Many read biographies of rich and successful to find out what are the makings of the great. What do I need? What do I lack to become one of them? We are all in never-ending pursue of success and money searching for any tips, routines, things that we should or should not do to get any closer. But does anyone ever think what are the makings of long-term unemployed?
It seems to me that often the common understanding is that the unemployed is someone who does not want to find work. A person too lazy to grab multiple opportunities laid in from of him/her by employers and entrepreneurs. As a society we ‘help’ people into work by forcing them to volunteer and cutting or freezing their allowances. David Cameron wants to eliminate youth unemployment not by creating more jobs, but by scrapping benefits altogether for people under certain age. In the end, all that those lay-abouts need is a push in the right direction; an incentive to get up from the couch and get on with their lives, isn’t that right? No, it’s not!
It is neither nudge nor incentive they need. Unemployment is nothing like long holidays. It is dreadful, often depressing, embarrassing and demeaning, it is nearly a medical condition – chronic unemployment.. There is no magic switch that makes a person with a history of years or even generations of unemployment go back to work; just like it takes your body time and right kind of treatment to recover from a disease it takes time and a hell lot of work for a long-term unemployed to successfully join the labour market. In my own opinion it all boils down to a situation into which a person is born. One may say that countries like US, UK or any other EU member are a land of opportunity. We should not fool ourselves. A person born in a household with issues ranging from long-term unemployment to substance misuse will have by far higher risk of becoming long-term unemployed themselves than a descendant of middle class parents. Even when the education is free and available a child needs encouragement, support and parents’ supervision to get through it. How many are there not getting any of it? And then there is social housing – a scheme meant to help, I suppose. but sometimes strikingly resembling ghetto’s for people we would rather not see on day-to-day basis. Estates or even whole districts often become a land without opportunity, producing more and more people damned to join the ranks of long-term unemployed. And then in the end, after all the denying of opportunities, marginalising and belittling all we have to say to those is – This is your fault! How is that fair?
For those looking for anthropological take on how we force people into black market economy I strongly recommend ‘In search of respect: selling crack in El Barrio’ by Philippe Bourgois
Last four years and, most probably, four years to come are for UK’s councils a time of cuts and austerity; how is it that huge displays of fireworks still make it to the list of priorities?
Local authorities have lately been squeezed from every direction possible. The government expects them to spend significantly less; the public pressurises to freezer or even decrease the council tax. So far the impact of the squeeze may not be great, but if anyone suffers that would be those who already are the most disadvantaged. With their benefits frozen they also have to face cuts to some of the services or programmes they so far relied on.
Nonetheless, during the week just before and after the 5th of November sky over London west to east and north to south was lit by more or less impressive displays of fireworks. They don’t seem to bring any profits to the organisers – people just come and go; sometimes there are even no street vendors, who could have extra profit. They do not really create sense of community or bid people closer together; if someone would like to promote particular borough or area, also, there are many better options. I do not find it shocking or infuriating, it is not something that should be investigated, I just find our priority list interesting… Or perhaps I just do not understand?
Recent article on the Guardian (www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/21/london-internal-refugee-camps-homeless) suggested that London should think about setting up refugee camps for its homeless. As it got me interested I ended up scrolling though some of the comments. Most people seemed to think that this is some kind of a joke, a provocation aimed at raising awareness of the issue. The problem is real enough, but the social awarness of it is far from sufficient.
There are different types of homeless people – there is rough sleeper, couch surfer, shelter occupier, and family visitor. None of them, apart rough sleepers perhaps, is visible or considered a real problem. Having a place to live makes all the difference for the poor. As long as you have your flat there are things to be done, help to be sought. There are people who’ll help you during your eviction hearing, and schemes to help you pay your rent arrears. If you fall behind with your rent and end up facing eviction the judge will probably look at you kindly and order your landlord to give you yet another chance. But once you’re out, you’re out and on your own. Whether you were evicted due to the fault of your own or not, councils have a duty to rehouse only those in priority need – mainly people with children or those disabled. Everyone else will be refused and informed that it would be best to make arrangements on their own.
So then you have to search. To find a home when you’re employed and capable is difficult, but no one really says how to search for one when you’re homeless, computer illiterate, or disadvantaged in a different way and plan to pay you’re rent with housing benefit. But that’s not all. Say you are eager to look and assume you even know how to. With the constant incline of house prices and introduction of benefit cap you may forget about the inner boroughs. The bigger house you need the further you look; three or four bedrooms will probably take you to a different county. If you need five – you can start familiarising yourself with the map of Wales.
I am fully aware how terrible idea the camps for homeless would be, but do they still sound so ridiculous now?