We were told the Enterprise Club is getting “a lot of web, designers, BBC people and accountants” through and to bear in mind that there could be someone in one of the many sessions around the country ahead with their business idea who could be our direct competition. I assume this is how some feel on The Apprentice suddenly in competition with people they once considered colleagues.
The sandwiches still hadn’t arrived by this point. I checked by watch and we’d only been talking for an hour and twenty minutes.
I listened to the credit advice as our down-to-earth, straight-talking course leader explained why some of us won’t get any of the maximum £1000 government start-up loan. It seems we can’t have bad credit, as with any loan, and it is best that we have some debt rather than none: so potentially those in dire financial straits after six months won’t get financial help and nor could someone who has been made redundancy and cleared all their debts.
I thought of the letter from my bank I received after asking them to refund the money they took in error: I’ve been sent a second Income and Expenditure Form and asked to explain again when I started “experiencing financial difficulty and what has caused this situation”. I thought of the Energy Fund application I’m making because I can’t afford NPower’s £2.50 per week gas meter surcharges, or its 70% debt repayment and have no option to move to another provider. I thought of the letters from debt collectors threatening me with a poor credit rating, the phone calls from creditors asking for money I don’t have and the fact that training to be a billionaire is adding £6.80 to my weekly expenditure. I thought the advice to “manage the debts you have now” came a little late in the day and perhaps the unemployed shouldn’t have to wait six months before getting their exclusive Enterprise Club membership.
I’m all for helping the unemployed set up in business, have no qualms with a government encouraging self-employment, but I’m not daft enough to think this is anything other than statistic-fudging.
We’re told with some enthusiasm that previous Enterprise Club members have said, “this is the first time in ages I have had to be somewhere on time”. This is understandable because it is remarkably easy to slip into a routine of doing little – but this is not a reason to create Enterprise Clubs and not an excuse to force the unemployed to work for Jobseekers’ Allowance through Workfare.
We need job creation not schemes moving the unemployed from one benefit to the other or teaching us what work is all about.
The Enterprise Clubs are run by private training companies across the UK who bid for the funding and, to some extent I would suggest, are going through the motions. Workfare, more worryingly, is to be run by Ingeus, in turn owned by financiers Deloitte, which would suggest some jobs are being created – but not for the people who find themselves on the schemes.
So while we were told to manage our finances, watch out for the competition and fill-in our Business Plan booklet, I waited for the butties. I listened to the phrase “networking” thrown around more than a swear word at a football match. I listened as we were all told what “exciting and vibrant people” we were.
The butties didn’t even arrive when we were told to have half an hour for lunch so I ran outside to buy one, grumbling as I wandered the streets, assuming the government couldn’t stretch to lunch for us.
I watched workers rushing around town, casually spending £3.95 on sandwiches. I felt a mixture of ridiculously poor and uncomfortably different as I left the queue on seeing the prices – but I also felt outraged that anyone would charge almost four pound for a wrinkly cheese butty and people would pay it. I wandered into a newsagent and spent £1.99 on a cheese and onion sandwich and 40p on matching bag of crisps. Attending Enterprise Club had now cost me £5.79.
I got back to the classroom and there were the butties: Cameron had recognised we need to eat after all. There were some triangular taste sensations left despite my walk around town so I had a sandwich and packet of crisps for my tea. I ate it by the halogen heater, recognising I’m no closer to my first million.
What I have learned at Enterprise Club: wait for the sandwiches; social enterprises don’t fit the scheme; being in debt or having no debt won’t help you and programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den have a lot to answer for