A joiner who has been unemployed for two-and-a-half years has pleaded for support to help him get back into work.
Father-of-two Chris Aston first fell into difficulties when he lost his work van in the 2008 Morpeth flood.
Initially, due to the high demand for skilled tradesmen after the deluge, he was able to use the family car for jobs, but when the work dried up he could no longer afford to run the vehicle. Without transport, the Morpeth man was unable to travel to jobs with his heavy tools and eventually had to sign on for Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Since then, Mr Aston says he has attended numerous training courses and applied for at least eight jobs each week, but he has been unable to find employment.
He has received almost £18,000 in allowance over the period, but says that if he had been given a £500 grant for a van and £75 for a Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) card instead, he would have had no problem finding work. And he is frustrated at having to turn down jobs for the lack of such provision.
“I have a young family to support and want to work for them and for me, but there are two obstacles that are preventing me from gaining employment in a trade I love and am good at – a van to transport my tools and, most crucially, a valid CSCS card, both of which cost money,” he said.
“The jobs I have attended interviews for have all said I am over-qualified. I receive phone calls and emails from various job search websites on a daily basis, asking me if I can start immediately in my skilled trade, but they can’t employ me without a CSCS card.
“When going to the Jobcentre to sign on every two weeks, I have told them that I need help with funding to acquire my CSCS card, which is essential to gain employment in my trade, and also transport for my tools. They just say they can’t help with funding at all.
“How much money has it cost the Government to pay me Jobseekers’ Allowance over the last two-and-a-half years? If it was willing to help, it would have saved almost £18,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“There are so many people out there unwilling to work, sitting watching Jeremy Kyle. I want to work to support my family and do what I love doing. Why is there no help out there for people like me?”
He added: “I have been let down by the system that is supposed to support me and others like me. It is Catch 22. I need a CSCS card and a van to work, but I need funding for both.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Jobcentre staff work hard to help people off benefits and into work, including advising people on self-employment. We are happy to talk Mr Aston through the support available for people who want to be their own boss, including ways he can apply for business loans.”
He added that around 2,000 people in Northumberland have been helped off benefits in the last year.