62-year-old Jimmy Stirling says news of Jobcentre closures combined with trying to muddle through at Christmas makes for particularly hard times
I AM Jimmy Stirling, a 62-year-old unemployed graphic designer, photographer and musician, single grandfather and social housing tenant living in Glasgow.
I receive Jobseeker's Allowance of £50 per week and have a very small pension payment of just under £25 per week. I do voluntary work for my neighbouring community and look after one of my granddaughters for two days per week.
I was recently conscripted to take part in the UK Government's Community Work Programme, where I would be forced to work for my Jobseeker's Allowance, which I see as slave labour. This not volunteering, this is not being paid a wage, this is conscription.
I am against this terrible programme and this is my experience in trying to avoid a six-month, 30-hours-per-week sentence just to juggle the government's statistics to make them look good.
Below is my latest diary update. You can read the others here.
9 November 2016
It's my regular signing on day. All very pleasant, sweetness and light. I was told that my weekly visit would start from 16 December. My work coach said that "we" may have a look at my CV.
16 November 2016
My first weekly visit. I armed my USB stick with the four CVs I have, in anticipation of them being looked at, perhaps updated or tweaked to suit the constantly changing flavour-of-the-month style.
I shouldn’t have bothered.
Instead, I was groomed for applying for civil service jobs which are about to appear in Bathgate, Cumbernauld and East Kilbride. My work coach took great pleasure in printing out the 'civil service human resources competency framework' and the 'applying for a job learning resource'.
Thirty-two pages of reading for me. For some reason, it appears that the Jobcentre thinks that I would be an ideal candidate to work in a civil service office somewhere.
23 November 2016
My signing on day. My regular work coach was away on some DWP business so I was attended to by, probably, the fairest and respectful employee in the Jobcentre. She asked me why I was on this weekly cycle and I told her that I had no real idea. She thought it was a bit odd. No longer does anything surprise me, I told her. She told me my next appointment was in two weeks, missing out a week.
It is all rather quiet at the moment but I am not falling into any form of tranquility as anything could happen.
A thank you to Radish, who commented on my last column, for welcoming me back into writing the story, appreciated.
One little bonus in the nutrition stakes is that my wee vegetable patch has yielded well this year and my soup pot has been filled and used constantly since the end of August. So, fairly healthy sustenance.
7 December 2016
It's a regular signing day and my work coach has returned. Although I am supposed to be on a weekly tie-in to the Jobcentre, he informed me that he wouldn’t be there for the next week, so it would be another two weeks until my regular signing day.
When I returned home, I went to the BBC website to catch up on any news and lo and behold the story popped up that the DWP is closing Jobcentres.
A quick look told me that mine was one of the ones earmarked for closure. So, instead of a 25-minute walk, I will have a 40-minute walk to the new Jobcentre. There's no direct bus service either. That is almost twice the distance, however, it is not as far as some others will have to walk, again, with no direct bus service.
Is this a government move to help those who are supposedly overweight and can’t work to shed some pounds so that they can work? Even if there is little work out there?
The soles of cheap running shoes will wear away quicker as the rain pours through the cheap fabric, making drookit souls with running noses.
As we head in to the festive period, please spare a thought for those who have been hit with a DWP sanction. They will have their rent paid, but that is it. No money for food or fuel, and Christmas presents will be the least of their worries.
There is a backlog of sanction appeals which will not be looked at or resolved over the Christmas period.
For some of us there will be plenty of humbug to live off.
Picture courtesy of Jimmy Stirling
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