LETTER : Signing on in the old days

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The Independent Online
From Mr Colin Campbell

Sir: Perhaps the old ways were better ("Bailiffs will enforce curb on benefits", 23 October). At nearly 70, I well recall just after the war. If unemployed, I signed on at the nearest unemployment office, where, for me, the dole queue was on a Thursday. My other signing on day was Tuesday. If these days were missed, other than by certified medical reasons, I didn't get paid. I found the waiting annoying, but not degrading. After all, we were in the same boat, whether we waited 10 minutes or three hours. I did both.

If there were any suitable vacancies available, I was given a green card of introduction to a prospective employer, who would sign it and declare he had taken me on, or not. Employers who did not go through the system were at fault. Prospective employees who defaulted, did not get paid.

I know that I have rather over simplified the system, but it was run by experienced civil servants, and I never remained unemployed longer than necessary. I do not recall the loss of millions of pounds, but I do recall that I and many others actively searched for work.

The system would not be appreciated by the employers of moonlighters or illegal immigrants, as it offers a control that only those genuinely searching for work obtain employment. It does need, however, a dedicated and stable staff of civil servants, not working to profit from the amount of money they pay out.

It never hurt the genuinely sick and disabled. It did encourage the Government of the time actively to try to expand the labour market.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Campbell