Friday, 12 June 2009

The mournful story of the Scrounging Sponger Workshy Freeloader

If I have to sit through another lecture from an ill-informed pseudo-conservative about workshy freeloaders (a phrase which surely should have gone out of fashion about ten years ago at least) I might go irreversibly mad. I don't mean "I'm mad, me" mad, I mean properly gibberingly, dribblingly, yelling at pigeons and kids in the street mad. All my belongings in a wheelbarrow, marching it around Leeds singing Popeye the Sailor Man in Spanish mad. You see, I can understand why you'd be irked by people on benefits - you work for money, they get money seemingly for free - but frankly, I really don't care. I am willing to bet my entire Morrissons food shop on the fact that when I graduate from university next year (urgh urgh urgh, tax-dodging student scum etc)I will be jobless and on the dole for at least 3 months. The reason for this amazingly optimistic point of view? Well, an article in the Guardian of course (what else?) which delighted in informing me that this year, 40,000 graduates will leave uni jobless. Seems like the "steamroller everybody into higher education" plan adopted by every High School in the country didn't work out as planned after all. This means that I'll be on benefits. I'm not looking forward to it, as I've heard horror stories about it from anybody I've talked to who's been unlucky enough to have to claim it. I won't be ashamed though - Jobseeker's Allowance is there to help the penny-strapped afford useful things like value mince and black socks for job interviews. Stop telling me people live comfortably off benefits for years and years. Unless you enjoy Findus crispy pancakes, it's pretty hard to live on that amount of money for any stretch of time without having to sell your belongings in order to buy a Wispa to ease your crushing depression.

There are currently plans under-way to make it even harder to claim this money if you need it - for example if you've recently been made homeless because of an abusive relationship breaking down, or you've not been able to get a shitty soul-destroying job in the city for over 2 months because every doomed interview you go to smells of failure before you even shake the manager's clammy hand. Being unemployed is depressing. From now on, I want every person who claims that a person "down their road" is living "the life of Riley" at the taxpayer's expense to give me photographic evidence of their wonderful lives, in the form of paparazzi Holy Moly!-type coverage. "And here they are at Nobu, enjoying some nice lovely sushi...oh, and here's the head of the household getting a pedicure before they head out for lunch at the Hilton..." The Welfare Reform Bill 2008-09 initially looks like a way of getting people back into work after years of unemployment. Aiming it's sights mainly at what Daisy Steiner would call the "cerebrally unemployed", people would be encouraged to go to greater lengths to find work, and would have greater penalties if they refused to do so.

I am henceforth making a concerted effort to remain impartial on the subject while I take you through some of the brand spanking new ideas the Welfare Reform Bill has had to get those pesky joblesses off their interest-free credit sofas and into the streets hawking their wares. After all, the establishment knows what's best for us. (See, impartial.) Of course, there are people who have been unemployed for years who know how to work the system,but these aren't the people I'm talking about. There is no point in my addition to the reams and reams of derision piled up in middle-England about them, so I am not going to bother. I am far more interested in Working Tax Credits and Job Seeker's Allowance. Here are some of the more inspired tweakings of the system making it's way through the Lords' as we speak.

Work For Your Benefits - Under the new guidelines, people will have to earn the benefits they wish to claim by taking part in schemes meant to "increase their working skills and employabilty". These schemes, it has been pointed out by Libby Brooks, will "undercut" the national minimum wage. Perhaps I have the wrong outlook, but surely punishing people for being unemployed is not a civil way to treat your citizens? As I previously mentioned, there may be people out there screwing the system, but the people I know who claim or have claimed benefits out of necessity feel that the pittance they received to live on while they searched for work in the country's ill-equipped job centres was insulting enough, without taking into account the constant cavity-searching detail they were scrutinised to every month to make sure they were going to their job interviews like good and proper members of the public. Torch to their bumholes, they are seen to be "not trying hard enough" and are sent to Job School. I am not kidding. I have a friend who is a university graduate who was sent on a 13 week course to learn how to write a CV. If he did not attend, he did not get any money. Tell me, is that fair? Or is it just patronising and hateful?

Compulsory Drug Testing of Claimants - an infringement of your human rights. I find it hard enough to feel positive about sitting in a garishly decorated open-plan office filling in details of every single penny I have ever owned or owe, without having to proffer my arm and be tested for drug abuse, like the filthy little prole I am. Even if they discover claimants are addicted to alcohol, heroin, olive oil or Supernoodles, what difference does it make? Do addict deserve less money because of the choices they've made? Obviously they need help, but surely there are better ways to go about it?

I can't be impartial on this subject, it was unfair of me to even try. Whenever I hear the onward-marching sounds of a "benefit scum should be made to work" conversation heading in my direction, I have to turn away and act ignorant. I don't know any benefit frauds. I do know plenty of people caught up in a recession, finding themselves jobless and without footholds, with only an impatient and vaguely qualified job advisor to visit every week to help them get better at whoring themselves for money (oh come on, have you never felt dirty having to work in a call centre/bar/supermarket? You might as well be a whore, you're probably just as happy). A person I know was told by the job centre to leave college, because he could claim more money if he was simply unemployed as an adult with dependents.

How can things change, how can benefits get a better name and be more beneficial to those who need them the most, how can we expect to leave university with hope in our hearts if this is the kind of mindset we're met with? I've said this phrase many times this week but Jesus wept...sometimes I wonder if it isn't all just bollocks. Everyone's going to get sick of being tarred with the same brush sooner or later, so why don't we all jump ship while the Maldives still exist and set up shop?


M ooseOnTheRoof said...

"which delighted in informing me that this year, 40,000 graduates will leave uni jobless. "

And I am one of those students. It's bloody typical. I am one of the first years to pay top-up fees and I leave when we are going through a crappy old recession. Bollocks is all I have to see.

Although if the diet of the unemployed consists purely of Findus Crispy Pancakes then I am pretty content.

I think the problem is, people in secure jobs have no idea how utterly saturated the job market is, even at the lower levels of cleaning jobs, shelf stacking and the like. I went for a job at Morrisons for a regular old shelf stacking job and there wre 50 other students there for the same job and add that to the ones applying who weren't students and you have 60+ people going for one measly job. It's ludicrious to suggest people can just pop into employement whenever they fancy.

I'm officially an unemployed bum after mid-July. I have accepted my utter fucked fate and have decided to set up my own Private Investigation business for no reason and with no business acumen at all. If that fails I'll become a snake charmer.

Katie said...

It's true - to work in the hell hole that I work in you have to be a fucking genius (I don't know how I got a place). The last time we had job openings - and I work in a bar by the way - 150 people applied.

One hundred and fucking fifty.

Still you know, unemployment = workshy.
*mumbles* arseholes

mr bear said...

i earned $97billion last month from home with google.

Katie said...


Ingaroo Clingfilm said...

This is utterly depressing and makes me value my job even more. My flatmate is struggling with getting even the most low-level type of jobs and sometimes goes without work for a month or two. She's not on benefits, though. (She doesn't leave the house at night, either, so I'm not quite sure how she gets money for the rent, hmm...)

I think the government has been watching too many of those 'On the Fiddle' programmes.

CTerry said...

If you want to know more about this sort of thing read the brilliant book "Why Social Justice Matters" by political philosopher Brian Barry.

the_non-committed_socialist said...

No doubt there are people who play the system, and there are people who live their whole lives on benefits. But the whole idea of a welfare state is one I truly believe in. Those people who pay their taxes and complain about people on benefits should be happy that they have a job at the moment.

Ben said...

I would leave a deep and interesting comment like other people, but I can't stop listening to the popeye song.

Katie said...

I will definitely look up that book Chris, thanks :)

I'm glad you all seem to like my ramblings :) Thanks! (And yes, the popeye song is amazing, isn't it?)

the_man_in_the_middle said...

The stupid thing is if you do get a job after uni after tax, rent and student loan repayments you're still not gonna be eating sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact you're not gonna be that much better off than someone living in a council house, claiming benefits and peddling pot. Unless, of course, you get one of those jobs that actually require studying an academic subject at university. Since this Labour goverment has been in power there has been a straight line improvement in A-level grades year on year plus an introduction of top up fees. They're simply gaming the system to increase numbers to generate a virtual wealth they can factor and draw down off. No one repays Student Loans. You just change your address and they never find you, right? Unfortunately, as a by product to this I suspect huge numbers have been conned into an unwise investment in their own intellect. Ironic, eh?

A good friend of mine worked as a bricky his whole life after being chucked out of school before finishing his O Levels. Now he's a millionaire.

Katie said...

I now, it's a crap system, but you just move abroad. After 5 years, you never have to pay back your student loan. Bingo.

Your friend became a millionaire bricky? HOW?

the_man_in_the_middle said...

Well, he undercut other labourers in the city and worked his ass off and saved every penny. Then when he got enough money he started buying and renovating houses during the boom. Eventually, he bought a house with plenty of extra land and built from scratch by himself a massive mansion in the space over about 10 years. Bish-bash-bosh 1m in assets. Although, he's still never got any money and is a bit of a stingy git :P

Katie said...

I think I'm in the wrong profession ie. no proffession to speak of.

What's the point in being a millionaire if you never spend any of it?

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