Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | September 28, 2012

Meet Damon: a first-hand, personal tale of long-term youth unemployment

In a departure from the usual blogs form academic authors, today’s  MYPLACE blog comes from a young man in our project’s age group of interest (though outside our fieldwork locations).

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

With the economic crisis and the employment prospects of young people providing key context for MYPLACE, today’s blog is the story, in his own words of a young man in the UK dealing with long-term unemployment.

“Greetings my name’s Damon Cooper, aged 22, I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I’m currently residing in my home city of Leeds.  The situation I’m dealing with at the moment is unemployment; the career that I’m seriously pursuing is in the creative industries.  Currently I’m still at the job centre every fortnight and on the verge of participating in the work programme which I’m finding very daunting indeed.  Having being diagnosed with Asperger’s the thing I fear most about the work programme is having to experience what my friend recently said he’d gone through with a disability mentor: creating giraffes out of tinfoil as part of a confidence building exercise.  How patronising?

Looking back at my years of long term unemployment it has being difficult for me to find a job because I’ve had no focus or guidance into employment.  My advisors at the job centre always told me to apply for as many jobs as possible and I might just get lucky.  Going by that logic I could buy a lottery ticket and I might become a millionaire if I choose the right numbers.  But very few of the long term unemployed get lucky in finding jobs the way the job centre wants you to find them.  It’s alright for them though because if you have over a million youths looking for a job then the probability is that some of them will find a job.  For those that do manage to find a job this way, their story gets sensationalised as an example of why the system is the right way to go about things. Meanwhile the unlucky ones struggle on because no one wants to hear about failure.

Experiencing long term unemployment has at times left me an emotional wreck struggling to deal with the realities of day to day life.  I’ve vowed to never apply for jobs again because life is too short to be wasting time on organisations that aren’t the least bit interested in my plight to try and earn a living.  Above all I felt abandoned by a society that was leaving me to out to dry on the benefit trap lifestyle which isn’t something I ever expected to experience.   School taught me a good work ethic and it was frustrating when I couldn’t channel that into anything constructive whilst looking for employment.  It’s not the working world our kids today need to be more prepared for it’s the world of long term unemployment.

Way back in 2009 I was bluntly addressed by a disability mentor that I’d never attain experience in the creative industries because I didn’t have relevant university qualifications.  Since that hurtful encounter I’ve appeared on BBC Radio Leeds twice, had my podcast idea endorsed by a senior politician and BBC Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank remarked on my dance moves as ‘nice’ on twitter.  In the past year I’ve found myself becoming more at ease, gradually working my way up the greasy pole of the creative industries which has allowed me to showcase my talent for writing.  Because of my focus and the guidance I’ve been getting, I hope I’m now on the verge of doing very well indeed.


As for the MYPLACE themes of social, civic and political participation, Damon has worked on schemes aimed at helping other long-term unemployed people find work and develop creative skills. He also writes a popular, off-beat blog on an independent Rugby League supporters’ website. When asked about participation in formal politics:

“I did vote but I really can’t remember who I voted for as I just ticked them randomly….  it wouldn’t even surprise me if I missed the last polls. I definitely voted in the election when David Cameron came to power though.”

Does Damon feel that the main political parties do enough to address long-term youth unemployment?

“Personally I think there are too many parasite advisors with their own agendas surrounding the government like vultures for the government to make a real difference for the unemployed. The government give private companies lots of money to solve unemployment but they always fail to meet targets. So the idea to solve unemployment is evident with the amount of money that the government throw at combatting it. But they funding the wrong organisations who aren’t making much of a difference.

It is easy to wonder how typical Damon’s experiences, and particularly his responses (in civic engagement and political participation) are. MYPLACE may go some way to addressing this.

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