As one who has not 2 days ago sent off her form to apply to be considered by the Daily Mail as a scourge on society, I was interested to hear that the government has come up with a new strategy to 'deal with' people who are on Jobseeker's Allowance and Incapacity Benefit (I've gone for the latter, in case you're wondering) by making them do voluntary work.
I think this is a splendid plan. I already do a little bit of voluntary work, and, while I can't commit to full-time volunteering, it would be nice to have a chance to do a little bit more, meet some new people and get out of the house a bit to somewhere that's not Tesco. It would also give me a chance to try new things, and would look half decent on my CV (which is currently going to have a fair old gap which can only reasonably be explained by admitting I spent it writing this nonsense, or by lying).
But I never trust the Labour government, and am fairly sure they will screw this up as well. Because what will all these people be asked to do? There are only so many walls that need painted, and only so much graffitti that needs scrubbed off. They're hardly likely to train people in anything much (since that would surely attract further Daily Mail wrath, along the lines of "Now Lazy Scroungers Get FREE Lessons: and YOU PAY"); on the other hand, if you match someone up to be doing a job they're already skilled at, then you can't really not pay them if they're going to do it for any length of time. It needs to be reasonably unimportant, in case a big bank or something invests locally and in one recruitment drive you lose all your workers apart from the properly sick ones, and have to put your project on hold for a while. The likes of me will have to have a break for a panic attack every half hour or so, so it can't be anything that needs lengthy concentration. So we need to find jobs with no training needed, not so skilled that anyone would expect to be paid to do them, which are reasonably unimportant, and not requiring concerted effort. And we're talking about a few million people here: we can't all be Prime Minister, even if we take turns. So what does that leave?
Let me make some suggestions:
1. Moving things around. Piles of bricks, for instance, or heaps of sand. This can go on indefinitely, moving things from one corner to another to another to another and back to the first. It requires no skill, no training, and will never be finished. For the ones who work hard, this will lay the foundation for a decent career in local government.
2. Writing for the Daily Mail. One only needs to take the words 'IMMIGRANTS', 'OUTRAGE', 'benefits', 'SCROUNGERS', 'tax' and 'house prices' and shuffle them around with various 'fill in' words like 'the' and 'and' and so on, and add photos. It's not even like The Sun where you have to be able to think of punning headlines.
3. Reality TV Show Contestants. There has to be a limit to the number of people who will willingly do this. There just has to be; the alternative is too frightening. So we will soon need people to be made to volunteer, so that the shows can continue. If there are people left over, they can be in the audience of talk shows.
4. Human Guinea Pigs. No one's that keen to volunteer since that thing that happened in England a few years ago, but they still need people to test drugs on. Perfect for people who are claiming they have a 'bad back': they'll get to lie down the whole time.
5. Building houses. This would actually be quite useful; and any idiot can lay bricks, right? Not that I've ever tried, of course, but I got proper builders in for that sort of thing and look how that finished up. Also, based on that experience, we know that any house building task can occupy as many or as few people as happen to turn up, which is handy when you don't know how many jobless people you are going to have. You could get skilled people in to do electrics and so on, obviously. The country is much in need of houses, so that first time buyers can afford a home, so this would be good for society in general.
6. Write stuff like this. Entertain people in pointless ways. If you get really good, like me, you can be a government adviser.