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Social Security

Looking through the Universal Jobmatch site, as I do every day, I saw a cleaning job for 14 hours at the minimum wage: £86 a week. Is this my future? It’s not a job is it; 14 hours that won’t change (cleaning the local Tesco Express of all things) in a job that isn’t a career. I still can’t face doing it though, but who will accept that? It makes me sound like a baby thumbing his nose at a spoonful of mushy carrots – urgh!

That’s the nature of neuro diverse psychology; it was the same when I last worked, which was in a garden centre. I just couldn’t handle it, though it was full time. Funny how people are hounded into applying for work, no matter the cost, but nobody cares how little you get paid. There’s no negotiation on this: here are the jobs Universal Jobmatch says is available, times are tight (who’s fault’s that then?), so you have to get your brush down to Tesco and sweep the floor for a tiny sum of money you can’t possibly live on.

This is social security: people simply have to have a minimum, whether from welfare or wages, otherwise they can’t live. They need to meet the cost of living. Claiming benefits isn’t just about getting a sum of money every fortnight, it’s about getting your NI paid so you can have money when you reach retirement age otherwise you’re going to be in the gutter in your dotage. Is that a solution to anything? On £86 a week you are in the worst of all worlds: you don’t qualify for tax credits (soon to be Universal Credit), but if you are still able to sign on just to get the stamp paid you will still have to meet the requirements for JSA just as if you were looking for work. It’s a ridiculous situation.

The vacancies found on UJM are fraught at best: I doubt any of these will exist a year from now. Indeed many are explicitly temporary. How does this help build a career or a future? But it remains the only game in town: the precariat has to fight over the crumbs at the bottom while kept unaware these crumbs are so lightweight that any turbulence from the pervasive and ceaseless winds of economic depression could blow them away in a second. Consequently those employed will be back searching on UJM in short order.

Naturally people will read this as mere excuse making on my part. If that’s what they want to think then let them think it. I’m not going to devote paragraphs to disabusing these people of their brainwashing. That’s what it is, sorry. If you are one such person then you have indeed been brainwashed; thirty plus years of neoliberal freemarketeer lead capitalism has brought us to this point while the pictures printed of feckless psychopaths and xbox owning idlers have convinced you that people need to be made to work no matter what the cost or the outcome because they must be saved from themselves.

But these aren’t all Mick Philpott. We are people that live lives and have skills and talents that are being deliberately wasted by a government who’d rather I wound up in a job, no matter how unsuitable or how unable to cope I would be (even at 2 hours a day – and I’ve done cleaning jobs before a plenty, so don’t think me squeamish or a snob).

Why is there no discussion? I think we need to force the issue. If we believe in concepts of responsibility then surely it is necessary for us to fight for what we believe for the best of society, now more than ever. This of course is high minded rhetoric, but we cannot continue as we are. It’s that simple in my view. To that end we need at the very least a general strike.

People need not to participate in society, paying government more money to squander at the commons bar, on expenses, or corporate feel good events, but instead to withdraw. That would force the issue. At the moment I cannot interact with the system so I can only ever be seen as feckless and lazy. The only game in town is to either apply for the part time cleaning job (even though I’m on pre-assessment ESA) or be sanctioned. If that is the best we can manage then god help us; we don’t’ deserve to be called a society.

We have Jobcentres, we have work psychologists, we have talented people marginalised and disenfranchised and the best we can do is to apply for precariat work? Why is there no negotiation with this system? Why can’t I work with the likes of a work psychologist to move forward? Why can’t such people (as is my experience) have real influence to diagnose and help people? Instead we just take a look at someone and, because they can walk and talk clearly(ish), assume they are fully capable of holding down a job and doing what we want?

Meanwhile I look on this ridiculous site daily. It’s a massive headache because they can’t even get it right. Everything is stacked against the unemployed when even the help that is offered is so feeble and itself so prejudicial. I say don’t apply for this kind of work. Instead we should introduce the citizen’s wage, and then we could do away with the likes of the Jobcentre. I could for example top up that wage with an £86 cleaning job. I could pay £6 out of that as tax (on top of VAT, and my spending in the economy thus paying for itself). Everyone gets the same so no need for division. We could have proper career building/finding services to help people find work that is useful, and, because people are no longer so income dependent, meaningless exploitative work is relegated into history.

Won’t happen though; it’s not in the Tories’ interests.


  1. You're absolutely right about the non-suitability of many of the jobs out there, although the assumption that "a job" (i.e. any job) is something we should be happy with is nothing new. I was on the New Deal for 18-24 year olds around a decade ago, and one of our number was an obviously talented artist/illustrator who wanted to go into some sort of illustrating work. Our "tutor" at the time wouldn't have it, and forced him to apply for a job labouring on building sites. What a waste of talent and potential that someone with obvious artistic ability could be forced into some sort of menial job, and what a thing for society that we would label someone a "scrounger" - not because they don't want to work, but simply because they want to work in something they have genuine prospects in.

    It is no wonder so many people become disillusioned with the whole concept of work when they are told they must take any job, even if there is something else they could genuinely aspire to, and all they need is a little help along the way.

    1. The truth is there are probably people better suited to such a job: students etc, as I say. Surely we should be wiorking with people and not against people. Unfortunately the prevailing attitudes make that impossible as people are just hardwired to scream and shout the moment someone's response is anything other than "yes sir, how high". As if the world is about to come crashing down if I don't work a 14 hour job cleaning a shitty supermarket.

      There is no discussion at all. Not even from the JC+. At first they might seem helpful, but that quickly disappears as they tell you that you have to take what's available. I cannot see that approach leading to anything other than failure. Wasting talent and lives this way is far worse than 'sitting on the dole'. It's even one of the functions of the Work Programme - except the Salvation Army vehemently denies this.

      The DWP employs Work Psychologists, yet they do nothing it seems to actually support people. Isn't that a waste?

    2. Very true, and the failure of the Work Programme speaks volumes. People need help - genuine help - not the "take this job or we'll sanction you" approach that is the WP's way.

      Is it any wonder long term unemployed people are more likely to find themselves a job through their own efforts than be "helped" into work by the WP?

    3. Threatening people is never help. Of course they can't make you take jobs, they can make you apply. There's a big difference (though they might sanction you if they discover you refused an offer of work). They regard not applying as the same as not taking the job - a job you might not have been offered anyway. When you do apply you have to do it with as big a smile on your face as possible. The slightest whiff of non-compliance and you'll be treated as having sabotaged the interview.

      The system is simply adversarial, as is society.

  2. I have to say I agree with both of you, but I still find it hard to justify to myself about not applying for certain jobs. I think it's mainly because on this work programme I've been told by certain horrible members of staff that I'm not going to get an above minimum wage job and that I should take what I can get. I don't know...I know the area I would like to work in but it's really difficult at the moment, I just hate the WP so much, my advisor admits that it's a waste of time but she has to do it because it's her job. At least she admits it though.

    1. It's easy to tell someone they'll never get more than the NMW when these are the people that control the paradigm and pay the wages. It's the same excuses the bosses make for not paying people - while avoiding tax themselves and demanding schools shape children into perfect employees (so as not to pay for training of course). The ruling class want it all their way while complaining about scroungers. It's just pure hypocrisy.

      The fundamental issue is this: people out of work have to be made to feel like shit and have to be rendered worthless otherwise they will soon realise just how much of a joke these jobs are. If that were to happen these people and their pointless enterprises would go bust. Then there'd be no dreadful call centres, bean counters, ambulance chasers, sales and marketing people and all the rest of the parasites. A friend once told me that everyone should do a spell on the dole to expunge conformity from their mind. I agreed and still do.

      My advisor is kind of the same. In a way that's more depressing. That they know it's shit and are still content to be paid from it.

  3. have to apply for a full time of sixteen hours or more anyway


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