Today's news brings with it this little tidbit - Jobless figures rose by 27,000 in the three months to the end of January, bringing the total number of unemployed to 2.53 million people. That's a shocking amount.
The Jobcentre in my home town is open just one day a week. That's despite it having a huge unemployment problem.
Jobcentres aren't just there for people to sign on. They advertise local, and national, vacancies which anyone, employed or not, can view. They serve as places for people to get help and advice. Or at least they are supposed to.
But they're being treated as factories, for pushing people from one end to another as quickly as possible. And now their staff numbers are being cut.
The unemployed are treated as goods on a conveyor belt. Or worse, they are treated like criminals. No-one asks to lose their job, for their firm to go bust, or for them to become ill. So why the criminal treatment?
I honestly don't think this government realises what being unemployed is like. The worthless feeling when you are unable to provide for yourself and your family, that gets worse with every rejection. The humiliation of having to queue in the Jobcentre to sign on for your benefits and prove that you've applied for a certain number of jobs.
And if you have the audacity to become sick then you face the humiliation of claiming ESA. I say humiliation because you're treated as if you're faking your illness from the start. The Work Capability Assessment, carried out by unqualified, non specialist assessors, is designed to prove you can work, not to confirm that you can't.
And because of it's failings, hundreds of thousands of people are about to be pushed onto Jobseekers, to join the rest of the 'goods' on the conveyor belt.
Atos gets paid £300 million for this. That's in addition to the £500 million it's already been paid for it's current services.
And let's not forget the much lauded (by the ConDems) Work Programme. Private companies can bid for government contracts to help the unemployed back to work. At a cost of anywhere up to £2 billion a year, according to the Financial Times
With the number of Jobcentre staff now being cut, the system will get worse. I'm no economist or politician but it seems to me to be crazy to payout millions to private firms whilst cutting the number of Jobcentre staff.
So here's an idea - stop paying the private firms. Stop sacking the JC staff. Recruit more of them and train them properly. Have them take on a case load of certain amount of claimants that they work with - from the initial signing, to the 2 weekly appointment, to jobseeking. Have them get to know their clients. So they can help them better and stop the culture of treating everyone as a commodity to be got through.
Stop paying Atos. Instead of subjecting every claimant to a WCA, work with their consultants.
That way you stop wasting millions, or even billions, you take more off benefits, and you stop vulnerable people from being treated like cattle. When people start being treated as humans again they are more likely to accept help, to trust their advisers and their confidence is boosted. All of this helps them to look for work.
And the disabled and sick stop living in fear. They stop thinking that taking their own lives is the only way out. They gain back that scrap of dignity that it left to them.
All of this is common sense surely?