Wednesday, 20 October 2010


The dreaded ‘dole’ has historically been a taboo in a society which, more often than not, doesn’t hesitate to judge those seeking benefits. Regardless of an individual’s personal situation, the dole carries the image of scrounging, lazy, lay-about louts. However, in recent times of economic downturn, the dole is becoming less of a taboo and more of a given. No longer strictly associated with good-for-nothing scroungers, joining the Job Seeker ranks are swarms of university graduates who face a similar and daunting struggle to secure work. I am one of these very graduates swimming with the swarms.

More than aware of the horror stories of the Aldershot Job Centre, I was apprehensive about my first meeting to sign-on. My sister had already prepped me about her unfortunate experience: having been fined £20 on a 5 minute train journey to the Job Centre, she broke-down in tears sitting amidst a waiting room of the smelly, intimidating and plain hopeless.

With this in mind, I was apprehensive, considering whether receiving that paltry handout was quite worth the ordeal. However, I was surprised not to be greeted by a handful of the hopeless, instead finding myself amongst a worryingly bustling waiting room of young graduates, most of whom were friendly faces from my college years – three years older; thousands of pounds further in debt.

Having claimed benefits for merely a month, the whole while tirelessly struggling to find work, I have reached my first and troubling hurdle; threatening to jeopardise my Job Seeker status, I have landed an internship. Whilst I meet all the requirements of the Job Seekers’ agreement: jobless, income less, hopeless, a flaw in the system has become resoundingly clear. It appears to be a system which fails to cater for those of us who have spent an obscene amount of money (which is only set to get increasingly obscene in years to come) on a commitment to further our educations in order to equip ourselves with the skills for a long and prosperous career. Therefore, post-graduating, being offered a cleaning job at the local swimming pool falls that bit short of setting me off on my way to achieve my wildest hopes and dreams. Whilst the system attempts to acknowledge the circumstances of each and every individual, tailoring available work to meet our wants, needs and requirements, it appears all eventualities have failed to be catered for.

In times of such economic crisis, graduates are not simply struggling to find jobs to suit; what’s worse, we are struggling to find unpaid internships. However, it is such internships that the graduate is required to pursue in order to have any chance of challenging the competition. Forced to endeavour months of experience to adorn our CVs (which often results in having to pay to work); splashing our rapidly diminishing cash on pricey (yet again, set to get pricier) travel expenses, graduates are left facing an incredibly arduous struggle.

It is precisely this increasingly common scenario that the Job Seekers’ Allowance fails to acknowledge. Questioning my rights if I were to land an internship (something which I absolutely intended and hoped to do), I was regarded with an unaccommodating frown. In fact, encouraged to lie to the Job Seekers’ institution if this eventuality were to take place, it causing all sorts of unwanted hassle for admin, I was disappointed by their lack of understanding, flexibility and – more importantly – their nonchalant willingness to commit fraud.

Having recently embarked upon a full-time internship, due to sign-on later this week but simply unable to either get time off or account for my whereabouts, I am forced to sign-off, leaving my bank balance naively hoping for the best. In a world of unemployed graduates, the system requires a serious make-over, as it appears that Job Seekers’ Allowance fails to allow us the rights we so deserve.

Rose Brownlow

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree- taking on an internship is a form of training (or is in the best ones at least). Surely them paying the measly JSA for people who are attempting to gain the experience needed for a job would be better than you doing nothing and signing on?

    In the present climate too, there is no guarantee graduates could get swimming pool cleaning jobs as to many employers it's clear you don't plan on staying.

    Add to all this an attempt to live in London, and you've got a pretty depressing catch 22...