So this is why we need food banks then

I do rather think that the Guardian should have been able to find a better example than this:

Marlene Vickers, 47, a mother of three from Clay Cross, Derbyshire, is earning the minimum wage working as a housekeeper and cleaner at St Barnabas centre, a local nursery and community centre. Her husband, Fred, a mechanic, lost his job in July and two of her children, Zoie, 27, a part-time hairdresser and Nicci, 28, who works as a cleaner, moved back in with their parents two years ago after they struggled to pay the rent on their flats. Her youngest, Shelbie, 18, is studying criminal science at Preston University.

Vickers, now the main breadwinner, earns £656 a month, £425 of which goes on rent. She tries to earn more by extra cleaning when she can, which can bring in £50 to £250 a month. Her husband, who suffers ill health and has high blood pressure, does not get unemployment benefit, because, Vickers said, “it’s more trouble than it’s worth – they give you in one hand and take it off in another”. She was told that she is not eligible for tax credit.

They have to keep up with insurance and tax payments on her husband’s car, in case he finds a job – he is currently seeking work through a friend who runs his own fencing business.

“There’s always bills coming in,” Vickers said. “Council tax and telly licence and then gas and electric. I’ve had the bailiffs in a few times. You borrow money initially and then you have to give them back a bit each month.”

The family live hand-to-mouth, paying bills when they can, doing without when they can’t. Zoie has muscle problems, which meansso she can only work part time. Vickers doesn’t seek rent money from her daughters, but borrows money from Zoie “only when she’s desperate”.

Seriously?

5 adults, one doesn’t claim the public benefits he’s eligible for, two working even if only part time but not contributing to the rent and this, this is the evidence that we’re all a bunch of heartless bastards who care nothing for the poor?

All of which is quite apart from the fact that the very existence of food banks, run by volunteers, stocked voluntarily, shows that we do collectively care.

47 thoughts on “So this is why we need food banks then”

  1. Zoie, Nicci, and Shelbie need to get up the duff. And should take their mother as a warning – that they need to learn to spell before giving birth.

    Why anyone is paying £425 a month rent there is anybody’s guess. That whole strip of depressing nothingness between Sheffield and Derby is totally worthless. Should be used for nuclear tests. Or “keeping a car in case he finds a job”. Having survived on roughly what she earns for almost 5 years, I bet there are plenty other things she is doing wrong. Not sending three hungry strapping lasses out to work among them.

  2. The woman they kick off with is interesting too.

    ‘Barbara Tolley has been involved in the community all her life, working as an army nurse and volunteering for a school PTA and rugby club. In 2011, she lost her job of eight years as an administrator for the Children’s Trust at Devon council, the agency set up to foster police and local authority partnerships in the wake of the Baby P abuse scandal, because of government cuts.’

    OK, so she worked as an Army nurse. Not sure how that is being ‘involved in the community’ any more than a painter and decorator, say.

    She volunteered for the PTA and the rugby club – I’m guessing these were not entirely selfless decisions and were probably linked to what her family was doing at the time.

    But still, fair enough.

    It’s the bit about working as an ‘administrator for the Children’s Trust at Devon council’ that interests me.

    An utterly useless bureaucratic job created as a non-workable solution to problems largely created by the State is being done away with and we’#re wsupposed to think this is evil?

    It’s just a good start, love.

    Those people in Devon who are earning their keep as opposed to stealing it are paying a little less, and the message is clear – get off your arse and do something productive.

  3. Fucking hell.

    ‘She gets £71 employment and support allowance’

    ie Free money

    ‘a sum that shrinks to £15 a week when you take off bills for gas and electricity (£25),’

    Seems steep for a two-bed house

    ‘petrol for her mother’s car to drive to appointments and job interviews (£10),’

    Where are these ‘appointments and job interviews’? Berwick?

    ‘mobile phone (£10)’

    Don’t make any calls and it’s free

    ‘and the £11-a-week bedroom tax, which she has had to pay since her youngest moved out of their two-bed council house.’

    So switch to a one bed flat and let someone who needs two beds have the house? (Admittedly, if there’s a switch available.)

    ‘She goes hungry for periods and, as a result was referred by the Citizens Advice Bureau to a food bank. She found the experience “mortifying” but necessary.’

    They don’t show the full body, but from what they do show she doesn’t look like a woman who ‘goes hungry for periods’.

  4. Sorry

    ‘I use those little tubes of toothpaste that I’ve had from hotels when I was working.’

    So Devon Council (one assumes) was overnighting her in hotels doing her useless non job?

    Also, is this even true? I’ve seen hotels give away soap and shampoo, but not toothpaste.

    And given that she’s been out of work for long enough to need food banks, how many of these toothpastes was she harvesting?

    It’s often the little details that make one suspicious.

  5. We really have no idea about what’s happening with foodbanks. There’s no research into the people using them and why they’re using them, but even according to the Trussell Trust, only 30% of their claims are because of benefit delays.

  6. @Interested, (upmarket) hotels in the far east often supply mini toothbrushes and toothpaste as part of the standard daily toiletry kit. Elsewhere, good places will give you such at reception if you find yourself short.

    So Devon council presumably sent her on lots of vital fact-finding missions to the far east.

  7. Foodbanks are a perfect cipher for the essential impossibility of perfecting life, especially in a complex and highly politicised world where many people seem to have no idea of history and further seem to think it is their right to live off others.

    I imagine some of the people who use foodbanks actually do need the food, though I refuse to accept that anyone in this country is actually starving. Starving is what happens when your city is surrounded by the Wehrmacht.

    Other people are using it because it’s free scoff – nip down and get a few tins and the fiver you save is spendable on fags and booze.

    I’m also quite sure that some of the people ‘using’ them are political activists who will immediately stop using them as soom as Miliband becomes PM.

    I also expect the Graun will stop running stories about them at that point, too.

  8. Most of the problems these folk are having are caused by the State.

    1–Jobs–Taxation/regulation/inflation and importing loads of cheap labour. Result low or no wages.

    2-Gas/Electric–prices knowingly boosted by the state’s greenfreak fetish –started by ZaNu (under Wanker Milly–who now derides the very results his own bullshit antics) and continued and extended by SamCam (and that male in the expensive suits she knocks about with). On top of the states dictatorial meddling and general parasitism making almost everything in life more difficult and expensive than it would otherwise be.

    3- TV Licence–help pay for state/leftist propaganda.

    4-Council tax. Help pay for local corruption and to enforce the local presence of the central state.

    5-Hubby lost his job. Could be down to the boss–but state meddling/thieving nearly always contribute to in some way to business failures

    6-Those in the family with jobs only have poorly-paid part-time ones–see above.

    7-The family may not have the education needed to better themselves–state schools on the job.

    8-Extra car costs –inflated insurance prices and general tax and esp petrol tax thieving. And increased transport costs increase the cost of almost everything else in society.

    I have written enough but I could probably double the above with a bit more thought. Perhaps you lads could pitch in with a few more.

    It is obvious who these people’s real enemy is–and it ain’t free markets.

  9. According to HMRCs tax credit calculator she’d be due £932 working tax credit from now to April 2015 if the only income coming into the household is the £656/month and £250/month quoted so roughly £230/month extra.

    So either she isn’t claiming benefits that are due, or there is extra income coming in not mentioned in the article that would wipe out that tax credit award.

  10. Interested,

    “An utterly useless bureaucratic job created as a non-workable solution to problems largely created by the State is being done away with and we’#re wsupposed to think this is evil?”

    There’s a lot of unemployment like that. People with years of experience in the public sector, no real portable skills. Add in that pretty much no-one gets fired in the public sector, that many public sector employees feel entitled, and many private sector employers won’t touch them.

    We had two people in from the public sector for interviews for a DBA job at our last site and there was simply no way we’d have hired them. The way they worked was so poor, we’d have been better off hiring a graduate and spending time training them.

  11. Interested: “They don’t show the full body, but from what they do show she doesn’t look like a woman who ‘goes hungry for periods’.”

    Those periods are probably the advert breaks in the Jeremy Kyle show.

  12. @The Stigler

    I’m fortunate enough that I have very little to do with State functionaries in any way, but the little I have had to do with them suggests that the closer they get to a swivel chair and a desktop PC these less capable they are of doing anything productive whatsoever.

  13. Of course in the old days people saved when they had a job so they could provide for themselves if and when they didn’t. What a pity the state, by means-testing benefits based on savings, destroyed any incentive to do so.

  14. Interested,

    There’s an disincentive of people bothering you if you’re on the frontline. Don’t teach little Johnny properly? Little Johnny’s parents will be taking up your spare time with meetings about little Johnny.

  15. If hubby is an actual mechanic, he should be out of work for about half an hour, most garages are desperate for useful people, especially if they know anything about modern electrical systems. If he has a motor, he could try doing the mobile mechanic trick, I’m assuming he has some tools and the ability to use them. Sounds like an idle bugger to me!

  16. > They have to keep up with insurance and tax payments on her husband’s car, in case he finds a job

    This is such utter nonsense. You can get a mid-90s Mercedes — the ones that run forever — for about £500. If you’re a mechanic and know how to fix cars, you can get yourself a car good enough to get to work and back for a few weeks for far less than that. Insurance and tax on a car you’re not using becomes more expensive than getting rid of the car and buying a new one when you need it very very quickly. If it’s MOT time, even more quickly. Quite aside from the quickliness, there’s the timing of the cashflows: sell the car now when you need money, and get money now; buy a new one when you need it for a new job, and buy it with money that is no longer a problem because you’ve just got a new job. This is a no-brainer.

    We had two cars. I loved my Merc, but we scrapped it as soon as we no longer needed two, because paying for upkeep and insurance and tax would have been insane. And the price of scrap metal is high at the moment, so that was a few hundred cash in hand.

    What they really mean, of course, is that he loves his car. He’s a mechanic: of course he does.

    Friend of mine does a lot of volunteering for food banks. She’s not a total moron, and I believe that she would stop if she were face-to-face with undeserving scroungers every day. I’m sure a most of the people using them need them. But I do wonder about The Guardian’s case studies, because they’re consistently illustrative of feckless idiots who don’t need food so much as an explanation.

    And it is of course also true that food banks will cease to bee newsworthy the moment Labour get in, no matter how many there are. See also Tory NHS Cuts (TM), last enacted by Callaghan.

  17. @Squander Two

    ‘Which decade do you buy your gas, electricity, and petrol in?’

    Ha. I don’t pay the bills, my wife does, and I honestly had no idea what we pay until I just asked her.

    We don’t have gas, we’re on oil (which is very cheap at the moment).

    Roughly £100pcm on that and wood.

    Our electricity is £98pcm (my wife shops around, she’s very price conscious even though we don’t have to be, and she’s always changing suppliers and getting the best deal).

    So a total of around £200pcm, or £46 per week.

    This woman lives in a two-bed house of I’m guessing roughly 1000 sq ft.

    It’s also almost certainly semi detached or terraced, which helps with heat loss, and she lives there with one other person.

    My house is getting on for 4,000 sq ft and I live in it with a wife and two teenage daughters who shower and bathe in a most extravagant fashion.

    We’re also in a high and windy and cooler than average part of the country.

    Maybe her bill should be half of what ours is, but then all I said was it seemed a bit steep.

    re petrol, I’m assuming her mum has a small car, not a Bentley, so 35mpg or 40mpg ought to be achievable.

    £10 buys you 8lt @ £1.25 which is not far off two gallons so let’s say 75 miles of motoring.

    Again, assuming these job interviews are mostly fairly local (which I do assume, as it makes sense) then she is doing a lot of miles for those and her appointments.

    But anyway, fair enough and genuinely good on her for trying to find work.

    My point is really firstly that there are usually economies you can make and secondly that sure, she has bills, we all do – the difference is, working people have to pay their bills out of money they earn, whereas currently she pays her bills out of money working people earn and then have to give to her.

    I don’t have too much of a problem with this, we’ve all been poor (I have) and we all agree with a safety net, but she could stand to STFU with the moaning and look a bit grateful now and then.

  18. > £10 buys you 8lt @ £1.25 which is not far off two gallons so let’s say 75 miles of motoring.

    We have a small efficient car (a Mercedes A-class). 75 miles for a tenner? [hollow laugh] Honestly, that expenditure seems very reasonable to me. If not cheap.

    > she has bills, we all do – the difference is, working people have to pay their bills out of money they earn, whereas currently she pays her bills out of money working people earn and then have to give to her. … we all agree with a safety net, but she could stand to STFU with the moaning and look a bit grateful now and then.

    Agreed. But benefits are no longer seen as charitable and taxpayers are no longer seen as the ones doing the paying. I had this argument a lot back when the Left were making a fuss about claimants being asked to do some work in return for their benefits. Lefties kept talking about “slave labour” and “unpaid” work, and I kept saying that, whatever else you may think of the scheme, working in return for money is not bloody unpaid, is it? But no, the money they were getting in return for the work was benefits, so didn’t count. I still don’t get why.

  19. Because many of the unemployed(usually temporary) are taxpayers who have been paying in for years/decades on the promise it would be there when they needed it. You know–get back some of what they have had extracted. Not some cheeky bastard saying that you can do make work labour for your money.

    If you are going to say that the state spent all the money they took– not put it by/invested it to pay out on need–I agree. And I still don’t pay in money so some cunt can hand me a shovel if I ever have to go on the dole.

  20. @S2

    ‘We have a small efficient car (a Mercedes A-class). 75 miles for a tenner?’

    Well, I have to say my wife gets that *easily* in her car, a VW Passat estate – it is a diesel BluMotion but it’s the 2ltr Sport version.

    ‘Agreed. But benefits are no longer seen as charitable and taxpayers are no longer seen as the ones doing the paying.’

    They are by me. I was only giving my own view, not the wider world’s. The wider world’s gone mad, but then we know that!

  21. “75 miles for a tenner?”

    When I fill up, I generally work out the cost per mile as an intellectual exercise on the way back from the till to the car. 15p a mile is disappointingly high, and this is for a car which is normally going inefficiently slowly in a city centre or inefficiently fast on a motor way, with very little efficient 50mph or so driving.

    It’s an automatic to boot, which is normally reckoned to have a 10% or so penalty on consumption. So 75 mile for a tenner in a manual seems reasonable to me.

  22. > Because many of the unemployed(usually temporary) are taxpayers who have been paying in for years/decades on the promise it would be there when they needed it.

    If a single one of the “controversial” examples raised by lefties at the time had been such a case, that’s what I would have said.

    I am willing to consider that we do get 75 miles for a tenner and that it just doesn’t seem like it.

  23. “Most of the problems these folk are having are caused by the State.” Such as the high tax rates on tobacco and booze?

  24. That too.

    If the state was out of peoples face they could afford the pleasures of life much more easily. Esp as there would be no tax on them. And no ZaNuBluLab pukes to put your favourite UK porn channel out of business because both femmi-hags and Jesus Jumpers are founder members of the senior anti-sex league.

  25. “that many public sector employees feel entitled”

    there were two on Dragon’s Den (one was a climate change manager) a year back ; their plan was that they were going to carry on with their jobs, while the investors money was used to start the business ; if it worked they’d give their jobs up.

    I was really impressed none of the Dragons laughed.

    Also an infamous Panorama full of public sector nobodies convinced the private sector would pay their £60k salaries (one monitored the racial distribution of employees ….) none of them are worth a cent.

  26. >If you’re a mechanic and know how to fix cars, you can get yourself a car good enough to get to work and back for a few weeks for far less than that.

    I gave £300 about year ago for a V reg diesel Skoda Felicia. Just flogged it on eBay for £310, having added 18,000 miles to the oddometer, and done little to it other than adding diesel regularly, an MOT (£50) and a couple of budget tyres (£70 total).
    It did between 40 and 50 mpg depending on how and where it was driven (I’m one of those sad types who works it how when I fill up), so for my 250-300 miles a week commuting was costing me about £45.
    The main costs of running it (like any old banger) where road tax (£230pa) and insurance (~£600pa).

    As an aside, it seems to me iniquitous that poor people with cars end up at present paying far more road tax than middle class people – all the cheap old bangers I look at are either on pre-2001 flat rate taxes, or are large old barges with expensive tax anyway – IMHO car tax bands should decline from full price at say three years old, to zero over ~20 years)

    As for what houses etc cost to run – I’ve a 3 bed ex council house.
    Spend about £30pcm on gas (cooking/heating/hot water) and about £15pcm a month on electric (lighting/fridge/washing machine).
    My phone contract, (loads of minutes, internet etc, but I bought the phone itself outright – same model is currently £100ish on eBay) is £12.50pcm.
    Council tax is £87 a month (paid in the bizarre ten months on, two months off pattern)

    Her weekly spend on running costs appears to be about 4x what I’m spending on a similar sized house (admittedly, with only me in it)

    Food is also ridiculously cheap – hover round your local Morrison at about 7pm, and it’s full of stuff reduced to clear – when I’ve been skint I’ve virtually lived on such stuff – e.g. tonight there was a huge mountain of bread rolls – 15p per pack of six, yesterday I dined on roast duck, roast potatoes, carrots peas and sprouts, and I think the ingredients for the whole lot (which had I done all the veg would have easily fed 2) set me about about £3.20.

    I’d be fairly confident that if I had to I could feed two people for a week on £15 or so – it wouldn’t be roast duck every night, but, it would be all be tasty, wholesome, and filling…

  27. S2,

    “If a single one of the “controversial” examples raised by lefties at the time had been such a case, that’s what I would have said.”

    There was a recently a case of an electronics specialist, but even in his case, his story was “there’s no jobs for me around here”. Well, fucking move house then!

    I can’t think of anyone I know that was unemployed for long that wasn’t looking hard for a job. Fire off CVs for the jobs you really want, then go and knock on the door of McDonalds, Starbucks, shops, courier companies, pubs.

  28. Stigler: “I can’t think of anyone I know that was unemployed for long that wasn’t looking hard for a job. Fire off CVs for the jobs you really want, then go and knock on the door of McDonalds, Starbucks, shops, courier companies, pubs.”

    Not sure it’s as easy as that: from what I have heard, McDonalds, Starbucks, supermarket jobs tends to be heavily oversubscribed. Loads of students looking for part-time work and so on.

    Even for low-pay work it seems to be a big help if you have a mate on the inside who can help sort things out for you. That, or finding odd stuff through an agency (but lots of agencies for low-pay work have a horrendous reputation). If you’re somebody who isn’t at all well-connected then even finding a crap job can be an issue.

  29. In fact even for people who are reasonably intelligent and well-qualified finding a job can be a PITA.

    A young relative of mine did his STEM-subject undergrad and masters at Oxbridge, with middling grades, then PhD at a respectable research-oriented uni with good graduate employment rates. Practical nanotech rather than pure theory, but the industrial applications are all in the Far East and he doesn’t want to move for it.

    So looking for jobs outside research or academe, perhaps in finance or programming, and getting on for two years later he’s got nowhere. Hopes that the pretty heavy-going maths/computing and a bit of experience teaching the undergrads could translate into valuable transferable skills, all rather dashed. Rarely even told why he’s been rejected, application after application.

    My guess is that internet job-hunting has made the problem worse in some ways – certainly there’d be 100+ applicants per post for most of what he was applying for. But that a more fundamental problem for him is lack of contacts – not knowing what specific posts to target, how to finesse the CV, which managers to give a call to. (My own advice would be pretty worthless- been many years since I touched the job market, far too happy being my own boss.)

    On the lower rungs of the social ladder, some of his specific problems are mitigated – the question “should I try looking for a crappy job now and gamble it doesn’t stop me getting a high-skill job later” answers itself if you’ve not got any high skills to offer in the first place. But other problems like “how do I figure out what I’m doing wrong and correct it?” and “what sources of help/advice do I have available in my social network?” can only be magnified.

  30. @ MBE
    I agree. What is most useful if you’re looking for work is a mate who knows you are good and recommends his/her boss to look at you when the firm needs someone. I have zillch interview skills but been hired for jobs on the recommendation of ex-colleagues. Formal references from school/uni/past employers (or even local worthies) used to help but lawyers have now made them totally anodyne.
    There *are* nanotech companies in the UK – I’ve lost the details after sending them to my son but a couple of years ago I met a young woman trying to interest me (as an analyst) in a British nanotech company. Very probably a thousand guys looking for every job but your young relative should be better qualified than 998 of them.

  31. MBE,

    “Practical nanotech rather than pure theory, but the industrial applications are all in the Far East and he doesn’t want to move for it.”

    Not sure I’d want to do it now, but if I was young, single and unemployed, that’s what I’d do, even if just for a few years. I worked in Birmingham for 6 months when I was desperate and I can’t believe that the far east is much worse.

    “So looking for jobs outside research or academe, perhaps in finance or programming, and getting on for two years later he’s got nowhere. Hopes that the pretty heavy-going maths/computing and a bit of experience teaching the undergrads could translate into valuable transferable skills, all rather dashed. Rarely even told why he’s been rejected, application after application.”

    I’ll tell you why: because companies don’t want people who teach programming. They want some evidence that you can write code. That might mean 2 years in a commercial team, or it might mean something like building an app or a website.

    “On the lower rungs of the social ladder, some of his specific problems are mitigated – the question “should I try looking for a crappy job now and gamble it doesn’t stop me getting a high-skill job later” answers itself if you’ve not got any high skills to offer in the first place. But other problems like “how do I figure out what I’m doing wrong and correct it?” and “what sources of help/advice do I have available in my social network?” can only be magnified.”

    How is taking a crappy job a gamble? If it’s a crappy job or sitting around watching Jeremy Kyle, take the crappy job. It’s better on a CV than nothing at all and you never know what doors it might open. I know a guy who runs a decent size software house that started out because he was an admin guy in a wine business and suggested the company should build a website to his boss. When he told him how much it would cost, his boss said OK. He taught himself all the web technologies, built it, and kept going with it.

  32. @john77

    Referral is very powerful. I always ask new clients how they heard of me, sometimes it’s because their parents’ neighbour’s relative had used my services years ago. For someone who studiously avoids Facebook, I’m a big believer in networks. Problem for someone starting out is how to get that network seeded.

    At the very lowest skill levels, it’s probably not even about someone the boss trusts vouching that you’re “good”, as such, just that you’re reliable and (particularly in a job like cleaning or where you’d have access to cash) honest. It’s information economics.

    If almost everybody you know is unemployed, or is doing something irrelevant to you (one of the biggest problems for stereotypical working-class “first in family to go to uni” types in competition with the privately-educated), you’ve definitely got a hand tied behind your back.

  33. @The Stigler

    Good points in there. Glad you survived Birmingham.

    There’s always the “Irish Solution” – tell our jobless foodbanking underclass that if you can’t make enough money to feed yourself here, then sod off to some other country where you can actually find a job. But in fact, hundreds of thousands of young people are migrating to Britain because this is a good place to find a job, all things being relative to whichever countries they’re coming from. Which is interesting to me, since (and perhaps I am unusually sympathetic for this site) I do believe there are lots of folk genuinely trying to get a job here and failing. Despite the advantages of being English native-speakers, and in some cases pretty well-qualified.

    As for the graduate employment market – I think the crap job crapshoot is more of a gamble than you’re allowing for. I’m not convinced that an accountancy or consulting group’s HR dept is going to be particularly appreciative of a CV from a chap who’s been stacking shelves or stuffing burgers for the last two years. Parenthetically: I suspect they’d be more sympathetic to some posho who roughed out a recession by getting daddy to pay for a two-year round-the-world “finding myself [and discovering that I’d quite like to be an accountant]” trip, regardless of whether the fast-food filler has actually learned rather more about the way the world works.

    The wine merchant anecdote is interesting. Not all low-level jobs have that kind of autonomy to make a suggestion then implement it – not least because your manager, or your manager’s manager, may well lack autonomy themselves. Definitely easier to carry that one off in an SME than if you’re Tesco Drone 47128031.

    The other gambling issue is one of resources, time and effort. Even applying to crap jobs you may not be significantly improving your odds of success – still plenty of applicants per job, you’re now hitting competition from demographic segments you’d avoided in the “grad jobs” market (sixth formers, people with 20 years work experience, barely-English-speaking FOTBs) and your primary advantage is nullified (you’re overqualified and your potential employer has already got you down as “will leave when they get the chance”). But there are still long application forms to fill in, a CV to be customised and a cover letter to be written (suspect this is rarer these online days), the prospect of assessment centre days and interviews to come, and if you do get the job, it’ll eat into the time and energy you have to prepare, research and apply for what you’d rather have.

    Now it’s clearly better to be doing something than nothing, especially if “nothing” is a synonym for “starving”, but if you’ve got benefits or The Bank Of Mum And Dad to see you through for a bit, it’s at least comprehensible why over-optimistic graduates want to avoid the “risk” of getting stuck in supermarket jobs. Am sure it’s an age-old problem; moons ago when I was at uni the trope of The Cambridge Maths Grad Who Hasn’t Found Work For Years But Keeps Applying To Top City Banks Regardless was already alive and well (the poor bastard turned out to be real, too). With the current glut of graduates, plus the pool of post-crash uni-leavers still seeking their first “proper job”, it can only have got worse.

  34. @MBE, quite. Having any real-world experience at all is a huge turnoff for the big consultancy firms.

  35. MBE,

    “Despite the advantages of being English native-speakers, and in some cases pretty well-qualified.”

    Yes, but “pretty well-qualified” in what? I’ve worked with lots of Indian, Czech and Polish software developers because they have the skills/experience that companies want. We aren’t interested in hiring people that did art history that may or may not have the ability and will cost thousands to train.

  36. Prole,

    > As an aside, it seems to me iniquitous that poor people with cars end up at present paying far more road tax than middle class people

    It’s worse than that: there was the scrappage scheme too. A Labour government gave thousands of pounds to rich people who could afford brand new cars. Poor people buying second-hand could fuck off.

  37. @MBE

    Your relative – why did he go down the educational route he did if most of the jobs were in the Far East and he didn’t want to go out there? Only asking (if you’re still on the thread).

  38. @Interested

    Essentially by accident, as I understand it. I know quite a lot of people with PhDs (or who have taken one on and dropped out) and in terms of the specific projects they got to work on, it’s always been a matter of what interesting stuff they saw available, what had funding attached at the time, and the usual pot luck about which one you actually get accepted for (most people seem to apply for a few before they get in). By definition they’re all rather specialised and niche, so post-PhD applications seem to come as an afterthought.

    Might be some logic in the US PhD system, which as I understand it, is usually a generalist taught course to start with then specialises into research work and a particular project later. Suspect it buys a bit of time to work out what’s worthwhile and where it’ll lead. The British system seems to rely on people spotting an ad for a project in a vaguely interesting-sounding field in an area they’d heard of during their Masters degree (and with a mite of boning up, could claim they had “previously studied”), then having a fortnight or so to bash out an application expressing their deep and lifelong interest in it. I jest a little, but a recipe for forward-planning this is not. One guy I knew did better than expected on results day, figured he’d quite like to stick around at uni a while longer, had a chat with faculty to see if there were any last-minute places to fill, and by the afternoon had handed in his (successful) application. He ended up spending 3 more years in academia, working in a specialist research area he’d barely heard of (more so since the PhD was a subject switch) the day before.

    I’m not convinced a PhD is a great deal of use in a lot of professional fields. In my relative’s case, I think the original intention was mostly defensive – keep him busy a few years during the post-2008 graduate jobs armageddon, with the hopes things would have cleared up by the time he came out the other end. Possibly sound logic but the gamble didn’t work out.

  39. @Stigler

    Much as I wish art history degrees cost three times as much to the students as STEM ones did (might shift a few priorities in order), one would hope they still leave their victims “reasonably well-qualified” in terms of basic literacy and cultural awareness. Lower down the skills spectrum, even “passed 6 GCSEs and got a college diploma” is a signal someone’s not a total moron and perfectly capable of a retail, basic admin or customer service job. In blog-reading demographics a typical reaction to one’s kid passing only 6 GCSEs and wanting to take a crappy diploma at a crappy college may involve rooves getting hit, but in principle such qualifications should be no bar to someday renting a place and feeding themselves: so no worse off than the hunter-gatherer ancestors.

    My perspective might be a little too wide for this – when my mother started her teaching career deep out in the sticks, a fair portion of the farmboys and their parents were genuinely illiterate and had to “mark” their signature instead of writing it, whereas now if we moan about kids’ “illiteracy” we’re basically figuratively bitching about SMS-speak. But there are clearly big numbers of disappointed youngsters out there, holding sheets of paper they’ve been told they worked really hard for (Mrs Smiley congratulated them for all the simply wonderful effort they’d been making while slightly inebriated at their Year 11 “Graduation” Prom) and then seeing the jobs they’re applying for go to a mystifying array of other people. (The thing that seems to really irk folk is when that’s a migrant who can barely string a sentence of English together, though I’ve no idea whether this is latent xenophobia or pure exasperation at the “I could do that, why didn’t I get the job?” factor.)

    No doubt disappointment with “credentialism” is age-old, but with the extent we sell higher education as a life-solution I’m sure it must be worse now. I used to be an adult education lecturer, had a lot of students who’d dossed through school and gone on to singlemumhood or a stultifying (in some cases, physically disabling) career in the factories. Now they had rejoined the system, recanting their past errors, serious about learning, intent upon success. As they struggled through my Basic Skills class (it’s definitely easier learning this stuff as a kid, folks, do pay attention first time round) they assured me they were working really hard, so they could finally sort themselves out and go on to study sociology at university. I got quite good at not cringing; second most popular subject was probably history or English Lit. And there was that little glint in their eye, that told me they honestly believed it would transform their lives. (Perhaps in some cases it did – some would go on to work in teaching, for instance, a route barred to them before.) Today I cross my fingers and hope the introduction of tuition fees has guided many of these good folk away from expensive disillusionment, but not from a more general desire to upgrade skills or seek new knowledge. Tough balance. Lots of those students had family and money issues that would these days see them down the Trussell Trust, and in retrospect I’m sad such support was not there for them at the time.

    @Squander Two

    Thanks. And yes, “cash for clunkers” seems particularly daft when you consider the grubbiest or most inefficient old bangers that the “environmental” aspect was meant to address, were quite unlikely to belong to the middle classes.

  40. The side benefit of scrappage, I suppose, was protecting or boosting jobs in the car industry.

    We got rid of our 2nd car, a coupe which we liked, but had crept over the age limit and bought new. There was a further big discount anyway, so it made sense to us.

    If we didn’t have the cash we wouldn’t have gone near it.

  41. Well, Jack, speaking as someone who can’t afford a new car but helped pay for yours, I hope you’re enjoying it.

    And which car industry did we help? The British one? Hahahahahaha.

  42. Ears,

    Reading over this again the next day, your description of your relative is practically a blueprint of the people we hire. And we are hiring. Unless he’s an utter numpty in interviews, should be a shoe-in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *