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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Frankie Case: foodbank volunteeer

This feature is almost 10 years old

Backchat: Frankie Case has been unemployed for five years and uses his experience to help others manage the benefits system

Frankie Case
Frankie Case

It’s the old folk I feel most sorry for. They struggle the most. We went out a few weeks ago, delivering a food and clothing parcel to an 82-year-old woman whose neighbours were worried she wasn’t eating properly.

She didn’t want charity but seemed grateful we’d stopped by. The older generation seems far more reluctant than the young to get something for nothing. They have this attitude that everything has to be earned.

I volunteer with the Trussell Trust as well as helping people fill out applications for jobs and advise people on benefits at a drop-in centre in Glasgow’s Parkhead.

I see people every day who are living in poverty. When I hear government ministers deny this it makes me angry. Just come to Glasgow’s east end and you’ll see, on every corner, real poverty.

I’m born and bred in the area and I can safely say it’s got worse not better. I love the people – they’re the best thing about Parkhead but the levels of poverty are shocking.

I’ve built up a forensic knowledge of the system over the last five years

Five years ago I was made redundant from a printworks. I’d been there for eight years and was making good money. But when the recession hit, the company packed up and went abroad.

There have been a few jobs since but nothing permanent.

Unemployment is rife in Glasgow’s east end. When I first heard the Commonwealth Games were coming I thought there would be plenty work on the back of the regeneration effort. But it’s mostly skilled and I don’t have a trade.

Being unemployed is hard. The JobCentre makes life difficult. I don’t squander my time – I’m always looking for work but there are times when you get demoralised and give up.

That’s when you run the risk of being sanctioned – getting your benefits stopped. It’s happened to me three times. I think they just want me off the system.

Occasionally you can apply for hardship funding, but that’s not easy. The whole process seems designed to put you off applying.

But I use it to my advantage and help others avoid the pitfalls of being sanctioned when I volunteer at the drop-in centre.

I’ve built up a forensic knowledge of the system over the last five years. Those who mount articulate appeals usually win. The system seems to exploit those who aren’t so good at communicating. Why else would so many appeals be successful?

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever work again. The longer you are unemployed, the harder it gets. I enjoy volunteering because I like to help others, but if it came with a salary my life would be sorted.