Thursday, April 9, 2009

Feature in today's WM

Only had an opportunity to read today’s Western Mail now on a break from driving up to North Wales, and must say, I’m really moved by the feature based on an interview with Gerwyn Jenkins who was a setter operator at Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil. In the article, he tells of his struggle to re-adjust and find new employment after the closure of the plant. He had been working there for almost twenty years, and at only 41 years of age, is desperate to find a new challenge. This is a man who wants to work, and wants to re-skill and despite having the experience, it seems worthless because he doesn’t have the right certificates. Surely, when you have that much experience you don’t need a certificate proving that you can do the job – a reference letter and a CV showing you’ve actually done it should be just as important. Wasn't that the point of having a national framework for education?!

It angers me to see people like Gerwyn struggle, without the right support packages being in place. It just shows how right we’ve been in Plaid Cymru to push for a reform of the benefits system, so that it offers the right support and training for people when they become unexpectedly unemployed. The way he describes his treatment at the job centre really hits the message home – being told that everyone has GCSEs now not CSEs and O-levels like he has and also being laughed at when he told an adviser that he’d like a job like his. This is no way to treat people. The unemployed are often the most vulnerable within our society – surely empathy is needed to ensure that they get back on track as soon as possible. 41 is young, and there is no way you should be seen as past it by that age. Unfortunately, Gerwyn is not unique in being in this situation. More and more people are losing their jobs every week in Wales, despite the assembly’s best efforts. Indeed, without the work that Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones have been doing the situation would be even worse, which doesn’t bear thinking about... Westminster needs to take notice and act decisively in terms of social reform. There are no easy solutions to solve the weaknesses that exist in the system overnight, but surely the time has come to act. We cannot ignore the problem any longer, as Gerwyn's sad tale emphasises.

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