Let me tell you a bit about waiting:
One day last week, I took myself right across London to attend a jobcentre meeting with a woman who has some support needs. The woman had been told to come in to meet with a so-called work coach. She wasn’t too sure what this meeting was about. The jobcentre had organised the meeting a couple of weeks back and the woman was concerned about it. You could say that the thought of the meeting had been weighing on her mind for some time.
Not that anyone could care less about that. When this woman arrived at the jobcentre, she was told that the work coach wasn’t at work that day (ha ha – yes, the irony) and the meeting was cancelled. The woman told me that nobody rang her to let her know the meeting was off, to save her the trouble of coming in. Another date for a meeting with the work coach was set for a few weeks’ time. That means she has another month to wait and to wonder what the work coach wants with her. You could say that’s now weighing on her mind.
I can’t tell you how often this sort of thing happens to people who must use these barely-functional, so-called services: appointments changed at the last minute, meetings pushed to new times which claimants aren’t told about, work programme sessions cancelled a few hours before the event, or claimants travelling all the way to the jobcentre to find that the person they expected to meet is nowhere to be found. It is no exaggeration to say that these things happen on an amazingly regular basis. There’s a real departmental contempt to it if you ask me: a right old “unemployed people deserve punishment, not the normal courtesies” from the DWP. I suppose we’re also seeing an annihilated sector now: not enough staff, hopeless communications between jobcentres and outsourced work programme and workfare companies, and morale so low that organisations barely have a pulse.
The problem right now is that the political and media classes care even less about deteriorating public services than they did before the runup to the election. I didn’t actually know that was possible, but it is. There’s nobody around to take any of these problems to – in an official sense, at least. There never was, of course – social security has been destroyed in equal parts by a vicious coalition government and a fantastically weak Labour opposition, and neither was ever inclined to race to the aid of people who attend jobcentres – but at least you could see what you were up against when parliament was formed and abuse someone for it. Occasionally, you’d even find a mainstream media editor who understood that there was a world outside warped political cycles. Now, commentators are cheerfully foretelling an age of instability while we’re exposed to a post-election, months-long and extremely rubbish game of thrones. That concept sets my teeth on edge – not because I want a government particularly, but because it shows that the ruling class is arrogant enough to believe that it can take its sweet time to bash out deals to its own advantage. There’s absolutely no sense of urgency there. It must be great to live in a world where you can destroy other people’s much-needed public services, then let those services deteriorate even further while you haggle for the power to destroy more. Little wonder that people are taking future planning into their own hands.
All of which is a long way of saying that blogging here will probably be light until next week. I aim to fully re-engage when we reach that post-election point (we usually reach it pretty fast) when our political heroes are wiping their butts on their current manifestos and waving at us in their rearview mirrors. That’s the time for political engagement in my view – when you see the real agendas.
Will still be available on twitter, although probably not much. I actually can’t take the bullshit. There is no doubt I will kick the screen in if someone else tries to suggest to me that Labour is the only answer. Labour can’t even bring itself to agree to keep the Independent Living Fund. With or without government, we’re still nowhere on social security. At all.