I recently read an article in the Evening Standard on working for your benefits - a new initiative by Chris Grayling - and the first thing I thought was, "but...they're benefits?"
As I read on I couldn't help but think how I would have felt if I was reading the same article when I was on Job Seeker's Allowance. I would have felt patronised, I would have posed the question why isn't this initiative used to introduce jobs to the market? Don't get me wrong, voluntary work is extremely rewarding but I don't think this initiative will create sustainable long term solutions for the long term unemployed. There has been a 306% rise in 18-24 year olds claiming Job Seekers Allowance in the last 12 months (Office for National Statistics) and rather than giving young people long-term job prospects, initiatives such as this one are short-sighted. When I was on Job Seeker's Allowance I was far from the opinion that I am getting paid to sit around doing nothing all day, if anything I was that eager to work I applied for jobs to care for the elderly along with supermarket jobs and in retail. None of these positions correlated with what I had studied hard for, for three years but I didn't care, I was sick of day-time television.
The simple fact that no young peoples' voices feature in the article shows the exact situation we are in. Politicians steaming ahead without consulting or even asking the opinion of those who matter. This initiative implies we are job-shy when all we want are jobs to apply to. As someone who has volunteered in various fields I can't stress enough how rewarding it is, but to tell school leavers that they can't get help from the government until they gain work experience that probably won't even be relevant to what they want to do anyway is demoralising. Every job sector now demands work experience but unless it's relevant, your chances of getting that job are slim. Employers don't care if you answered phones or helped out on a farm, if the job you are applying for doesn't use phones and isn't on a farm.
This is why I am so passionate about being a Channel 4 Battlefront campaigner to combat youth unemployment. Jobseekers should be treated with the respect the vast majority of them deserve and policy makers such as Chris Grayling need to think about the creation of jobs instead of just trying to paint over the situation for now. The majority of young people on the dole aren't "doing nothing," they're busy filling in booklets that get checked to see how many jobs you've applied for and they're busy scouring the net for anything (and I mean anything) that will help them earn a living. I was there and it's not a nice place to be, but hey, what do us young people know...?
Find out more about Channel 4's Battlefront Campaign To Combat Youth Unemployment at www.channel4.com/battlefront.