So today I went to the jobcentre to sign on. The last time I signed was in July/August 2010. I had graduated from University and wasn’t having much luck with the job search. The ConDems had just been elected but we were still operating under the New Labour model: outsourced job-centres. My experience of signing on then wasn’t pleasant; I distinctly remember being informed that I would not be able to move an appointment or I would lose benefit payments only to attend the appointment and be told I could have done. A shambolic experience though it could have been worse. For whatever reason, the provision in Nottingham depended on which region of the city you were signing in. I have been told that the city centre signing office was very unpleasant.
Fast forward four years and most of a Tory term. The political and social discourse has been dominated by increasing amounts of Neo-Liberal poor blaming. If you are not working, if you have no money that is your fault. Forget everything else, forget assistance or getting back in to work. The most important thing is that the prospective job seeker knows that they have done wrong and are assisted at the sufferance of the wealthy.
There used to be a signing centre in Lydney, but that was closed. It’s an easily answered mystery: there should not be local provision of services because the poor and unemployed are a burden. We are all entrepreneurs in Britain. You shouldn’t need assistance. If you are out of work, looking for it should be a job in itself. Getting to the jobcentre is a quest that you embark on to prove your worthiness.
At the Coleford jobcentre you are again minded of the shame of your position, of the very shame that Britain should have to provide even this. Why aren’t you productive? Why aren’t you making a start-up right now? There’s easy credit to be had. Just sell something! The building is tucked away, out of sight and mind, with faulty automatic doors. The jobpoints which, in the past, have been the site of bustle at the jobcentre, are deactivated. You should be doing this at home, on your own computer and electric. We are not here to help!
It stood out to me, for the gentleman before and my interview, the importance of sanctions. The staff are friendly and keen to let you know. You have to accept any and all jobs offered or there will be further sanctions. You have to attend all signing sessions, even if you get a job, or there will be further sanctions. It is expected that the DWP will have full access to your job search or there will be further sanctions. If the reason for you being out of work do not meet the standards of the DWP then there will be further sanctions. It’s the perfect marriage of state and private interests; you as a jobseeker are a resource to be consumed.
If you do not comply with the requirements your benefits will be suspended for 13, 26 or 52 weeks. Because you are poor and do not have a job; because you are asking for help you are presumed to be on the take; because you had the bad sense to not be part of our ruling elite. The philanthropy of the political classes only extends so far as a pauper’s grave.