At the Vauxhall Gardens Estate Christmas Party, we had dozens of conversations with people, young and old, about what would make their lives better, what opportunities they wanted, and how North Lambeth (now being referred to as NoLa by the youngsters) could be better.
One conversation with a 50-year-old man called David* stood out, though it is by no means an unusual case. After working all his life, David was recently made redundant because of Tory cuts to the public sector. Over the last year he has worked at Asda on irregular night shifts, day shifts as a hospital porter and other odd jobs as and when he can get them, sometimes juggling three or four part-time and uncertain jobs at the same time.
Not every 50 year old who is made redundant suddenly has a cushy landing
David spoke to me about how working for him is not just a financial necessity (which it is, to pay the bills), but also for his self of worth and belonging. David talked about how depressed he can get when he’s out of work, worrying about whether he’ll make his payments, and feeling useless. He talked to me about his frustration at the Job Centre, about how his lack of up-to-date digital skills were a barrier, and how only low-pay, temporary employments were offered to him. David lamented how he felt overlooked by Job Centre staff because he did not belong to a target group, and how this also made him ineligible for many of the target programmes aimed at single parents, over 60s or people with mental health problems. He talked about not knowing many people in his friendship group who was in the same position, and how he felt ashamed and increasingly isolated.
As someone who has been a Labour Councillor for 6 years and formerly held the Jobs and Employment portfolio, I recognised the battles I had fought with Council officers about targeting vs. a universal offer. The lack of priority given to David as not ‘high need enough’ over others in worse positions, is a situation which plays out in many Job Centres and Town Halls.
David volunteers on his local Residents’ Association and is an active member of the community. He was optimistic despite his predicament. There will be 100s of Davids out there amongst the 30,000 people who live in this area, people who lose their jobs having worked their entire lives, who then find that the world of work has moved on so quickly that they are being left behind.
Our North Lambeth CLIP intends to invest in our communities, building support networks at community level to help people like David. We want to make sure David receives the support he needs to upskill, to brush up on his digital skills, and to find appropriate work for his experience. And whilst he is doing that, we want to make sure that he is put in touch with other people living in North Lambeth who are experiencing the same situation.
If you know someone like David, or have friends or neighbours who have challenging circumstances, please make sure they know about the North Lambeth CLIP, so that they can engage and discover that they are not alone. Please also encourage them to raise this issue via their local tenants’ or residents’ association, church, or other community group. Or put them in touch with us direct, by using the Councillor contact details via email@example.com (Oval) or by visiting princes-labour.org.uk (Prince’s)
* Not his actual name
Jack Hopkins & Joanne Simpson
Oval & Prince's Labour Councillors