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Carran’s Working Diary 25: Writing on the wall: 2 SkEtching a step

Stairs at Gressenhall Workhouse

Stairs at Gressenhall Workhouse

“We put them on steps and they have to work their way up the steps until finally they reach the top step when hopefully they are independent enough to go their own way and jump off the top….not literally, we don’t encourage that.” (Funraiser)

I landed on the theme of steps through a number of routes.  Of course the nineteenth century frame offered hierarchy, order, working your way up…..  Then I found steps as a part of the processing of jobseekers today.  I researched many conversations between frustrated jobseekers/claimants and job advisers and was reminded of my own step programme in 1978 when I was paid £50 a month  to take a Theatre-In-Education post on this scheme.  I cannot imagine anything so creative might be possible today.  Steps are schemes for progression but their rules and regulations can be ultimately frustrating and can involve skipping and jumping up and down as you progress two steps forward and four steps back.  Working your way up steps means all that hoop hopping and hoping you do progress but involves having to decipher the latest jargon that will allow you onto the next rung.  It’s not just jobseeker/claimants who experience this.  It is the very heart of our education for life system. Academics, school children and arts practitioners all work with the step system.

“A is for excellent, B is for good, C is for average, D is for Weak and E is for Poor …and it means you failed and it implies you didn’t even try.” (Carran and Job Seeker)

“We won’t call it a barrier, we’ll just call it a desk…and when they come up to you with their CVs to show you what they’ve been doing.  You just say…oh very good is that what you’ve been doing? Very good.  But don’t apply for anything you’re not qualified for dear, it won’t count as a step.” (Matron to Data Protector in training)

The Perspex Barrier and demonstrating Step One

The Perspex Barrier and demonstrating Step One

So the barrier is part of the step system and standing on the step is part of the performance/concert which all the characters have a go at.   Standing on a step is proving you have done something to warrant your dole, bread, claim, wage, job, reason for being.  Ultimately jumping off the top step and being independent enough to go your own way as funraiser hopes might also mean being compelled to jump ending your life as we learn from the long list of “people who have died from being sanctioned” as demonstrated in the protest events witnessed on The Poor Side of Life website.

Standing on the step and singing for your supper has many guises and we all do it one way or another.  But for some of us the song is long and arduous and the voice breaks through want of being listened to because the script is hard to decipher.

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