Friday, 19 March 2010

Unemployment is a time bomb awaiting to go off!

My fortnightly trip to the Jobcentre is always a rush job, filling in the booklet, entering the job searches that I’m supposed to have undertaken since my last visit, always done an hour or so before I sign-on, of course I don’t do the job searches, what’s the point, the few jobs that are available are mostly low paid and miles away from my home in Canning Town, travelling throughout London these days is an expensive business, and the time involved rules-out at least for me, this drudgery, and personally I'm not worried about being unemployed, I view any kind of work particularly for someone else as ‘slavery’ and a waste of my time, the income earned these days would have evaporated in costs involved even before I’d had the time to count it out!

I’m not a lazy person or am I work shy, but even on the minimum wage I would be struggling to pay my rent and the other housing costs, so what’s the point?

However when last I attended this by now customary ritual and government prescribed procedure; I had a very interesting and enlightening chat with the young man who is now my advisor and whom aerates my claim within the system. I remember the first time we met he was sitting alongside my last adviser who was training him in the procedures and ways of receiving and processing claimant's, and as I like nothing more than to have and engage in friendly banter, as I find it helps to facilitate and make easier the whole experience as well as preventing the staff member from recognising a member of the awkward squad, as that’s how I feel and not through choice, anyhow I enquired about the recent industrial action taken by members of the PCS union; had he taken part I asked, and to my delight he said he had, there then followed a general discussion about the threats posed to his and other public workers' jobs, and I told him about the attacks and the regime change that would be forcing, bullying the unemployed into demeaning dead-end low-paid employment, I was surprised that his knowledge was somewhat lacking, that he had no idea what the government was intending or what was being rolled out for those of us who are unemployed, and I suppose the same can be said about many of the unemployed, they have no idea what’s going on or how it will effect them until it happens in the very near future. During the conversation with my adviser he told me that he considered himself to be fortunate if not lucky, that he was in work, as he had spent a year out of work and on the dole. He told me that this was the best he could do for the time being; his preferred field of work the tourist/holiday business had taken a real nose dive and in more ways than one, first the impact of the recession, the tightening of the domestic belt has meant less holidays being taken abroad, and secondly wages had dropped so much that it was not worth his while working in that industry, he was not amused when I said that things were not that much better in his present occupation when you consider that some of his colleges were earning just 24 pence more than the minimum wage.

While I remember this, it’s worth recalling that travel agency Thomas Cook was branded 'despicable and heartless' for charging its employees cancellation fees in 2008 for holidays they booked through the firm but were unable to take because of being made redundant by the firm, that would give you some idea just how ruthless capitalism can adhere too, even to a loyal workforce, but loyalty has never accounted for anything

The Century of Self

The Century of the Self is a British television documentary film by Adam Curtis. It was first screened in the UK in four parts in 2002 and I’ve put a clip from YouTube underneath this as I think it holds some interesting significance worthy of consideration, there’s plenty on the net about this documentary for those of you that would like to research in more detail. However I’m reminded just how dangerous that Sigmund Freud and his decedents really are in the world, manipulating, controlling and holding capitalism in place, I have more to say about this particular family in further posts in the future, but in the meantime let’s recognise family member Lord David Freud, so who is (Lord) David Freud? Well he is one of a clutch of bankers who were brought in to use their expertise (presumably their expertise in mucking up the banking system and the rest of the economy along with it) in the service of government. They let Freud loose on welfare reform. “I didn’t know anything about welfare at all when I started.” he admitted, “but that may have been an advantage...In a funny way the solution was obvious.”
The solution, according to Freud, was twofold:

First, coerce the unemployed back to work with benefit cuts and workfare, and

Enrich the private sector while doing so.

Then with workfare and welfare reform in place David Freud quiet advising the government and is now a frontbench spokesman for the Conservatives, that’s the politics of the ruling class for you!
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Welfare Reform: who will it affect?

A big thanks to Hazel Kent and the blog MULE for the following information about who’s likely to be hit hardest by the Government’s latest welfare-cutting masterplan.

The long-term unemployed

Unemployed workers will be forced to enter into Work for your Benefit schemes, which are being trialled in Manchester from October 2010. Claimants will be forced to enter up to six month long work placements – which they have not chosen – in order to claim benefits.

Low-waged workers

The position of low-waged workers, who in the current economic climate are already struggling to stay in work, will also be affected by the schemes. As benefit claimants are put in placements where they are not paid, unemployed people could basically be used as cheap labour, undermining those in paid jobs and their working conditions. It could also lead to a loss of long-term contracted jobs. In New York, where the similar Workfare scheme was introduced, 30,000 union jobs were lost within the first few years.

Jobcentre workers

The Public and Commercial Services Union have been active in fighting the Welfare Reform Bill from the outset. Included in the Bill are suggestions for Jobcentres to move towards privatisation, and follow a model used by call centres.
This change has already resulted in less face to face interaction between Jobcentre workers and jobseekers. In Manchester, the local Disability Benefit Centre was closed in November 2009. Users must now call or go to Blackpool or Preston. Jobcentre workers have complained that they will no longer provide specialist support, and there have already been many job cuts. Outreach support for carers and pensioners has been taken away, though single parent advisors still exist.

Many people working for the Department of Work and Pensions already claim Income Support and the basic wage for a clerical assistant is only 24p above minimum wage. The Government has pledged to invest £15 million into private schemes, but only £3.5 million into Jobcentre run schemes.

Single parents

Single parents with a child aged 10 or above will be expected to attend workbased interviews, with benefits cut if they do not attend. Single parents are being moved from Income Support to Jobseekers Allowance – meaning if someone turns down a job offer or is deemed not to be making enough effort to seek work, their benefits will be cut under ‘sanctions’. The move is supposedly aimed at eradicating poverty. However, it does not address root problems such as insufficient affordable childcare and inflexible working hours.

At present, single parents are often better able to cope on benefits than if they were working and having to pay childcare costs. The English Collective of Prostitutes has warned they are expecting an increase in women entering sex work with the change in legislation. The age a child should be before a parent returns to work keeps falling; first from 16 to 12 and, since October 2009, to 10. From October 2010 it will be 7. On top of this, single mothers will be forced to register both parents’ names on the birth certificate, meaning that if a woman has been coerced or abused, she must still use the father’s name on official documentation.

Alcohol and drug dependents

Those with an alcohol or drug dependency, some of the most vulnerable in society, can be forced to comply with a treatment programme. Drug and alcohol abuse is already dealt with by the penal and health systems, and many have questioned whether extra pressure from the welfare system will actually help those in need.
There is also a suggestion that Jobcentre workers may be given access to police records, or be encouraged to probe into people’s personal lives. These ideas have been heavily criticised by Liberty, the civil rights campaign group. They worry that people who are in need of benefits may not claim them for fear of having to disclose a dependent.

Incapacity Benefit claimants

Incapacity Benefit is, in effect, being removed and replaced by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Many concessions have been won on ESA by disabled rights campaigners but problems persist. A person’s ability to work is judged on physical capacity to perform daily tasks, but ESA does not fully take into account how this translates to a working environment.
Currently more than half of claimants claimin for ill health have mental health problems. It has been reported that the drive to get people off Incapacity Benefit and into work is making claimants more ill with stress. Conditions and sanctions can be put in place to try to force them into potentially unsuitable work. If they refuse their benefits could be cut. The system is so confusing that independent support groups have already appeared online.

At present it is still unclear who will be judging capacity to work, and it is possible that Jobcentre workers, who are untrained in mental health, will have to take on this responsibility.

This article is from one of the MULE volunteers who write and distribute 10,000 copies for free in Manchester.

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