"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Sunday 7 November 2010

Punishing the Unemployed

We really do seem to be returning to the thinking of the 19th Century where the Protestant Work Ethic - amongst other thought provoking ideas - basically laid forth the idea that the rich were showing God's approval by being rich and the poor God's disapproval by starving.

Iain Duncan Smith - as reported in today's Observer [click on blog title above to read the article] wants Job Seekers to be penalised for their audacity in previously working for industries/workplaces that can no longer retain their services. So to show them their sins and remind them what it is like to maintain "habits and routines" of working life [quote from the article] the suggestion is that the unemployed will have to undertake "mandatory work activity" of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period [quote]. Apparently the Department for Work and Pensions is planning to organise this by contracting private providers who will presumably arrange placing the unemployed with charities, voluntary organisations and so forth.

Lots of objections spring to mind and will probably continue even after I have logged off. The sheer audacity of the way that this has been announced with no regard for the feelings of those who are unfortunate enough to be long term unemployed cannot even be described or listed. However these are just a few additional 'objections' that immediately occur:

1. Will the 'volunteers' in any way displace those already employed? Litter gathering and gardening as suggested in an article on the BBC news homepage should already be covered by local workers, for instance

2. Many of these 'volunteer' jobs will require some sort of training. Who pays the trainers or will they also be taken from those naughty, naughty individuals in the ranks of the unemployed?

3. Fares/Expenses: One assumes that in areas where the population of unemployed is in a higher ratio to the employed than others there will be less 'volunteer' jobs to go around. Therefore there will be fares/expenses involved in the logistics of 'matching' individuals and work. This will surely put the benefits bill up?

4. Insurance: These part-time/temporary workers will have to be insured. They may not be permitted to use machinery because training is insufficient and insurance would not cover.

5. At the end of the mandatory work period where are the jobs that our 'volunteers' are now raring to fill? Would I be cynical to suggest that nothing will have changed really? The real winners will be bureaucracy - a lot of forms will have been completed and possibly a few more civil service jobs created? And the private providers that are organising the scheme of course. Oh but wait a minute - wasn't that one of the ConDem pledges to cut down on bureaucracy and the Civil Service? I must have misheard that.

Picture today is of Robert Tressell's grave - author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. I may have mentioned this book before. Tressell may be spinning in his grave today. I hope not, may he [and the others with him] sleep gently.


  1. Beautifully put,and well thought out unlike Duncan Smiths suggestions. This is really reminding me of the 80s, and not in a good way. I was long term unemployed, and still remember how bad it made me feel, the depression and sense of uselesness. Being poor and having to shop at jumble sales. Jumble sales and charity shops are only ok if you do not have to shop in them all the time.
    I did a lot of voluntary work, I bitterly resented working for nothing when I needed paid work but felt I had no option. Eventually I got short term contracts working..in the job centre! Not fun, but in the long run I got a place on a professional course. Id like to say it was easy after thet, it wasnt and isnt. Working in the public sector I have inadvertantly becoming another kind of "lazy scum"..... It makes me sick that people now are facing what we faced in the 80s, that I and others may face it again.
    I think when trying to get into work, you do have to consider unpaid work, you do have to take jobs you dont want, but all this needs to be done with support and in the right circumstances. Eg in circumstances where you are likely to get a job you can at least bear at the end of it.
    I can still remember after 25 years, how tiring it was being unemployed, how confidence and motivation evaporates much more quickly than you would think possible.
    I suspect people who are unemployed now will face a worse situation than we did in the 80s. It should not be acceptable in a civilized society.

  2. Oh Anonymous, you have put into words what I suspected would be the feelings of so many unemployed, to pick just one of your comments: 'how confidence and motivation evaporates much more quickly than you would think possible.' I have seen this in friends and when I hear those like IDS pontificating about the 'job shy' and how proposed schemes are "to break into the habit of worklessness" [again quoting the Observer article] I want to cry with grief and frustration.

  3. Back to All things Bright and Beautiful!

  4. Well said the two comments above.
    I am a carer for my wife who has mental health problems and pysical disabilities, she is so socially phobic and agoraphobic she cannot even go to her own medical breast scans and has not been out of the house for years, this daily hatred of people like her from media and certain papers and politicians is making her and many others think that ending it all might be a better option, who would choose a life of fear, made worse by more fear heaped on top, it's terrible to see, and sadly it's a more common thought and feeling with those in similar circumstances.

  5. Indeed, Mrs Alexander has a lot to answer for and unfortunately the sentiments expressed in the now largely unsung verse of 'All things Bright and Beautiful' still exist in some sections of society.

  6. There seems to be a problem logging names into the comment box at the moment - I have tried and could not do it either!
    So to 'Anonymous' who wrote at 20:33, thank you very much for sharing your own and your wife's stories with us. Her story is just the sort of
    experience I was worried about when I wrote 'no regard for the feelings of those who are unfortunate enough to be long term unemployed'. Those in power who think up these new schemes and announce them in such a way have no feelings or shame.