This articlewas written by Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th November 2014
A man who applied for more than 60 jobs in a fortnight while protesting against “draconian and demeaning” government policies has been sanctioned by his local jobcentre – for not searching for “broader” employment.
Peter Styles, a copywriter and public relations executive who has been unemployed for a year, says he writes up to 15 job applications a day – even applying at the request of jobcentre staff to be a “personal shopper” and “grocery colleague” at local supermarkets.
However, he said his mistake was to have “voiced my opposition to government policies which I thought were unhelpful and meant to keep you down … I have a good work record and was really trying hard. But the process is patronising and staff can be unhelpful”.
Last week Styles was sanctioned and forced to sign on every day instead of every fortnight, a “humiliating process where you often have to wait alone until staff can see you”.
“There’s no doubt that there was bad feeling between staff and me. But I had not been rude until last Friday. Daily signing on is totally counterproductive and very stressful.”
Officials say that “special action” was taken over Styles because he had not provided evidence that he was seeking jobs and that he was seen from behind a screen because he had become “volatile”.
The communications specialist put his skills to use – publicising his experience in a blog that has gone viral; registering more than 9,000 hits, over 1,000 Facebook shares and hundreds of messages of support.
The social media onslaught has concerned officials who say that staff named in his blog might mean they would have to be shifted to other offices as they may be targeted by anti-austerity campaigners. There are moves to get Styles to remove the blog entirely.
The pressure is taking its toll. Styles says he “has been signed off by the doctor for a month, and consequently have had to end my claim for jobseeker’s allowance. Currently I have no means of support whatsoever and feel in a strange limbo-like position.”
With not even the £70-a-week dole money, debts are piling up. Styles says he is “thousands in debt” and only getting by with the help of friends. In response to his complaint, the Department of Work and Pensions wrote to Styles apologising for not “seeing him on time”.
The jobcentre wrote back saying “The ‘draconian’ measures … are part of government policy … I have looked at the complaint that you have made and can assure you that we have correctly applied the policy in your case. [There] is no appeals process for policy issues.”
> ‘draconian’ measures … are part of government policy’ … yeah, we already figured that. Nice to have it confirmed officially, though.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Nov 2014
The jobless rate for the North East has risen to 9.9% – despite a fall in the overall UK figure.
As the Government celebrates the national rate dropping from 6.4% to 6.2%, saying it is the lowest since the height of the economic crisis in 2008, the trend in this region is upwards.
The only other UK region to see an increase in its jobless total from May to July was the South West where it rose 0.1% to 5%.
The latest rise in the region, from 9.8% to 9.9%, is the third in the last three quarters.
However a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the rate is down 0.5% drop on this time last year.
“We know the jobs are there,” he said.
Meanwhile the figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, revealed the full extent of the affect of Government policies on the Public Sector.
They showed that since the May 2009 election, won by the Tory Lib-Dem Coalition, the number of people working in this sector has plummeted 58,000 from 296,000 to 238,000.
The Northern Public Services Alliance which campaigns to defend public services is now calling for an urgent Public Services Summit on November 29, to deal with what it describes as the “devastating scale of attack on our region’s public services.”
Over the last quarter the employment rate has dropped 11,000 while economic inactivity is up 13,000.
Despite this the latest Claimant Count for August was 58,700, down 1,700 on the previous month and a 23,900 drop year-on-year.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Sept 2014
Successive Government policies that unfairly target the young are making this the worst time to grow up in decades, campaigners say.
High levels of youth unemployment, increased university tuition fees and the difficulty of getting a mortgage have been cited as problems affecting young people, along with changes to the benefit system and cuts to youth support services.
People working with young people in the North East say they are being disproportionately targeted in the Government austerity cuts so that Ministers can protect older people who are statistically more likely to vote.
And there have been warnings that the situation is creating a “a generation without hope” who do not feel part of society.
Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a national charity set up to ensure fairness between the generations, said: “This is the first period in recent history where children will have worst standards of living than their parents and their grandparents.
Successive Governments have put the interests of older generations before the interests of younger ones. They’ve taken away the EMA, they’ve taken away Sure Start schemes for young people, they’re taking away their travel concessions.”
Concerns about the young being unfairly targeted came earlier this month when Chancellor George Osborne signalled benefit cuts for the under-26s just a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said he would “triple lock” the state pension, which accounts for half of all welfare spending.
Jeff Hurst, who runs the Newcastle YMCA and is vice-chair of the city’s children’s trust board, said: “I was brought up in a generation where anything was possible and everything was positive. Now we are creating a generation without hope.
“What I see is fantastic young people who are motivated, who are clever, who are innovative who are able, but who are very frustrated.”
Mr Hurst said the combined effect of higher pension ages, more graduates, and a flood of axed public sector workers were squeezing the young out of the labour market until far into their twenties.
The situation is particularly acute in the North East, which has the highest rate of youth unemployment at nearly 24% and the worst score of any region on the Intergenerational Foundation’s age fairness index.
Geoff Mount of the charity Barnados, which has a number of youth projects in the region, said: “Times are tough for young people. Funding for courses is being cut, young people now are having to take out loans, and EMA has been taken away. We’ve got a bursary scheme in place but that doesn’t meet in my opinion the needs of those young people in greatest financial need. There are fewer job opportunities out there than ever before.”
Workers also cited a squeeze on housing, with last week’s ONS figures showing a quarter of 34-year-olds are now living with their parents.
The number of “boomerang children” has soared by 25% in the last 17 years, despite the youth population remaining the same, with under-24s in the North East the least likely in the country to have a mortgage.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 Jan 2014