Monday, 17 September 2012

In the News

The JEP had a headline "JEP: Treasury Minister to be Quizzed", which made me think of TV quiz shows, and a treatment which would combine them with his past endeavours. For example:

The Sale of the Century: Lime Grove.
Who wants to be a Millionaire? Getting 1.1ks to Jersey.
The Price is Right: GST rises to 5%
Winner Takes All: Philip versus the Auditor-General.
The Weakest Link: Banking taxes before the financial black hole takes hold.
Deal or no deal? The Medium Term Financial Plan

One of the major burdens of poverty: poor people are often nameless, voiceless, and faceless.  They are swallowed up in statistics and averages, and are lumped into categories like "the homeless," or "the unemployed."  In these impersonal categories they are also described in generic, often stereotypical and demeaning terms: shiftless, lazy, exploiters, bums, parasites, scammers.  All of which keeps the poor hidden, removed from our reality. (1)

On a more serious note, Francis Le Gresley has a warning of benefits threat for jobless who don't try to find work. As long as it is for real malingerers and not used as a stick against people who are trying their best. I can see his point of view - they have civil servants trying to find placements, then people walk out after a few days, which hardly is trying - assuming the job is not physically arduous and they are not suited physically to its demands, for example. But the danger is that a culture of suspicion develops which looks at all jobless as potentially lazy people.

This is nothing new. In the 1880s, in Australia, for example, this culture of suspicion was prevalent:

There was an extreme aversion to arranging any type of relief for those who were experiencing hardship because of unemployment - the general rationalisation being that those without work were lazy and shiftless. (3)

And as has definitely been happening - to tell a young person that they have to apply for at least one job a day is pathetic if the jobs are not out there. Companies get inundated with job seekers, and don't reply, which is even more demoralising. I think it is about time Francis Le Gresley listened to some of the people who have been at the receiving end of officials whose behaviour is unpleasant and almost bullying. Ministers tend to stick up for their departments, and "go native", losing touch with the people who elected them. What is needed is perhaps a survey of the recipients of the attitude of social security staff to see what complaints there are, and if they have any validity.

Perhaps someone should go out from the JEP interview those people who are unemployed through no fault of their own, and ask them to tell their stories anonymously. There's a site in America which has many such stories, such as this one:

I have been very depressed since I lost my job. I go through periods where I spend most of my days in bed, and although I've had a few interviews those people don't even have the decency to let you know the position is filled. Sometimes I'd call for weeks asking for updates only to get the HR persons voicemail, and they'd never return my calls. With no experience I can't even get a job waiting tables. I apply to every job in the paper and online, whether I'm qualified or not, and have had 7 interviews total, none of which ended with a job offer. Living paycheck to paycheck would be a blessing at this point. We are no longer able to celebrate even minor holidays or birthdays or anniversaries with dinners out or gifts, but with so little money we are just happy enough to have a roof over our head so I can't complain. (2)

The unemployed are not, for the most part, like the Boswell family in "Bread". They deserve to be treated with dignity. I have received stories from reliable sources that this is not always the case, and I hope that action can be taken in a variety of ways to combat the culture of suspicion which seems to be becoming more prevalent at Social Security, together with an unsympathetic attitude. The "lazy beggar" is an stereotype from antiquity, and it is time to be on our guard against such simplistic ways of measuring people and their worth.



James said...

I think it is about time Francis Le Gresley listened to some of the people who have been at the receiving end of officials whose behaviour is unpleasant and almost bullying.

As someone who is unemployed, it isn't even necessarily officials who are bullies that cause the problem.

I'm due to go in to report at La Motte Street this week. I can never do this in less than about twenty minutes, because there are two manned counters, and at the end of any interview the members of staff on the counters spend five or more minutes writing up notes before calling the next person.

And while I sit there waiting, it becomes obvious that there are numerous staff coming into and out of the back office, walking out with folders of papers in their hands, standing around, then walking back in again. They are apparently doing as little as the waiting clients are - but they are being paid for it.

It's the sheer sense of you count for nothing that gets to me, that the clients of Social Security matter less than the paperwork generated about them. There really has to be a better way of doing this that treats our time as a valued commodity as well.

Anonymous said...

ceonls 6
My advice to anyone going in for a talk about social security or welfare is to take someone into the discussion with them. No one will treat you with disdain or be offencive if there is a witness. Hope this helps. I hate officious civil servants. I have met a few nice ones I was one myself LOL.