‘Snakes and Ladders: Understanding Young People’s Transitions to Adulthood in contexts of poverty and disadvantage’. Professor Tracy Shildrick [email protected] Popular and powerful myth making. Speaking recently at Centre for Social Justice, Ian Duncan Smith yet again refers to the:
‘Our school didn’t really do much homework or nothing, I found. I dunno, there was no encouragement there, I didn’t feel there was anyway…Well, I dunno, maybe if, I dunno…I was in lower sets than a lot of people so I’d just, I think maybe under that mark, there didn’t seem there was enough encouragement…’ (Anthony, 23 years)
age 16-18: School-youth training-unemployment-/ age 18-26: job unemployment-FE -unemployment-New Deal…/ age 26-36+: unemployment-job-unemployment-job-unemployment...
‘Just jumping from job to job it’s no way to go. It’s a nightmare! Jack of all trades, master of none (laughs). I just want something with a bit of job security - where maybes I can buy me own house in the future rather than just where you’ve got to be on a wing and a prayer type thing… just a job that I can call me own, you know what I mean? Rather than just looking for one all the time or just jumping from job to job’.
Since age 16:
Malcolm, 19, no qualifications, unemployed, ex-burglar, ex-drug user, father:
‘I would hate being on the dole…I won’t do it. It’s embarrassing going to the Post Office with your giro. You just become lazy, have a lazy life… I just don’t wanna sign on the dole.I wanna work…It’s a weekly wage for a start, instead of a daft £78 per fortnight. It’s just part of life. To have a job and support your family. So instead of him [his son] growing up and when his friends’ Mams or teachers say ‘what does your Dad do?’ ‘Oh, he’s on the dole’. I don’t want none of that. I want him to grow up and say ‘Oh, our Dad’s working at summat’. So he can feel proud and have nice things when he gets older’.
‘I don’t like it at all. I feel, like, suffocated; that they (JC+) are waiting for me to do something. I just hate it. I’m an independent person. I don’t like relying on benefits. I just hate it. They turn into the FBI, questioning your every movement. It’s like “I just don’t want to be here”! Just going to the Job Centre makes me depressed. I just detest it, I really do’.
(Chrissie, 31, occasional employment, voluntary work, long-term depression)
‘I like to be able to take the kids away but I can’t afford it. The only place we go is Scarborough (to stay with sister). I’d like to go to a caravan site with ‘em, like Primrose Valley, but I can’t afford to do it. I’d like to take them places but they have never been away’ (Dawn, 30)
‘If the kids come along and say Mam can I have £3 or £4 and I’ve only got £2 I feel guilty’ (Linda, 33)
‘If I want clothes or the kids want anything, it’s always like getting the Provident book out [a door-step loans agency], you know? I would, like, have to miss something to get something, if you know what I mean? It’s awful. There’s never anything in my purse. It’s always empty. If someone said ‘do you want to go somewhere?’ I couldn’t just get up and go out and do it’ (Sophie, 30).
to decisions about claims which they
failed to understand and frequently
felt powerless to challenge
e.g. caring for others, informal child care, loans of money, protection from criminal victimisation, reparation after crime, job search, leisure life, emotional support, voluntary work etc.
Strong work commitment & repeated engagement with jobs, despite ‘poor work’ & possibly ‘better off on benefits’
= Not unemployment as a ‘life-style choice’, nor ‘culture of worklessness’
i.e. residents of high unemployment locales have varied relationships to the labour market: the story of low-pay, no-pay rarely heard
Financial necessity, a desire to work, abundant ‘poor work’ & lack of better opportunities led people to take jobs that trapped them in long-term insecurity and poverty
Johnston, L., MacDonald, R., Mason, P., Ridley, L., and Webster, C. et al. (2000) Snakes & Ladders, York: JRF.
Webster, C., Simpson, D., MacDonald, R., Abbas, A., Cieslik, M., Shildrick, T., and Simpson, M. (2004) Poor Transitions, Bristol: Policy Press/JRF.
MacDonald, R., & Marsh, J. (2005) Disconnected Youth? Growing up in Britain’s Poor Neighbourhoods, Palgrave.
Shildrick, T., MacDonald, R., Webster, C. and Garthwaite, K. (20120) Poverty and Insecurity: life in low pay, no pay Britain, Bristol, Policy Press
Shildrick, T., MacDonald, R., Furlong, A., Roden, J., and Crow, R. (2012) Are cultures of worklessness passed down the generations ?, York: JRF