My Job Centre Plus misery – it’s just not working

I’ve never had much money, I don’t know people in high places nor am I likely to be in the right place at the right time.

I’ve never had much money, I don’t know people in high places nor am I likely to be in the right place at the right time. My only hope of being rich is if I win the lottery but then again I’m a serial shopper so maybe that wouldn’t even last that long.

After four years of study I’ve just moved home in more debt than ever with no income and I’ve already maxed out all possible family borrowing outlets. With the folds of dreaded unemployment unraveling before me I took a little trip to the nearest Job Centre Plus.

I’m definitely not one of these ‘I’ve got too many morals to make a claim’ types – they have rich parents and don’t know what it feels like to have less money than a tramp. Broken Britain has been a hot topic this year and ‘dole dossers’ have received a lot of stick, but after sitting in the job centre I felt nothing but sadness and pity.

The dole queue, which consisted of all ages including the two men I’d already seen put their cans of Tenant’s Special Brew in the bin before they entered, was sprouting out the door. What stuck with me the most was what one bloke, pushing fifty, told me he’d worked for 30 years before being made redundant and remained unable to find a job.

He continued to tell me how he’d probably paid more taxes than all of the clerks in the room and how it made him sad how all receivers of benefits were stereotyped. He added that he felt no one would hire him at his age when so many young people were unemployed who could fill the jobs.

He had been sent on numerous computer courses, work sessions and experienced several personal advisor talks but all led to nothing but his awkward embarrassment. After our talk, it was my turn to see an advisor. I told her my qualifications, my aim to work in the media and how I’d started applying for jobs and got some interviews coming up. She informed me that the most sensible course of action would be for me to pursue a career working behind a bar as that is where I had most experience.

She said that journalism was far too competitive and that I’d be much better, even though I’d only been job hunting for two days, to concentrate on something ‘more achievable’. I felt so shocked that this person, who had been speaking to me for less than two minutes, was telling me despite years of study, work experience and a mass of university debt to give up my career goals.

We should all have more empathy for those job-seekers who don’t deserve to be part of the benefit stereotype, those misguided or convinced to give up dreams or those who feel helpless, patronized or inadequate after years of hard work in this country.