Friday, 30 September 2011

The Angry Unemployed

Being unemployed can produce negative feelings related to low self esteem. These could come from things like not feeling like a fully contributing member of society, not being able to afford to do things other people can and not being able to give to others as you might like. These feelings could make you feel like an inadequate parent, sibling, child, (neither being mutually exclusive) or however you may relate to another. In some cases these negative feelings can be severe enough to contribute to the development of clinical depression. The Royal College of Psychiatrist’s report that “research has shown that up to 1 in 7 men who become unemployed will develop a depressive illness in the next 6 months.”

Being depressed can lead to feeling angry that things are going so wrong for us and being angry about the seeming hopelessness of the situation. From experience I can say that although being depressed can lead to feelings of anger your negative feelings do not need to be so severe to feel angry. The same thoughts that lead to feelings of low self esteem do at times lead to a feeling of anger and resentment about the situation.

I would not be surprised if this type of anger contributed to the riots that occurred in August. The Guardian newspaper claims that “Researchers found that in almost all of the worst-affected areas, youth unemployment and child poverty were significantly higher than the national average…”

Government and society’s negative attitude towards unemployed.
These negative feelings that accompany unemployment can be reinforced by the negative attitudes that the general public and government appear to express towards the unemployed.

There seems to be general opinion that people often choose to be unemployed. This idea can be reached when hearing often used comments such as “those lazy scroungers” and “…living off our hard earned taxes”. This idea that some people choose to receive benefits rather then work for a living seems to be reinforced by Alistair Darling’s initiative to pay incapacity benefits for a fixed period only. At the end of that period, if the claimant wishes to continue to receive the benefit, they would need to be reassessed and make a fresh claim to ensure that they are still entitled to the benefit and are not simply scamming the benefits system.

David Cameron says we will help the deserving but come down hard on the work-shy, again suggesting that there is a hardcore that chooses to not work.

I find it impossible to tell when government policies concerning us long-term unemployed are guided by the disapproval of the voters and when the attitude of the public is fuelled by the rhetoric of the government. It is my opinion that they feed each other. At times government policy and public opinion seem geared towards punishing those on benefits.

A drive to punish benefit claimants
The government is considering cutting the benefits of parents of children who regularly truant. They do not say what punishment they would mete out to the parents of children who constantly play truant but are not on benefits.

This idea of cutting the benefits of the parent is coming from the government of a country that is signed up to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Each nation that has signed up to the convention is obligated to do their best to meet each convention, one of which is to take steps to end child poverty. It is curious that even though under an obligation to end child poverty the government is still prepared to speak of policies that will obviously increase the poverty of the children of some those who are claiming state benefits.

The apparent desire of the government to punish those on benefits seems to be echoed by the public. More than 100, 000 people signed a petition to have the state benefits of those found guilty of rioting cut. The works and pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith is considering cutting the benefits of anybody who is sent to prison for rioting. There is no talk of what will happen if that person happens to not be on benefits. Perhaps the public and the government are saying that it is only people who are on benefits that riot or they are saying that they will give preferential treatment to those who are able to keep themselves away from state benefits.

Request for a change of attitudes
Considering that there has been so much talk about rioters and their benefits it would be interesting to know how many rioters were actually on benefits. If the vast majority were on benefits it would be interesting to know how much society’s attitudes towards them had lead to anger that might have contributed to the development of the riots. I believe it would be safe to say that the majority of rioters did not know the man whose shooting lead to the original riot.

There must be some way to channel these emotions so they can become productive and not destructive. A change in society’s attitudes might help to cut down the possible incidences of anger and other negative emotions and the undesirable consequences that might come with them. I consider it to be better to focus on the solutions to unemployment than to point a finger at the unemployed. I do understand that there will be those who will wish to keep pointing a finger, because it helps them to feel better about themselves. I believe that it is better to search for a cure for the illness (metaphorically speaking) than to simply criticise the illness and those who suffer from it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Welfare to work - the new way, with the new government

I've spoken about the Government's much trumpeted Work Programme before, well the other day it was my turn. That's to say, I was asked to turn up for an interview with a training provider.

I was quite worried about this, having been through something very similar before: treated like I was a six year old, harried, badgered, and patronised by a government-appointed bunch of idiots who would have trouble walking an old lady across the road, never mind helping the long term unemployed to return to the world of work.

So I duly turned up at the appointed time, wondering quite what to expect. I had been assured by the dole office that I'd be able to continue with my voluntary work. This was after my adviser had consulted one of her superiors and they had deemed it "worthwhile experience". (their words not mine) So there I was, bang on time for my initial assessment armed with my CV and three jobs I was interested in, as requested and there was my personal adviser, suited and booted, all welcoming, so far so good.

Over the next fifty minutes he proceeded to bore me almost to tears. His need to record the most basic information took an age and then he proceeded to witter on about all the things he would be able to do for me. He then explained at great length the intricacies of how his company would be getting paid by the government. (As if I could give a stuff) One of the last things he covered was my CV. He said: "Don't worry about this, I'll re-do this for you for when you come in next time."

I'm not worried in the slightest about my CV, it's not bang-up to date, but it's quite well put together and says pretty much what I want it to say, on top of which if I wanted to improve it, he doesn't spring to mind as the first person I'd go to for advice. Relieved that the whole thing was over and done with at least for a fortnight, I trudged off thinking same-old, same-old and thinking that I'd have to put up with that sanctimonious tosser for goodness knows how long.

So that's kind of what I think but there's been plenty of other people with something to say on the subject. Take the Social Market Foundation for instance; this is the think tank who are widely regarded as being behind the idea of the Work Programme in the first place. On their home page of their website the very first item reads: "The Government's flagship back to work programme at risk of financial collapse, says think tank." They go on to say: "over 90% of Work Programme providers will be at risk of having their contracts terminated by DWP even by year three of the scheme," The SMF don't mince their words: "it is no great surprise that a department led by Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) and Lord Freud (Minister for Welfare Reform) managed to introduce a multi-billion pound jobs programme funded on the basis of wishful thinking and over optimistic predictions."

Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister within the DWP describes the Work Programme as "revolutionary", the Government publicity is similarly upbeat: "the centrepiece of the most sweeping welfare reform for 60 years, restoring the system to its founding principles, the most ambitious back to work programme this country has ever seen." The Home Editor for the BBC, Mark Easton is more circumspect: "it will be in the fine print of the contracts that the grand claims for the Work Programme will be decided."

Suffice to say it isn't only me that has doubts about the Government's Work Progamme, I'll leave the last word, for now, to someone who I suspect knows quite a lot about this matter; Kirsty McHugh who is the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association. "But what about the economy? Where are the jobs going to come from?"