Give a job to Jeff and Louise

21st April 2006 at 01:00
Are your bins left outside, blocking the pavement all day until you get home to put them back - after, of course, putting them out in the first place? Time and motion, love. You know what it's like.

Actually, I do. I remember when the bin men went in and got your bin, and put it back empty. The pavements were left for pushchairs and pedestrians, not a weekly calamity of bins. I also appreciate that time is money and there are fewer scaffies lifting more bins in less time. I appreciate the money saving, time saving and energy saving.

But I also know Jeff. He was one of my pupils. - friendly, obliging and loved company. As long as he understood what you wanted him to do, he'd do it. Not much writing beyond his name, not much reading at all. Off he went to college (learned to smoke, learned to skive), and now he has become a lifelong unemployed person. And society doesn't care any more - out of sight, out of mind.

Jeff could walk along after the bin men and put the bins back. He wouldn't cost much - less than the state probably pays out in benefits just now. But it would give him a place in society. Friends and workmates. A structure to the day and pride in his pay packet.

He would learn how to interact with his colleagues, and to fend off the practical jokes. He'd only go for a long stand once. He'd have earned his pint money and would maybe begin to buy his own clothes. He's a nice, decent person whose brain works that bit slower than yours or mine. But he deserves to work.

He deserves it as much as Louise. She smiles a lot to hide her shyness and she is a lovely reader. Doesn't understand what she reads, or what she copies in her slow careful print. But she could do a job, a boring, repetitive job, which would drive you or me crazy. But she is not you or me. So add a couple of pence on to that already extortionate latte, and have Louise there to clear the tables and wipe them down.

You don't have to pay a lot - minimum wage is fine. And not too many hours because she gets tired. Don't expect more than slowly and carefully clearing the tables and wiping them down, because filling and emptying the dishwasher would be too complicated. But she'll lose the weight she carries because she eats because she is bored at home.

Louise might even notice what the other girls wear and shrug off her pink trackie.

We know the score. It's hard enough for qualified people to find work. But we need to look beyond the economics with those who have additional support needs and give them a job. Let's treat them with respect. It's fair and decent to give them a break, when life itself gave them a raw deal.

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