One of the aspects of using the public computers in Moorlands House in Leek is that you are right by the information point for people who are looking for work. Overhearing conversations from claimants and staff is regrettably all too easy. For instance there was a woman from Waterhouse who was looking for a work as a Carer in a Nursing Home, but faced insurmountable problems with her childcare. A man who did not want to go to Hanley because he did not like the Potteries and was of the opinion that a service ought to be provided in Leek. Incidentally the staff at Moorlands House thought the man’s objections amusing, so much for confidentiality in your dealings with staff on the Job Centre desk. In time in the next few months there will be others visiting the job centres in Hanley or using Moorlands House perhaps never having had to apply for benefit before. In a local supermarket I spoke to a local man employed by the City Council who was accepting his fate in the New Year with resignation. A woman who worked for the cash strapped SMDC whose husband had lost her job last year was less sanguine and angry at the senior management.
Currently there was a slight rise locally in the number of people claiming the main unemployment benefit- Job Seekers Allowance. The figure stands at just over 1100. Of course this only part of the story as there are many others in the area of working age on some form of benefits. It is a laudable aim of Government to get people into work, but there are two problems with this approach. Firstly are there enough jobs for people to apply for? Recent research indicates that 5 unemployed people are chasing 1 jobs . I would hazard a guess and say that the proportion is far higher in North Staffs A search for Leek jobs on the job centre plus and those in a 10 mile radius in mid December reveals just 7 jobs mainly cleaners or labourers on minimum wage. Some of the vacancies advertised are miles from North Staffs with curiously jobs in Peterborough and Cambridge cited as being local jobs. Many of the jobs are part time as well which brings me to the second problem. None of the jobs on offer indicate anything like a Living wage and therein lies the central problem. It is not primarily an issue about benefits being too high, the problem is wages are too low. Over 6 million people are in work poverty- myself amongst them
As proof of my view that benefits are not too high consider the value of Job Seekers Allowance at £65.45 a week. The value of unemployment benefit/ job seekers allowance has fallen in relation to average wages since the late 70s- then it was 22% of average earnings and now it is 10%. It is hardly living a life of Riley on £65 quid !!