Eight years ago I had been volunteering part-time for some months at an Age Concern day centre near King's Cross, offering very basic computing skills training — trying to become more 'employable' and earn my passport away from Jobseekers Allowance (Jsa). That was arranged with me as a genuine volunteer through a mental health charity and there was not much take up of my services as there were so many other activities going on there that the members enjoyed. I eventually gave up that volunteering after the computing facilities had been put into a more wheelchair accessible part of the building yet was dominated by the Bingo activity to the point that I was instructed to shut up rather than give instruction and support to my learner, and the newly promoted manager said that he wanted a specialist class there with a Bengali language trainer who was already lined up.
Toward the end of my time there, when the early-retired manager was still working there, I had been welcomed at a 'thank you' event for Age Concern Camden staff and volunteers at City Hall presided over by Esther Rantzen (one of ACC's two presidents). The annual reports had also thanked and acknowledged the contribution made to ACC by volunteers. Yet in the same week that I resigned from that volunteering placement, the same Esther Rantzen was a panel member on BBC Question Time slagging off unemployed disabled benefit claimants whom she clearly assumed were sitting at home skiving! The occasion for her comments was a discussion about Labour's 2008 Welfare Reform Green Paper, 'No-one written off', that eventually helped lever in a much harsher regime for disabled and unemployed benefit claimants. My decades of actively seeking waged work had come to nothing in terms of waged work and constant debt, so I eventually resolved to apply for the disability benefit Employment & Support Allowance on advice from jobcentre staff.
Today in 2016 life is much harder not just for Jsa claimants, but also for children and people in care homes. Not only is government trampling over the vulnerability of benefit claimants, but it is also forcing Jsa claimants in Scotland to work unpaid in childcare and care home facilities, Scottish Unemployed Workers Group report.(1)
I wonder how bad things have got in London now in these regards? Brief witness statements regarding that matter can be received as anonymous blog comments here.