Recent figures for Chester have shown that unemployment has decreased from 3.5% in 2010 to 2.7%. But people that are still unemployed may hold a different side to the story. We speak to one man aged 29 from Chester, who prefers to remain anonymous. He believes the problem is still very prominent.
Firstly, tell us how long you have been unemployed for?
Well, over the past two years, I’ve spent nineteen months unemployed, gapping for seasonal contract work, which were all under twenty hours a week.
How hard is it being unemployed? What is life like day to day?
On a day to day basis, obviously you’re spending a lot of time job hunting, but you have this abundance of free time and no money. You’re treated like a second-rate citizen, spoken too like a child when attending job meetings and when you tell a potential employer your on job seekers they look at you differently. You never want to tell an employer you’re on job seeker’s. There’s a stigma attached to it.
What plan does the Job Centre currently have you on to find work?
Well I have to apply to at least fourteen jobs a week. But the Job Centre aren’t there to help you find a permanent job to keep you off the doll and put you on decent money. They’re obviously working to a figure sheet because they’ll get you to apply for anything and everything. For example, job’s that are only contracted to ten hours a week, jobs that are thirty miles away even if you don’t drive.
How do you feel you are treated when you go to the Job Centre?
It all depends on who you see. If I see my regular person I see, everything’s alright and he helps me out. I’m in and out quite fast. But then sometimes you will get someone else who knows nothing about your situation or current plan. They’ll have expected you to have applied for a completely different number of jobs that was on your plan and that you had arranged with your normal mentor. They then try to stop your money for up to thirteen weeks and you have to sit there for hours trying to sort it out.
What do you think they could change about the system?
Well for a start, it’s called the Job Centre so it should be a centre where there are a lot more jobs and opportunities on offer. Maybe change the plans for the people that always do their job seeking effectively. Take for example myself, I always fulfil my job hunting quota, so instead of meeting with them every two weeks, I think it should be every month as it is quite demeaning going there. They should also step up the help for alcohol and drug addicts that are on job seekers. I always see them arguing with the staff in there.
Finally, do you think you have been let down by the current system of finding work as you have been unemployed for nearly two years?
I wouldn’t say I was let down by the system but I’d say I’m a product of the system, just simply because every job that they’ve had on their system and that I’ve applied to has never got back in touch with me, or anybody else who goes to the Job Centre for that matter. I’ve never had a call back, never had an interview in the whole two years. It can get really depressing and I think the Job Centre needs to recognise that.
Chester Intelligencer Reporter, Amy Holland