isIn her next book, More Than a Woman, writer Caitlin Moran poses Janet’s theory. It is the working assumption that whenever you have an unfortunate opportunity to connect with a utility company, service provider, any government device, customer support line, or the like, you should just keep ringing, calling back, hanging on until you’re finally connected. with a somewhat tired but mostly compassionate woman in her late middle age. Likely called Janet, she’ll solve your three month difficulty in three minutes, wish you a good day, and be on the next call while you’re still trying to deal with what happened. The less an employee, the more a blessing.
The Yorkshire Jobcentre (Channel 4) provides further empirical evidence for Janet’s theory, thanks to the phalanx of work coaches – one of whom is actually named Jan – who are employed by the Southern House employment center in Leeds , who take care of the myriad needs and problems of the 600 (out of the city’s 29,000 unemployed) job seekers and benefits that pass through its doors every day. There are those who have never worked, and those who have always worked who now watch, stunned after sudden redundancy, the infinitely patient staff as they try to familiarize themselves with this strange new world of hoops to jump through. to guarantee that £ 80 per week (less penalties, if you – even inadvertently – make a mistake, or the computer does). There are those who are hostile, frustrated, worn out, depressed and there are those who are still optimistic – often determined, digging deep into stores of strength and energy – and ready for anything. There are a few who don’t want to work, vastly outnumbered by the proportion of desperate for a job, and Jan, Bernie, Amma and Center Director Alison all approach them with sympathy, rigor and clear-eyed practicality. mixed in the perfect proportions for everyone. . “Sometimes I’ll just take small steps,” Jan says after what turns out to be a series of unproductive meetings with client Pamela Anderson (yes, really – a young man looks up from his phone when his name is called, just in case), “because sometimes that’s all that’s available.” “
The main directive for this kind of documentary on this kind of subject is to remain as unmotivated and lucid as its protagonists almost always are, and this The Yorkshire Jobcentre handles it admirably. Without the suspicion that I would get a clip around Jan’s ear, and maybe Bernie’s too, I’d say he maintained a fine level of emotional austerity that was very regionally appropriate. But they would, so I won’t. Plus, because it’s a series rather than a single, there hasn’t been the rush for people’s stories that frequently plagues the genre. We see Pam has a fair chance before Jan establishes the Effort Law, after an on-camera track that analyzes the social contract upon which the welfare state depends as clearly and succinctly as anyone. And we see in all its measure the sweet indomitability of Karen, 60-year-old bookkeeper, widowed and unemployed for five years as the world of work gallops without her. She eventually gets hired at a supermarket, and it’s an achievement that the manufacturers made sure we appreciate that she was hard earned.
Bernie’s client, Kenny, has functioned as a microcosm of all benefits for harm and deprivation and those who administer them are effectively urged to cancel. Irresistibly sunny, nervous and charming, he holds his dates in a secure space after threatening to “tear the jaw” of a former trainer. It’s a shocking revelation that also seems at odds with the man before us. It turns out that a few months before, his sister committed suicide – a story of his own to surely tell – and he, along with his young son, found her. He tried to resuscitate her. “I did my best… that’s what everyone said… it just didn’t work. With Bernie’s help, he revises his CV and – after going over everything he owns for the interview – gets a job at a recycling center. His first shift, he said, “Perfect! Better than I ever could have thought!
Let Janets run the world and, you have to imagine, the world wouldn’t be perfect. But it could be better than we ever could have thought.