Having read this article in the Express, "Despair" was the only title I could think of for this post. I remember my own long spell of unemployment in the 1990s, and wonder how I would have coped with this vicious, dehumanising regime. And I suspect I would not have survived. I had been working for nearly 30 years; I had paid plenty of tax and National Insurance. Now it was time for me to claim the benefits to which I was entitled, while I tried everything to get a job (which I eventually did). I never allowed myself to feel humiliated; I had done nothing wrong, and life was difficult enough without being denied any self-respect. If it was happening now - I think I would be looking into the abyss.
Some of you who comment here and have been passed back to the Jobcentre after wasting two years on the WP, have already experienced this "claimant commitment" demand, which officially came into force today where UC is being implemented, and are bemused as to how it's going to be possible to meet it. Others have asked what "commitment" is being made by Jobcentres and government to help them. The article gives us no answer. "The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full time occupation in itself. The unemployed will be expected to fill their 'working' weeks searching for work, attending interviews, training, assessments and workshops. If they deviate from their signed commitment, their benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks and then 3 years." That's the Express's words in bold, not the DWP's. But they strike a chill, don't they? Criminalised for something trivial. What the DWP's infamous anonymous spokesperson does say is rather puzzling: "Those claiming out-of-work benefits will be expected to dedicate their working week not only to searching for work but also to invest in training and the skills necessary to make getting a job easier." Apart from lousy grammar, what does this mean? That the unemployed person has to "invest" in training and skills?
My only advice on how to cope with this is:
i) keep a detailed diary, not only to prove that you're doing what is demanded, but to show to yourself and others just how punitive and demeaning this regime is. Start a blog about your experience if you're in a position to do so. Writing down your thoughts can be therapeutic in itself.
ii) always remember that they cannot rob you of your self-respect unless you let them.