Around 50 people came to a protest outside Selly Oak job centre in Birmingham yesterday, Saturday, at just a day’s notice after a desperate man set himself on fire there.
The man tied himself to railings outside the job centre and set himself alight in what is believed to have been despair over being denied benefit payments.
Reports say he had recently been found “fit to work” despite having health problems. He is now recovering from burns in hospital.
“I know how isolating and degrading looking for jobs is,” Clare Lister, who is currently unemployed, told Socialist Worker on the protest. “This won’t have been the first or the last person who does something like this.”
She was one of many on the protest who were unemployed themselves. Others were part of Birmingham Against the Cuts, which called the demonstration.
The protesters were angry, but also sad, as they discussed how David Cameron’s cuts have driven people to such desperate acts.
“As an unemployed person claiming jobseekers’ you feel that no one thinks you are worth the time and effort,” said one. “The organisation of the job centres themselves can feel like a very hostile environment with all the security.”
'More than once in over a year of unemployment have I considered suicide,” added another. “I just want to work. The benefit is not enough to live on.”
Ian Nannestad from the TUC Centre for the Unemployed in Sparkhill described how Atos medicals stop people’s benefits with crude tests “such as being fit to lift at work if you can pick up a two-pint milk carton”.
“This system is inhumane and brutal,” he said. “No wonder people are going over the edge.”