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Demonizing Unemployed People Is Wrong

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George Osborne has conjured up an image of lazy unemployed people enjoying comfortable lives whilst other (decent) people get up early to go out to work. This feeds into the same theme in some parts of the media about lazy unemployed people but is far from the reality.

I come into regular contact with a number of long-term unemployed folks and any notion that they could all get jobs tomorrow and just choose not to, is nonsense.

Getting a job is challenge enough for any of us - each person making multiple applications - countless job interviews - dozens of people applying for each job - without the additional challenges so many unemployed people seem to face.

For example - a couple of people I know are on medication for epilepsy and are often medicated to a state of drowsiness. Of course if they don't take the medication they will start fitting which would also cause them even more difficulties in getting and keeping a job. They are bright individuals who really want to do more and could do well if given a chance. Several others are being treated for depression and often don't want to come out of their homes and appear to have very low opinions of them-selves and I suspect they find it hard to 'sell themselves' into a job in any jobs market - never mind in these harder times.

Others have difficulty learning and don't do very well in formal learning settings and do equally as poorly in the work place.

A couple of them are in their fifties and say they have trouble getting jobs because of their age - certainly that's their perception and it does seem to ring true (I am in my fifties and I suspect they are right). One man describes himself as someone with Asperger's syndrome - he had been in employment - and is also a very bright guy - but he may well have difficulty getting another job because of his particular set of social skills.

Of this small group - several are involved in voluntary work - helping at community centres or supporting good neighbor schemes so they are not settling for simply doing nothing.
Those who know more about these issues than I will point out faults in the way I have described the challenges some people face - my highlighting the negative, my clumsy language - but I think that by not mentioning these issues we will be left with just the 'lazy unemployed' narrative.
Of course I am not saying any of this is morally right but I believe it is a reality.

This is a small group of people I happen to know - it is no more than anecdotal evidence but I think it does reflect part of the bigger picture out there.

Of course some people without jobs are actually lazy and lack ambition - the same is true of some people in work. And yes everyone should contribute to society in any way they can but it is wrong to make sweeping negative generalizations about why people don't have jobs.

Central government almost always operates in blunt 'top down' ways when tackling complicated social issues - more recently by prioritizing reductions in public spending and cynically using negative stereo-types to justify it.

Some may say there is plenty of support out there for anyone who wants to get back to work - but that is not my experience and apparently is not the experience of these good people.

If you successfully demonize people you can reduce the support you give them and not lose votes - it's as simple as that - but you will be left with are tens of thousands of people who find they can't jobs through no fault of their own.

One man in his fifties - who had worked for 30 years, went to a Job Centre recently and was told to go and apply for a plumbing job - when he showed some reluctance because he knows nothing about plumbing - he was told that he "doesn't really want a job". He was obviously upset about this and I think he does want to work.

If we are going to cut back on the help we give people then let's at least be honest about it - in many cases it will be unfair and will leave people feeling abandoned by society and this is not a recipe for a happy future for this Country.