I still have quite a few transcripts from interviews with people on JSA that I haven’t posted this year, mainly because I sometimes run out of time.
Am posting some of them this week to give you a little more insight into a system in total meltdown.
These first two are about lives in a kind of meltdown as well – people who have been to jail, can’t get work and probably won’t, because this isn’t an era that does second chances. I can see a lot of people passing judgement on these two individuals. Can’t see too many of the judgement-passers offering solutions, though. I think there’s a feeling now – certainly among politicians – that certain people deserve to be on the scrapheap and should be made to stay there.
This first interview I did recently with a man on the work programme in North London. He’s on a community work placement (30 hours a week unpaid workfare) as a security guard in a local charity. He freely admitted he’d not had a CRB/DBS check for his charity placement, even though he’d done time in prison. I’ve raised this issue before and am still working on it – people on community work placements being placed in 30-hour-a-week unpaid workfare jobs in advice, security, or roles with young people without CRB checks. Am doing more on this at the moment, so this first one is brief, but read the excerpts for now and/or this story for more background.
This first man said his conviction was for ABH. Here are some excerpts from our discussion:
“I’m doing [working in] security on a 30-hour a week placements. What a waste of time it is. I am supposed to be doing security and I’m sitting around doing sweet FA. I’ve got a criminal record. They [the charity] have got several offices, loads of computers, four of us doing it [the security job]. If I was doing it [the security job] properly [as a paid employee], I would have to be CRB checked.
“There’s about 15 or maybe 20 people from the work programme. There’s also a load of foreign students doing internships. They are there for four to six weeks. I’m there for 26 weeks. I’m only two weeks into it and it’s a complete waste of my time. Security involves just standing around and going up and down the blinking corridors. I’m going out fundraising as well – doing bucket collection. I did a couple of days bucket collection down out the front of the shops.”
More on this in the New Year.
This second interview was with a man who was signing on in West London. He was also an ex-prisoner. He talked in detail about the realities of life for people who end up in jail: you go to prison, you get out, you can’t get work, you sign on, you get sanctioned, you steal because you haven’t got money, you fall in with the old lot to get more money, and on it goes. Doesn’t matter whether or not you think that should happen, or whether Iain Duncan Smith thinks people in this guy’s situation should pull themselves together of their own accord, or whatever. This is the reality. This is how things go. I’ve spent a bit of time this year with guys who’ve been in and out of prison, so will post more of those interviews when I’ve transcribed them. I should catch up with the guy in this interview again in the New Year (he was in and out of the Scrubs). Doubtless he’s still doing the same sorts of things. Can’t see that he’d have too many other options if I’m honest:
“If you put the money in an alcoholic’s account, he’s just going to spend it. And then get evicted [for not paying rent]. Which is what they [the government] want. If I was on Speakers’ corner, I would say that. Because I have suffered here [at the jobcentre] from sanctions. I had to go shoplifting, because they stopped my money. When the police arrested me, I told them why. I told the courts – it was because [I was late] five minutes [to the jobcentre]. There’s no flexibility. I even produced a replacement bus ticket because the bus broke down. I was still sanctioned. When I signed on, they didn’t tell me that “your money ain’t going to be there.” Very nasty. So when I signed on, I went to draw my money. Nothing there. I didn’t eat for a day or two and my electricity… I went to Tescos to steal. I don’t care.
“I don’t think signing on daily would help me get a job. I’ve got a long criminal record. No matter how many jobs I go for, they always say “I’ll get back to you” and it never happens. I’ve been to jail many times, many times. Not for harming nobody or anything. I’ve been fitted up a lot of the time.
“My jobsearch. This is the next thing. I’m not computer literate. I don’t mind learning it. But my concentration span is very short. They’re now forcing me to go onto the computer. It is compulsory. What is not nice about this place is that not everybody is computer wise and what they are telling me is that if you’re not, you have to be.
“[I have] no choice but to use [Universal] jobmatch. These people are not nice people, I’m not saying that it’s the jobcentre’s fault, because they’re sent [instructions] from the government or whoever they are getting it from. But they are not nice. Guys who used to come regular, who were sitting down causing no trouble – and Security was surrounding them saying “Who are you and who are you working for?” What’s that all about? What does that mean? They are causing no harm. One of them was signing on and brought his mate with him. They won’t let you bring someone in. This place here, oh my god. It’s like Fort Knox.
“I go to prison and come out and go to prison and come out. My local is the Scrubs. They know me there. That’s my place.
“The worse thing about it is when they sanction you. I’m a diabetic now. I need food and stuff like that and they say you can get a hardship loan. Well – how long does that take to kick in? That takes five to ten days, so what do I do until then? They say use a foodbank. I’ll be dead, so what they are actually saying is that there is nothing in place. So when I was sanctioned, if I didn’t go and steal, I wouldn’t be alive. I am a diabetic. I need it. I’m not blaming the jobcentre. It’s handed down. I would love to tell people about these places. They force me to become a criminal.”