Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

August 10, 2007

unemployment in the family

Cressida is 43, lives in a small town, and she's supporting her husband, 47, and son, 21, who lost their jobs following a factory closure. Eventually, if they don't find new jobs soon, they will be forced onto welfare but what is really bothering Cressida is that her menfolk -- and others in the town -- now have nothing constructive to do with their lives.

After anything up to 21 years of being compulsorily 'regimented' in educational institutions, Cressida feels that most social ills - including crime, drugs, crazy cults, mental illness and rising single motherhood - are a result of young people being suddenly left to their own devices, facing unemployment and social alienation.

"My remedy - for young unemployed people as well as older people who suddenly find themselves unemployed after years of security with one employer," says Cressida, "is to institute a system whereby everybody has somewhere to go and something to do every day."

"Ideally, that 'somewhere' would be a continuing education facility - but it could also be a community center or even a commercial or industrial facility."

"I honestly believe that if everyone belonged somewhere, most of our social ills would disappear," says Cressida.

"Continuing education is already being used as a means to keep unemployed kids off the streets, but it is abominable that there are not enough places at these facilities for all kids who fail to find a job upon leaving school."

"It is no wonder that these 'disassociated' kids get into crime or drugs or become single mothers or basket cases," says Cressida. "They've spent all of their lives being regimented at school - encouraged to identify with a group - and suddenly they find themselves belonging nowhere."

"They've left school - no college has room for them - no employer has a job for them - what are they to do?" asks Cressida. "Giving these people a welfare check may take care of their physical needs, but what about their social needs?"

"It's the same story for older unemployed people."

"If our society cannot provide jobs for everyone then I believe it has a duty to provide some sort of secure and nurturing environment for the 'disassociated'," says Cressida. "Why wait until these people become social problems before taking care of them?"

"We should be valuing these people - giving them a reason to get up and face every day with hope - rather than leaving them to their own devices."

"Special needs community centers are necessary, I feel, in order to maintain the structure these young people are accustomed to," says Cressida.

"Right now, everyone has the opportunity to drop in to some sort of community center - but few of the 'disassociated' take advantage of the facilities available to them and my husband and son certainly don't. Why? Because the present community system doesn't cater for their special needs. It's loose, haphazard, slack and lackadaisical - it fails to provide the structure and the feeling of belonging that unemployed school leavers need. It should be set up like a school, with regular attendance encouraged."

"Dropping in to one of the existing community centers often makes the 'disassociated' feel more alienated than they are already because they cater for the elderly," says Cressida. "Bingo and board games are not what that's needed and that's why these guys stay home and avoid humiliation."

"In instituting post-school cum pre-retirement facilities it is important, I feel, to make attendance at the facilities as important in value as attending a job or a regular college," says Cressida. "It would be counter-productive and stupid to turn them into some sort of prison or workhouse - that's not what these places should be."

"Compulsory attendance at a facility should not be seen as a punishment for inability to find a job," adds Cressida. "And failure to attend on a regular basis should not be punished, either."

"The 'disassociated' should be able to see these facilities as places they want to belong to, want to attend regularly and want to see as an integral part of their lives until such time as a paying job comes along."

"In terms of continuing education I would like to see these facilities offering life skills courses - not just job hunting skills, but real life skills such as self-esteem, relating to others, helping others and team building skills in general."

"Not all employers want someone with a PhD," adds Cressida. "Most would be happy to employ a person who is happy, well-adjusted and gets along well with others - and these are the skills that these new facilities would be fostering."

"When the time comes - and it will - when only a few of us will have jobs and the rest of us will be superfluous and dependant," says Cressida, "we really need to be thinking ahead and putting in place a solid system to cope with hundreds of thousands of people with nothing to do with their lives."

"If we don't want to see social ills escalate, then we really need to give the 'disassociated' an alternative to crime or drugs or just giving up."

"I'm coping with two unemployed men at home," sighs Cressida. "My family is just one of hundreds of thousands in this country who have the same problem. But it's not a family problem. Unemployment and having nothing to do with one's life is a social problem needing a social remedy."

"Giving our 'disassociated' people a welfare check is not the solution - they need to belong somewhere and be doing something. That's how we were raised. When we leave school - or become unemployed - a similar structure should be in place for us to belong to until we find a more permanent structure for our lives."

"It's such a simple remedy - why on earth hasn't our government shown any initiative in this respect?"

(Cressida's story first appeared as welfare and social alienation and is reprinted with permission.)

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