Eastleigh’s long term unemployed could be forced to undertake menial work for £2.16 an hour under plans revealed by the government today.
Work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne’s cabinet colleague, has warned long term dole claimants they could lose their £65 a week benefit for up 3 months if they refused to undertake ‘Community payback’ style work like sweeping leaves, or removing graffiti .
Since January 2009 the number of long term unemployed dole claimants (12 months or more) in Eastleigh has more than doubled and now stands at 195. In the UK there is estimated to be 787,000 people in this situation.
Government ministers have branded the long term unemployed as people who have opted to live on benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Earlier this week I spoke to ‘Geoff’ 51, (not his real name) who I met at Eastleigh Job Centre, was made redundant from his job on Barton Park Industrial Estate 18 months ago and is stil signing on. He told me why it was difficult for him to find work:
“It’s my age. If you are in your fifties they don’t want to know you. The last job I went for I was the oldest person there – they said we’ll let you know ‘but I know I won’t hear from them. If you look at who is working in the shops in Eastleigh the majority are under 30. If you tell the Jobcentre you are being discriminated against because of your age they just shrug their shoulders. There are laws against it but they don’t want to do anything about it”
Is it a good lifestyle choice I wondered?
“I feel depressed most of the time. I used to enjoy my fags and a pint – I can’t do that now on £64 week dole money. All my savings have gone. Rent on my flat is paid for by Housing Benefit. If they cap that I could lose my flat and I might have to find a bed sit – if they’ll take me. I’m worried I could become homeless. I will never find a job then. Why can’t they cap rents instead of benefits?”