Initiative draws weary cynicism from jobless: Simon Midgley asks victims of unemployment what they think of the White Paper

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The Independent Online
A straw poll of job-seekers yesterday suggested weary and amused cynicism at this latest initiative to 'help' those out of work. For many the package of proposals amounted to no more than a desperate attempt - by an ailing administration - to cook the unemployment figures and cut the social security bill.

Very few of those looking for work at the Victoria Street JobCentre in central London, thought the initiative was a genuine attempt to make the unemployed more employable.

Anthony Lister, 26, a jobbing printer from Wandsworth, who lost his full-time job two and a half years ago, said the proposals sounded 'fine in theory', but in practice he did not think they would work.

'The new plan is just like the old plan . . . just another lot of form-filling.'

Mr Lister, who is seeking a full-time job, but does not claim benefits because he can earn more from casual printing work, said the new initiative seemed to be aimed at forcing the 20 per cent who don't want to work to make some effort to return to employment.

Lynn Reynolds, 25, of Southwark, a medical physics graduate, lost her job as an academic administrator two weeks ago after suffering from occupational stress.

She said the new initiative would be unpopular because 'a lot of people don't like to feel under compulsion to seek work, or compelled to seek a position that may not be a suitable one or really enjoyable or particularly well paid'.

'The Government is floundering. It is desperately seeking policies which will save them money. Ministers would do well to consider people's general quality of life as opposed to taking one aspect of their existence such as their employment history.'

Sam Aguib, 23, of Croydon, who has been looking for work for seven months after completing a computer studies course, said that encouraging people to go on training courses is not new.

He has attended a JobClub - 'they just tell you to go to some place where you have access to a telephone and newspapers' - and gained a National Vocational Qualification in administration at the JobCentre's prompting, but there was no job at the end. 'They let you down,' he said. 'There is no follow up at the end of it.'

Jacob Gasa, 24, of Camden, who used to train people to use computer software, said that JobCentres have always encouraged job-seeking skills.

The only new element of the latest proposals was the introduction of a formal contract.

Tadewos Tzegazeab, 28, an electronic engineering graduate, said training in job-seeking skills, help in writing his curriculum vitae and technical work experience would all be very useful. However, for the most part, such opportunities were already available, and the new proposals would not make his quest for employment any easier.

(Photograph omitted)