Benefit

If you rent a property then the Housing Benefit goes to your landlord. But if you’ve got a mortgage then the Housing Benefit drops into your pocket. This is clearly unfair as it’s helping the more affluent or less poor get more affluent. But the poorest don’t get a penny.

 

Child Tax Credit

This is also counted as income while calculating Housing Benefit, as was Child Benefit. So the poorest don’t receive anything while those who own their own houses take it all.

 

The cuts/NHS/tuition fees

Pretty self explanatory. Those with lots of money needn’t worry about tuition fees. If you can afford private healthcare then the NHS isn’t really important to you. If you have lots of resources, time and the educational background to invest in your kids’ education, cuts to public services won’t really affect you.

 

The bedroom tax

Again, an obvious one. Only those who don’t own their own properties are targeted while those who own their properties could have ten spare rooms and not pay a penny in tax – even though it’d be much easier for them to afford the tax. It is common tax policy in most countries to tax proportionally accotrding to earnings, which was why the Thatcher Poll Tax recieved widespread opposition. The bedroom tax is worse than the Poll Tax because it only targets the poor.

 

The Jobcentre

Affluent people and their family, boyfriends/girlfriends and close friends won’t ever step into a Jobcentre. They can be as shiftless as they want. But the less fortunate have to be subjected to constant surveillance, forced travel and attendance to the Jobcentre and various companies and workfares. Worst of all (in my experience) is the constant harassment and erosion of self esteem and confidence. It’s this last thing which has led me to include the Jobcentre in this list. Because writing great CVs and covering letters – not to mention performing well in interviews- is heavily dependent on self esteem  and confidence. The Jobcentre, A4e, Ingeus, Atos, Working Links and the rest are making the poor poorer by  (unintentionally) making them do badly in interviews and keeping them out of work for longer.

The Ingeus Diaries (part 2): Jobcentre stalking & benefits cut due to Jobcentre incompetency

DAY 2

Before I wrote my last blog, Meg told me that some people hadn’t turned up because the Jobcentre failed to tell them it was mandatory that they go to Ingeus. As a result, their benefits will be cut. These people still weren’t there today. Meg also told me she would only have to go to the Ingeus course for two days. But things quickly changed for her:

“Ingeus told us that if we take more than 2 days off from the Stairways to Work course, we’ll be chucked out of the course,” she explains. “The Jobcentre will know and I know that if I’m chucked out, my Jobcentre advisor will put me on another workfare much more quickly. So I’m going to have to attend for the whole 2 weeks. Most of the other jobseekers have realised this too, and they intend to keep going to the course.”

Interview transcript:

The other jobseekers from [Town 1] and [Town 2] were phoned by their Jobcentres. The Jobcentres asked if they had gone to the course. I feel that this is stalking. They felt annoyed and harassed. My Jobcentre didn’t phone me.

Today we were doing CVs which wasn’t helpful; I was told my CV was good and Ingeus didn’t suggest any changes to my CV.

The woman from Ingeus was talking about transferable skills and she held up her daughter as an example: her daughter graduated from University but after a year she couldn’t find a job which needed a degree so she worked in an airport and is still there now, two years later. I think it’s ridiculous that jobseekers are being told how to find work by someone whose own daughter is unable to find work suited to her qualifications. And that wasn’t an example of transferable skills, it was an example of young graduates having to settle for any work due to a lack of suitable jobs. It’s not a positive story – it’s a sad tale about the recession and our problems with unemployment and underemployment.

We had to do a test about our social skills and the French social worker scored 70, which is equivalent to 100%. I was the next highest and scored 70. We also were given a bit of paper with dots on it and told to draw lines to join all the dots. After we’d finished, the woman from Ingeus explained that she had made us do it to show us that most people don’t think of drawing lines outside the dots. This shows us that to look for jobs we sometimes have to look for jobs that are similar but not the same to the job we want to do. Like if you want to be a landscaper you could look for gardener jobs.

DAY 3

Today we sent out ‘spec letters’ – emails or letters speculating about whether there’s a vacancy. A middle-aged woman, Bethany, was copying a sample letter. She wrote “I have a lot of skills in housekeeping, cleaning and that sort of thing.” I burst out laughing. Then she’d written “Yours sincerely, Name” just like the sample. I fixed it for her because I can type fast. Mark, the social worker, also finished his letters quickly and spent the rest of the time helping others. The Ingeus woman was struggling to deal with helping everyone so me and Mark did it for the rest of the afternoon.

Bethany’s husband drives her to and from Ingeus. One of the young people, Daphne, gets driven to Ingeus by her mother. The amount they have to spend on the petrol is a lot because Ingeus pays less than 20p a mile.

We used the computers to search for jobs and just sat in a circle listening to what the Ingeus group leader said. Four others and I talked about how we weren’t learning anything useful.

The Ingeus Diaries: a jobseeker’s report of an Ingeus programme

Meg is a middle-aged migrant woman with a degree and 9 years’ experience as a legal secretary. She’s also been self employed and worked briefly as a waitress. Meg was referred to the Ingeus 2-week Stairway To Work programme by her Jobcentre two months after completing her workfare at YMCA and three months after completeing a course at JHP. All names are changed or invented.

Ingeus Stairways to Work course, Monday 6th May 2013
“Ingeus didn’t send me a letter or give me directions to get there, like the Jobcentre said they would. They missed out my name during the roll call,” Meg reports. “The woman who was leading the course went in and out to get notes for us to read because they didn’t have enough even though 5 or 6 people weren’t there. She went put to get paper, then went out again to get pens. It wasn’t organised.”

Interview transcript:

The Ingeus woman talked about goals, asked us do we have goals. She gave an example of her goal: to go to the supermarket, have coffee with a friend then do housework. She had a stack of cards. She went round the group asking each person to tell her if the card presented a good or bad goal, e.g. “I want to clear my debts by the end of the year”. I can’t see how this helps me get a job.

Then we had to ask the person next to us about themselves and tell the whole group their hobbies. I told my name and I said like dogs and driving.

There was a social worker who has been out of work for 13 years due to institutional bullying which led to him having three breakdowns. He grew up in France. I said to him “Ingeus should get employers here or tell us how to be self-employed. Getting us here won’t help us get jobs.”

We were made to go on computers and go to the Direct.gov site but nobody could get to it because [of security software installed by Ingeus] so the woman running the course had to hrelp every single person get to the site. We had to search for jobs, but there was no point to this because we all had computers at home. We had to print out our CVs and it took over an hour for all 13 people to do it.

Today was useless, just one more day for Ingeus to make money from jobseekers.

Benefits cut because of Jobcentre incompetency

“Five or six people didn’t go because they believed it wasn’t mandatory,” says Meg. “It isn’t mandatory, but once you agree to go, it becomes mandatory because it’s an ‘agreed action’. The Jobcentre didn’t explain this to these people so now their benefits will be cut for up to three months. [If they’ve forgotten to turn up to a Jobcentre interview before, it could be cut for up to three years]. It’s not mandatory that we do the whole 2 weeks, but the Jobcentre told me it was mandatory that I do 2 days.”

Who was there?

There were labourers aged 40-60 and three young people in their late teens to early twenties. One man was in his fifties. He’d worked for the same company for 10 years and was out of work only three weeks ago. Only 1 person had just graduated from college, all the others had been working.

I saw 2 people going to interviews at Ingeus [these people were not in Meg’s course]. They were in their forties and fifties and were interviewed by young women. I think it’s degrading they had to be helped by a much younger, less experienced person. One man’s partner and child were sitting on the sofa; they looked unhappy. The child looked about 10 years old.”

Ingeus reimburses travel costs at 20p per mile so they should have given me £8 but they only gave me £6.80.

How did it make you feel?

It was like a primary school lesson. I felt very degraded. Like jobseekers have no goals, no hopes, aren’t interested in looking for work. It lowers your self-esteem.

When I had a workfare at YMCA I was happy because I got on very well with the other jobseekers and people doing community serbice who were there. I was valued by the manager who viewed me as a hard worker.
Before that, the Jobcentre sent me to JHP for a Job Search programme where we used computers. Everyone there had worked before and all we did at JHP was search for jobs on the internet. We had computers, so that was pointless. One woman was always an hour late and this was tolerated.

Myths about unemployment and why the unemployed deserve medals for workfare

As we all know, politicians and the media can’t shut up about how the unemployed are lazy scroungers or, recently, even child-killers (as alleged by George Osborne and the Daily Mail) just because Mick Philpott happened to be unemployed. But jobseekers are the ones who are working for free  doing workfares up and down the country. Big companies like ASDA, Superdrug and Homebase are profiting from free labour. The unemployed are helping millionaire shareholders get even richer while they provide labour without earning a penny. And if they don’t find work within a couple of months, they’ll be forced to do it all over again.

So why aren’t the unemployed being praised and admired as the backbone of our society? If it wasn’t for their free labour, local businesses might have to close down and so might some charities like the Sue Ryder Foundation which previously used workfare and YMCA which still does. This means that the unemployed are actually benefitting the employed, because if small businesses and charities had to close then their staff would be made redundant.

So, to recap, these are the services which the unemployed provide (for free) to the rest of us:

Making rich shareholders more rich

Helping small businesses survive

Helping the employed remain employed

 

I think they should be awarded medals instead of being stigmatised as lazy (possibly murderous) benefit scroungers.

 

The line between employed and unemployed is also fairly blurred. Freelance jobs such as modelling, writing, interpreting or web designing can mean that you only work sporadically. Even jobs we tend to think of as more reliable such as housekeeping or waiting tables may also only be on a casual basis or require you to work on or two days a week. With 1 out of 4 jobs being part-time, many people are living this life where employment means working a few hours a week or working “on call”.

And low income jobs often come with very short notice periods, so even those who manage to land more stable work will still find themselves between jobs a few times in their lives. Without £8,000 in the bank, they’ll be eligoble to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Another mistake the media and politicians make is to confuse welfare dependency and employment status. Many of the employed are recieving benefits such as Work Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Disability Allowance and others. For young people, finding a job can mean moving out of their parents’ homes and thus becoming even more dependent on the state – they’ll swap Jobseeker’s Allowance for Housing Benefit and maybe Work Tax Credit (a benefit only available to the employed).

This issue cannot be simplified into an Us v Them war on the poor and disabled. Especially not by politicians and media moguls living wildly extravagant lifestyles.

Petition to get Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/iain-duncan-smith-iain-duncan-smith-to-live-on-53-a-week

Stigmatising the unemployed

As I’ve written in earlier posts, the Tories stigmatised lone mothers in the 1990s, blaming them for the economy and portraying them as irresponsible, undeserving benefit cheats. Right now, they’re doing the exact same thing to people who are claiming state benefits – despite the fact that 93% of Housing Benefit claimants are in working households. The media and political rhetoric that is prevalent now is designed to turn the employed against the unemployed.

The discourse of the Jobcentre and the DWP more generally is of assistance – helping jobseekers find jobs. However, help is only help when it is asked for or needed. Otherwise, it is stigma and harassment. This actually reminds me of the German single parents’ campaign “Help! I am being helped” which asserted that framing people as needing help is humiliating. And, come on people – seriously, how can we believe the DWP’s system is designed to help us back into work? The new laws mean that if you forget to apply for a single job your advisor orders you to, you can have your benefit stopped for up to three years – even if you applied for all the other jobs he ordered you to, and 20 other jobs your advisor didn’t tell you to apply for.

Foucalt wrote much on state control of the body, and the DWP has turned this into a fine art. Firstly, if you’re unemployed then you have to go to the Jobcentre to see your advisor and sign in every week. If you can’t make it or forget, they will stop your benefits for weeks or months.  There’s no way to avoid this, as agreeing to apply for a job creates a verbal, legally-binding contract which is stored on the computer system. If you don’t agree to apply for the job, your benefits will also be stopped.

The advisor’s role is to verbally humiliate jobseekers and make them feel bad about being unemployed. The advisor can’t help you get a job – they just check that you’ve been looking for work (which of course you have, as the form you have to fill in every week will attest). The advisor can only look on a single website to tell you about any jobs advertised there,  instead of you looking on the site at home. And they only use one site (directgov.uk) while jobseekers tend to use several sites or newspapers. Advisors also monitor your jobsearching by checking your form. So we can see that advisors don’t actually help you at all. You could do much better jobsearches at home instead of wasting time sitting in the Jobcentre.

Secondly, forgetting or refusal to go to even one group session at the Jobcentre will also mean that your benefits are stopped for months. Even if your bus was cancelled, or you were ill but didn’t manage to get a GP’s note in time, etc, etc. Again, not agreeing to go would also result in benefits being stopped.

This isn’t help. This is forcing people to go to places and interfering with their freedom of movement. Help isn’t coerced. Help isn’t forced, systematized, relentless.Help doesn’t involve monitoring and sanctioning.

This is punishment and humilation.

The DWP treats everyone – from PhDs to over-50s to graduates – as benefit-cheating scum who don’t want to work and aren’t looking for jobs.

The recession is the fault of the government (for failing to regulate properly) and the banks’ owners and top-level executives. But they aren’t affected, it’s the Joe Bloggs of society who get laid off or can’t get a job when they leave university. Yet, we’re being punished for the government and the wealthy people’s irresponsibility.

The new laws mean a much stricter regime in Jobcentres – right at the time when they should be more lenient, because of the recession. When there are a lot of jobs, not having a job is suspicious. But when there are less jobs, not having a job is the norm.

Oh, and recently the head of the DWP said that retired people should be forced to volunteer, or their pensions get stopped…which would mean no retirement age, and we work until we die.

And there’s a few petitions you can sign on the directgov.uk site against the cuts to disability benefits.

On an even more disturbing note, a disabled man who posted a comment against the cuts to disability allowance on Facebook was arrested and had his house searched by the police. This violation of freedom of speech may have implications for censoring speech from now on.

Now, limbless people – even veterans who lost limbs while in Iraq or Aghanistan aren’t entitled to disability benefits and have to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance, which means they get monitored and harassed, having to go to the Jobcentre at inconvenient times and wasting their time seeing advisors. What a great reward the government is giving them for their sacrifice in the wars the government started.

It was Victorian ideals that gave us the welfare state that now is crumbling around us. Influential Victorians – of which Charles Dickens was one – didn’t approve of punishing people for being poor, or the classical liberal (libertarian) view of laissez-faire, which often meant leaving the poor to die. But now we are marching backwards into pre-Victorianism.

References/links:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/adviser/updates/jsa-sanction-changes/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/04/sanctions-benefit-government-sick-and-disabled-refuse-work-71_n_1853426.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

http://www.causes.com/causes/788577-stop-the-government-taking-benefits-from-the-truly-disabled/actions/1670303?recruiter_id=59034367&utm_campaign=invite&utm_medium=wall&utm_source=fb

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions

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