Despite my university education, my job training, my various other random qualifications, and the endless volunteering I have undertaken, I am at the Job Centre, again.
It is a familiar routine: sign on, see your advisor, show job search activity, don’t be more than five minutes late, don’t eat, drink, loiter, or talk on your mobile and please leave quietly if it so happens you are left without any money because of “technicalities”.
All around is the unknowing glare of shame that people possess in their eyes having most probably watched the Jeremy Kyle show or read this morning’s Sun. They tend to believe that they are the sole cause for their unfortunate circumstances, and are treated as such by their advisors.
I overheard several verbal interactions in the short time I was there recently, but one in particular struck me as particularly incredible. It showed a complete lack of sensitivity, confidentiality and understanding on the behalf of the “job seekers advisor”.
A “signer”, as the people who claim Job Seeker’s Allowance are generically referred to by the Job Centre staff, was speaking with his “advisor” just in front of where I was told to sit. I wasn’t sitting so close that if the advisor had spoken more discreetly I would necessarily have heard, but I could hear, and this is what was said, more or less:
The signer was telling his advisor that he was unable to get a job as he was severely depressed. He explained that when he went to his interviews the potential employers would tell him that he looked unwell; he felt that he was at a dead end, and needed help.
It’s a familiar, vicious, self-perpetuating circle that anyone can find themselves in, depressed because out of job, out of job because depressed.
When listening to this man’s difficulties the advisor did not suggest any helplines, referrals or support that this man could seek, but merely had the common base attitude that unfortunately is all too frequent: you simply need to “snap out of it!”
The man, in his clear state of inertia, with shoulders bent over and head down, said, “But how?” A question that psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists have been trying to answer for a substantial amount of time.
Yet the advisor did have an answer: “You need to spruce yourself up and put a smile on your face.” There — all better!
The economic downturn and the subsequent negative mental states people are experiencing is not because of the redistribution of wealth that is being concentrated in the hands of the few, sucking work opportunities out of both the private and public sector.
It is rather because fellas like this one just need to “snap out of it”, and “put a smile on their face”, irrespective of the fact that machines have more sense of purpose in the workplace than he.