The subject of Workfare has, thanks to apparent blunder by someone at Tesco, been making headlines for the last few days.
There are, of course, a number of different of views on the matter, from the hysterical accusations of slavery made by rent seekers through to the more rational arguments provided by others.
Whilst I have been unemployed a few times in my life (immediately after university and a couple of times thanks to redundancy) I have never, as yet, had to sign-on (I looked into it post-uni but I had too much in savings – my debts not being taken into account).
During the first of those post-redundancy spells, in early 2002, work was, for an IT person with little commercial experience, proving difficult to come by.
At the time Dad was in charge of running down a small Indonesian firm based in London which had been used by either former President Suharto or his allies to launder money. Using the contacts he had through this he got me a position which allowed me to gain more commercial experience.
Whilst I was in this ‘role’ I was doing 35 hour weeks, 0900 to 1700, and commuting from my parents home to their office, which was 12 mins away by train.
What was my pay for this?
£20/week – with no expenses.
Did I complain? No. I wanted the experience and wasn’t worried about how I got it. It got me out of the house, stopped me feeling sorry for myself and once a month I was even able to go out for a few drinks with friends – aided by the fact that the weekly season ticket meant that I didn’t have to pay the train fare into town.
It also helped me get a job with a proper salary as, rather than a blank space on the CV, I could put down that I was working and could demonstrate the lengths I would go to help myself – something employers (especially at the SME end) quite like.