You’d think the Welfare State would be important to the economy. Surely it’s manpower, skills and people that make a country. No? It’s bombs is it? Governments are really just large scale adolescents aren’t they? Maybe pre-pubescents.

Big Dipper

So we’re in a big dipper recession. The one that must have inspired the Saw ride at Thorpe Park. And while the government have never stopped, looked and asked themselves who would know details about their friends, families or neighbours to sufficiently prove they were frauding benefits to progress on from advertising to ordinary citizens to sneak on those closes to them, good, honest, intelligent, keen to work and skilled people with BAs and MAs are being humiliated and squelched by the system that pretends to benefit them.

I experienced it myself in my early twenties, when i first moved to a bedsit in North London and claimed housing benefit and income support.

Before I recount my experiences, I have this to say.

What I found utterly despicably hypocritical is how the UK wheeled out lots of musical talent from David Bowie, Annie Lennox, the Kinks for the Olympics Closing Ceremony etc, who would simply have got nowhere if it hadn’t been for a system that recognised that people emerging from education would take time to find their way into work. There would be no busking or time for rehearsing, they’d be bogged down with red tape, farmed out to Poundland to work 70 hours a week as friends of mine do in retail.

Who the hell is going to represent the UK the next time we host the Olympics? Most of today’s stars, even the Rolling Stones, will be in nursing homes by then. Simon Cowell with a face like Darth Vader driving a busload of kindergarten kids on his Stars of Tomorrow Pension Plan fund? Or they’d better get their hologram machine ready for Freddie Mercury’s big come back.

Today the pressure and the hard sell is on to dupe every and any school leaver into a degree, which costs £9,000 a year for course fees alone. Then there’s living, travelling, food costs before the student lifestyle even starts. Where would John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and countless other comedians be if they had the pressures most students have on them at university? Oh wait, they’d still be at Oxbridge, which doesn’t have to worry so much about league tables so they carry on as they have since Tudor times. An art BA student would likely come out £45,000 in debt.

Now it wouldn’t take Sigmund Freud to advise the government that the level of financial pressure to have to earn £30,000 in your first job to even scrape by in a flat in London would lead the strongest person to constant failure. This is not good for the health. People are not productive when they are stressed to hell and back. People are not productive when they can see no hope.

In low economic times, employers become – in a shoot themselves in the foot kind of way –  like mini Simon Cowell’s for even the most no-brainer, lowly-paid, oversold, overworked job vacancy.

Do they not think to themselves, “hmmm….that’s four people who’ve joined and gone in a month?’ Do people not realise that the results they get from the world are their doing?’ Responsibility is not blame or duty but the ability to respond and the ability to take a response. It costs to advertise, interview, select and train. and the stupidest thing of all is that even the most locked-in-room PHD student with the top mark in micro-surgery-fission-dynamic-engineering can flip a burger. So why not just fill your vacancies on a first come first served basis and treat them like human beings. You don’t know what you’re missing, and what you’re missing Bonzo employers is MUCH MORE PROFIT. Try running your retail empires on your own. Or with a bunch of robots….oh sorry, you wanted robots to substitute humans to substitute robots etc. But humans programme robots, or maybe they use robots to programme robots but it has to start with a human so you can’t do without.

It is just bullying. People are forced into a state of debilitation, ok, they are disabled by the welfare state, then they are ridiculed and lambasted in the press and humiliated by people put in a position to do just that.

Here are my experiences.

In 1994 I moved to a bedsit in North London and claimed housing benefit plus income support. In the 3 years that I was a claimant, I went to Job Club regularly, had a thorough look for any job I could do as I was desperate to be away from a system that crushes your confidence – not nice when your confidence isn’t great thanks to being turned down for jobs I could do standing on my head. I also went to Job Plan Workshop, which was exactly like Pauline on the League of Gentlemen. Pens!!!

The system does not want to recognise the fact that many people in a position to employ are those who have got through the education system in a normal way. You could say they have been successfully processed. Perhaps it could be considered that those with a so-called ‘learning difficulty’ are those that don’t accept being processed and can see a better way. A learning difficulty is in fact a teaching difficulty.

As always, with any under represented group, why are the majority so scared of them that they need to constantly bully, dominate and control them? Why aren’t people with Dyslexia just allowed to get on with it like my parents were? Neither my parents went to university and both were successful. My mum was a natural teacher and did a PGCE when you didn’t need a degree at the time to do it. You face discrimination in education and discrimination in the workplace. You face discrimination from ignorant people who feel threatened by actual intelligence, ability to overcome adversity, solve problems and think outside the dirty stinking box. Why would adults spend so much energy telling children they can’t do this – when actually by being human you have unlimited potential, which is why humans still exist after millions of years – and to dictate what they want to hear to get the grades if they weren’t threatened by people who want to do things in their own natural way?

AT Job Club in Holloway North London, I combined looking for a bread-and-butter job and making applications with writing for the local paper that would qualify me to do a further qualification in journalism. Journalism is even called a ‘profession’ not that these people knew that. I had written an article – something Pauline in Job Plan Workshop had approved me doing – and asked the guy how to put it on disk. There was a text stream going across my computer screen that said: ‘Stop What You Are Doing. You Should be LOOKING FOR A JOB.’. The guy literally yelled at me, pointing at the screen: ‘Can’t you read? You should be looking for a job. Get on with it.’

He walked off. (That was person #1 in a job that they were not able to do sufficiently efficiently). Henceforth I got a place at the London College of Communication to do a postgraduate certificate in periodical journalism to start in April (slipstreamed because I got such a high mark in the entry process) or September 1997. It is the most competitive journalism course in the country and I got on it because I’d been writing for a local newspaper, plus other published works since the age of 15. This was despite having undetected Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD and possibly Aspergers and being over half deaf in both ears (60DbHL) and not having any hearing aids. As a result of the course I got a job as an editorial assistant in 1998 after working for the Camden New Journal for 2 months in an unpaid placement. My starting salary aged 27? £8,000 pa.

After leaving this job on salary of £15,500 – reeled back after 9/11 a bit – in role of Associate Editor of 14 business magazines – I had to go back onto benefits until I got my next job. Off I went down the Hornsey Road job centre to be a job seeker. One day, I asked for the application form for a job I thought I could do (previous experience required, tight, polished, a go-getter, blah blah level qualifications for a washing up role in a busy central London cafe or something similar. Retail). The guy who I went to was someone who seemed human and I had a laugh with them. I was also treated well as I was ‘pro-active’. I filled in the form and went to leave. The guy said, ‘wait, I have to give you this letter. The printer isn’t working.’ (spot person #2 who is in a job they were unable to do sufficiently efficiently). The printer failed again. I said I had the form and could go and post it. I had the address on the form. He said I had to wait for the letter. When it did eventually print off it said ‘Please fill in application form, put in stamped envelope and send to address on the form.’ I could not believe it. Then I looked and saw the human-seeming careers officer guy was in fact a gargoyle after all.

I wasn’t going to mess with these people as I had declared sporadic work for Silver Service that I had done while attending Job Club in Archway in 1995 so the woman who had done nothing to help me got paid for this success and got hauled into an interview office to be questioned about how much work I was doing while claiming benefits. There lies the trap. Being told off for getting and declaring work.

Education Sector: Stop raising the stupid qualification bar. Higher education does indeed give you a qualification to be stupid. You are sinking this country! And the Training Development Agency should go the way of quangos.

It is all a mess. Sharon Michin in Cornwall declared that she had to receive benefits as a recently divorced mother living in her marital home and was working unpaid in accountancy, having earned over £100,000pa – on highest rate of tax – before she got married and had children. She said she needed a salary of £36,000 to cover her basic living expenses. The Daily Mail turned this into her being a £70,000 benefit sponger. The company she was working for, unpaid, had offered her a £20,000 pa job as ‘her skills were not up to date.’

The only people who are causing such chaos are those that have an agenda which suits them personally. These people are too many in positions of power and are literally ‘licensed to bully ‘ anyone they have authority over.

The Telegraph summed up a jobsworth very well. It is someone who has no authority or power in their role but has the opportunity to wind up any members of the public who need to interact with them by being obtuse and blocking them. Why? Because it’s the only way they can get off.

There should be a new TV quiz game show. One team is made up of people in paid jobs and the other team is made up of people on benefits. Another team is of CEOs and managing directors and the other team is of homeless people.

The problem is, people stagnate in their jobs as business owners have no idea about ‘transferable skills’ even though the top person in most companies, the Chief Executive Officer, is considered able to run any type of company from a bubblegum factory to a network of state prisons. Workplace bullying is rife, people take their jobs for granted, pull sickies, spend all day on Internet porn or will fulfill their role to the minimum when they have been given no opportunity for advancement, equal recognition to their peers, further training – except health and safety – variety of purpose, opportunity to be useful, have responsibility, solve problems or use their brains.

Use their brains? Now that is something I couldn’t stop myself doing at school, and so got bad grades as I was fooled into thinking I was there to learn. Not to absorb what the teacher was saying without thinking to regurgitate onto an exam paper and forget it immediately afterwards. Whereas, because I had to teach myself to learn, as even at the age of 7 the way I was being taught was difficult because it seemed so ridiculous, I remember loads of information I learned at school.

The hardest thing I found in most jobs, and the reason I got most told off by bosses, was that I found it really hard not to think and try to find a better, more economical or efficient way of doing my job all the time. I found it really hard to do a job in a way I thought was wasteful or stupid when I could clearly see a better way.

The education sector teaches you not to think and to do as your told. It was invented in 1850 to make people compliant for work in factories to power the industrial revolution.

Only 3% of people even consider frauding the benefits system and they have to have the time and leisure to do it. In other words, they have to lack the social conscious and self respect that 97% of people have naturally. They also need to have read the instructions and be able to say exactly what the system wants to hear. If the system wants to crack down on benefit fraud, it ought to start knowing how to do its job by recruiting people who can recognise and understand fraudulent behaviour. Most people live on too little money to get dressed smartly, spend money on travel, feed themselves, have access to a computer and to buy stamps and do this hundreds of times to get a job when 200 people all are equally able to do that job. Then there’s the confidence crushing, constant vilification in the press and the increased requirement for time and attention to administrate their benefits, unpaid time taken away from focusing on finding, applying and getting a job.

While they’re always focusing on the 3% who might fraud the system, the entire welfare state favours people who want to fraud the system as they are the ones who will find out and say exactly what they want to hear. Genuine, busy, hard-working people juggling families and having a life don’t stand a chance.

And employers are notoriously devious about how realistically they advertise their vacancies

At Glastonbury this year, I met 3 teenage girls who were working as health stewards working for a company, I think called “Capcha” (couldn’t find on Google). They had been told they would earn £x and were being paid much less. They worked 4 x 12 hour shifts from midday to midnight. That meant they couldn’t eat breakfast because they were asleep, shattered, and were too early for lunch. They then didn’t eat for 4 days. To top it all, they were in a flooded campsite and their tents were flooded. They thought about ditching the job but needed the money. This is not the spirit of a festival like Glastonbury. I will post up the name of the contractor when I remember/find it.

If you are in business why not consider:

* Most people can do most jobs, even yours. However many people on benefits are dying to have the dignity of a reasonable paid job and anyone will take time to adjust to the atmosphere and get into the swing of it.

* If you over-sell your jobs then there is only disappointment when people start work.

* High turn over of staff, advertising, interviewing, selecting and training costs lots of money and lowers staff morale.

* You’ll maximise your success if you let people find solutions to problems and allow people to be creative in how they do their jobs if it means doing it quicker and better.

Last rant: Why don’t schools have an efficient rotation system of giving different children responsibility? It seems the same sorts, often the bullies and the bossy ones, always get the responsibilities and voting for form captains is just a popularity contest that disempowers the less pushy kids.

I say this because there is a distinct link, in my mind, between people who have been given responsibilities and positions at school and those who are more confident in the workplace. It is about feeling useful and needed. That is a basic fundamental human right.

We also ought to start managing all our expectations of humans, of jobs, of the education sector, of universities and of day to day financial pressures so that some actual thinking is applied in this massive human area.

2 thoughts on “The Welfare State – and what a state it is in?

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