Archives for posts with tag: benefits

So let’s discuss the job centre.  I’m not sure if I’ve posted my thoughts on it before but let me be reasonably clear about it.  It’s bloody awful.  It’s a cesspool of misery and there’s a complete lack of hope and encouragement.  How did the government get it so wrong?  I’m not blaming the staff, though I’m not about to champion them either but basically the job centre might as well be called the ‘sign on’ centre.  This isn’t a rant about benefits either it’s an essential safety net, it’s about how the job centre has become much more about compliance, form filling and dole claiming than it is about getting people into meaningful work.  Now what I don’t want to do is drone on about it’s dreadfulness without putting forth solutions, that would be pointless.  I’ve been giving this some thought and I think there’s some obvious ways to make the whole thing so much better.  

Firstly separate out benefits from the job centre, I don’t mean build a load of new places for you to sign on before being told to go somewhere else to actually find a job, have them in the same place but different employees.  The benefits and signing on side is a compliance function, have a group of staff whose sole job description is to help people fill in the said forms as quickly and efficiently as possible, have them become expert in what people are and aren’t entitled to and have the process quick and efficient so people aren’t wasting their lives filling in a small oak trees worth of paperwork.  

Now onto the most important function, the JOBS.  Firstly the people should be professional recruiters.  Yes I say this as a headhunter.  What they shouldn’t be is a jack of all trades who help with the above mentioned form filling.  Their sole function should be find these people a job.  Now let’s talk about the types of people you’re finding a job for, there is no point whatsover in going here if you’re a professional, read accountant, lawyer etc.  If your job earns you £30k plus, don’t even bother looking in here, it’s not for you, go to Reed, Michael Page, Hays etc, they’re paid far more and incentivised to find you roles.  Go to the job boards, network round old colleagues, you’ll find a role.  

Now if you aren’t in that lucky category of people you should be able to go to the job centre and find a decent reasonably paying job.  The people there should be professionals at what they do so let’s get to my next point, remuneration.  At present, let’s be honest, it’s crap.  I’ve no problem with their basic wage but why on earth are we not having a decent performance related bonus? It should be easy enough, next time you find Joe Bloggs a job you get say £50 extra in your pay packet.  That’s equivalent to one weeks JSA but look how much the government are saving not having Joe on the payroll anymore!  Now, let’s do the maths, £50 per person you find a role for, how tough would it be to find 5 people a week a role?  If you manage it that’s £250 a week extra, potentially a wage rise of 50%.  Think of the calibre of people you can now attract to work in the job centre.  If you’re getting £50 a pop imagine how much more motivated those chaps are going to be to get you into a job pronto.  Now let’s make it even more enticing, if you find someone a job who’s been on benefits long term, let’s say over a year you make £100 or even £150, how much more motivated to these people become to find you a job?  Not only that if it’s quiet and there’s not much happening because they’re incentivised they’ll actually get on the phone and find jobs, they’ll ring back companies who’ve hired recently and see if they have needs for other stuff, they’ll stop simply being reactive and become proactive.  They’ll make damn sure peoples CV’s look good as well, not to mention they’ll advise people how to dress, how to interview and how to behave because their cash depends on it.  

Let’s lose all the nonsense, there are jobs out there, there are unemployed people.  The job centre is awful at best in terms of finding people roles.  Pay some proper rewards to professional people, lose the admin, the form filing and the despondency and it’ll go a long way to getting more people off benefits and into jobs.  


I’m not sure if other people have seen the Daily Mail article recently which quoted ‘arbeit macht frei’ as a phrase we should reclaim in relation to graduate recruitment.  First of all let me say I find it deplorable that anyone should use this phrase, it’s obvious Nazi connotations are chilling to say the least.  For those who don’t know it translates roughly as ‘work will set you free’ and this phrase is immortalised above the gates of Auschwitz.  I can’t personally think of another phrase I would less like to ‘reclaim’, I’m sure there’s a million other ways of saying something similar without it being utterly offensive.

Since then though I have seen numerous people on Twitter and elsewhere discussing the sentiment behind the phrase, I hasten to add not the Nazi sentiment but the idea in general that work sets you free.  Below is the Wikipedia extract tracing the origins of the phrase:


“The expression comes from the title of a novel by German philologist Lorenz DiefenbachArbeit macht frei: Erzählung von Lorenz Diefenbach (1873), in which gamblers and fraudsters find the path to virtue through labour.[2] The phrase was also used in French (“le travail rend libre!”) by Auguste Forel, a Swiss ant scientist, neuroanatomist and psychiatrist, in his “Fourmis de la Suisse” [“Ants of Switzerland”] (1920).[3] In 1922, the Deutsche Schulverein of Vienna, an ethnic nationalist “protective” organization of Germans within the Austrian empire, printed membership stamps with the phrase Arbeit macht frei. It was adopted in 1928 by the Weimar government as a slogan extolling the effects of their desired policy of large-scale public works programmes to end unemployment. This use of the phrase was continued by the Nazi Party when it came to power in 1933.”


I’ve seen a lot of people getting rather upset by the idea of work making you free and extolling the virtues of not working at all.  I’ve seen quite a few arguments on both sides, there’s even a book on the subject here

I have to say though I’m utterly bemused by the idea of not working.  Yes I love my free time, I enjoy my weekends to the full knowing that they’re only a short respite from the rest of my working week.  I make sure when I take a holiday that I do something interesting and immerse myself in different cultures and cuisines, I explore new places and try things I never otherwise would.  Perhaps if I didn’t work I could do this all the time?  Maybe but on two occasions for different reasons I’ve not worked.  Once as gardening leave and once between ventures when I was much younger.  During both of those times I absolutely hated it, the reason weekends and holidays are so good is because you work, when you don’t work they simply merge.  Working gives you money to do things you want to do, it gives you a self respect of knowing that you’re contributing to society and it gives you a purpose.  I’m not suggesting that if you don’t work then you don’t contribute or you have no self respect because clearly there are many reasons people don’t work.  If you’re not able to for medical reasons, if you’re the parent raising your family while your partner works, if you simply have been unable to find work or simply you’re financially well off and don’t need to work then that’s all fine.  However if you’re able bodied and choose not to work then personally I find that rather sad, frankly you’re missing out on one of the potential joys of life.  Yes there are jobs I’m glad I don’t do and doubtless some are not pleasant but would I choose that over a life of living on benefits through choice? No question I would and I would question a society that allows people to make that lifestyle choice also.