There’s a lot of assumptions about people who happen to be unemployed. I’m not gonna lie – some of them have truth to them. A lot of are directionless and are resigned to the dole money we receive from the Job Centre. Some of us do spend it on cheap pleasures and otherwise unproductive things that in no way betters their situation. While that is true for some of unemployed, our society as a result of the cynical campaign headed by unscrupulous ministers and their colleagues to paint the unemployed as a whole as in requirement of the proper motivation. This is where the targeting of the austerity measures came in, and the rise of the term “work-shy”.
There are various problems faced when the unemployed walk into the Job Centre. So much of the unemployed over 40+ with a skill set that was either practical; or otherwise involved a set of skills outside the professional, now suddenly find themselves having to use a PC in order to try to find work, and to justify trying to find work. It is not an easy transition to adjust to, and requires a level of patience that the workers at the Job Centre cannot give, and a level of dignity that isn’t always up for offer. For those who have had professional work, yet somehow found themselves unemployed, the former is less of an issue while the latter is much worse – all the more because of their predicament, in spite of the fact that they do not have much control of their own job security.
For those unemployed who spent the majority of their lives in education – the final stages either at college or university – the problem is somewhere in the middle. We’re the first generation to be raised on the usage of the Internet, and yet for those who us who aren’t the so-called ‘go-getters’ and or among those that haven’t been stuck in minimum wage jobs ill-matched for their level of education, find themselves at the Job Centre all the same – often to get to the second example.
The function of Universal Jobmatch sure doesn’t make it any easier: It is an atrocious website that looks like something out of the 90s, and does nothing to recover the details of your account in order to let the work coaches know that, yes, you have been doing for work.
With Universal Credit, it’s a little different: Here it’s insured that all of our job-related activities are updated online on the website with the penalty of having your payment reduced if in anyway you don’t comply if what is required of you. This is where I come in: I’ve recently (as in hours ago) completed my application for Universal Credit. The simple reason being that there was little guarantee that I would be able to find new work despite my last month-2016-end-of-year enthusiasm before the money I earned ran out. I spent a year and-a-half beholden to the Job Centre and now after two months, it’s happened again – the worst part is, as explained in my last article, it’s getting much harder to pretend anymore to want to get roles that you don’t actually want. This is where the question “where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” becomes an inane one. I mean, what honestly am I supposed to respond to that at this point? I could only mouth that I wanted to be in an admin position. My only paid experience in bloody KFC – what the hell was I supposed to say?
In any case, I now have to search for work every day – essentially what I’ve been doing already – except to let them know on their website of the activities that I’ve done, as the monitoring of people’s work-activities will determine the justification of getting Universal Credit. This is the part that is never mentioned to British society about the unemployed: Over and over again, they have to justify why they should receive payments – which in themselves are barely enough to live on, even if it means performing tasks beyond their ability. It gets even worse for those of us with disabilities, as shown in the disability rights marches against the DWP’s “Fit For Work” assessments. While I do have a disability, it isn’t (well, not always, and even now I can’t be sure – mental illness is like that) currently affecting my ability to work. The pressure to earn money, and the dearth of opportunities is however, affecting the avenues that I go to in order to find work, and the places that I search for it. It seems like the only real safety net was education, and even that drove me round the bend.
And now to take it back to the ‘guzzling beer scroungers’ stereotype: Those that embody this have already been beaten down by this system. I imagine that they’ve had several sanctions already, but are beyond caring because they’ve just figured out how best to survive (sort of – definitely not live) with the money that they receive. They are past the point of even caring what the state does to them, because they won’t do anything different that makes their lives any less despairing than it already is. There’s an entire nation apathetic about the unemployed regardless of whether they just left school to find themselves jobless, or spent most of their adult life without ever receiving a wage. And when the right employment is like running through a maze in this current climate, with ever increasing obstacles, apathy becomes all the more seductive and alluring to us as well. Precisely what is not demanded of the unemployed to do.