Jobless see merits and pitfalls in scheme

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The Independent Online
THE NOTION of workfare drew a mixed response from unemployed people at Islington Jobcentre in north London yesterday.

'It might be good as long as they don't overdo it with the hours,' said Christopher Bland, 36, a hairdresser who has been out of work for 10 years. 'I wouldn't mind looking after elderly people or working in a park. People on the dole take drugs and steal out of boredom. It would definitely cut crime.'

Diz Nelson, 48, an out-of-work electrician, said: 'I think people who did it would be encouraged after a couple of months to get a job. Maybe the communities themselves could pay a token pounds 10 or pounds 20 a week towards it.'

John Ingram, 25, thought it was a good idea. 'It will cut out all the people who are signing on and working. That means the state would save money and perhaps raise the benefit.'

Tariq Ashoush, 18, who used to work for his father's bookshop in Cairo, said: 'Doing something for the country is better than sitting at home.'

Not everyone was so receptive, however. Eddie Langond, 47, who said he had served a life sentence for murder, said: 'I'd tell them to go and hang themselves if they told me to do community work. If they told me to plant trees I'd plant Major underneath them.'

Sarah Callard, 23, a former fashion student at St Martin's College, was horrified. 'It's just dreadful. It'll put people out of work who do menial jobs. It's certainly not what I trained for.'

Kelly Barwick, 21, who lost her job cleaning buses a year ago, thought it was out of order. 'If you're going to make people work for dole you've got to give them proper money. No one is going to get a job planting trees. You need proper training.'

The most enthusiastic response came from people who had benefited from the Employment Action scheme, which allows the unemployed to work voluntarily for pounds 10 a week on top of the dole.

Jane Murray, 25, resigned from a job at the Enfield Advertiser in April after she got fed up with office work. She said: 'I was just completely bored at home lying in bed all day. So I asked to start helping at the RSPCA. First of all it was for free, then I got put on Employment Action. It's definitely better than sitting at home and it has helped get me a job at the RSPCA on pounds 8,000 a year.'

Another beneficiary, Bernard Ashford, 30, said: 'It gave me a purpose to get up in the morning. Through it I got a job placing people on similar projects. Now I'm the North London area manager for Network Projects Training Ltd, which offers voluntary work to the unemployed.'

Denis Worth, 52, who was forced to stop work as a building labourer after a car crash, now signs on and helps part-time at a horticultural centre. He said: 'Anything which keeps you in touch with the workforce is a good idea. This job is helping me get back on track. When I was at home all day I had rows with my wife and got under her feet.'