Monday, 16 September 2013

Must Try Harder!

I met Dave two years ago, when I first started volunteering for the Salvation Army Lunch Programme. 

Dave is a success story, he turned his life around, and now volunteers alongside me. Today. He was pretty upset. His Jobseekers Allowance has been stopped because it's been decided that he isn't trying hard enough to find work.

He's done everything asked of him. He's attending a computer course to learn how to fill in the Application Forms, which is just as it should be, but he's stuck, because he can't access the email account he was given, and he hasn't the literacy skills necessary to fill the forms in. 

You'd have thought someone would have taken these two things into account before leaving him penniless. Wouldn't you? To compound the problem, Dave has coeliac's disease, and the kind of food you can scrounge when you have no money to buy any, is going to make him sick.

Then there's the anxiety. He's off his head with worry. 

Think of it - insufficient literacy skills to apply for a job. Poisoned by foods his body can't tolerate, driven into depression by a system that has taken no account of his personal circumstances ... 
What chance of Dave getting a job with these burdens to carry? 

Who, I wonder, 'Isn't trying hard enough?' 

I tell you, I'm getting pretty mad. I hope that this makes you uncomfortable too. It's not enough though. On Wednesday I'm taking down Dave's story, gathering the evidence on his behalf, and arranging to take  him to see his MP. I think I might ask a journalist to come with us. You never know.

Using hunger and anxiety as 'nudges' to try to make the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society conform to standards they can't meet, is inhumane. Those in power need to see how the policies they pursue impact on the lives of good people like Dave. I still have sufficient faith in our democracy to think it might make a difference. 

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