East Surrey unemployment bucking national trend
UNEMPLOYMENT levels have fallen across the UK for the first time in more than a year, but Surrey's growing jobless army bucked the national trend by continuing to swell.
New figures show that unemployment in the Tandridge district is now at its highest since 1996, while in neighbouring Reigate and Banstead there are now 1,815 people claiming jobseeker's allowance.
But while supposedly affluent Surrey continues to be hit by rising unemployment, traditionally deprived areas like Sunderland, Hull and Grimsby all saw a fall.
Those signing on at the job centre in Redhill blamed lazy youngsters and indifferent employers for Surrey's continually rising unemployment levels.
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"Most people my age don't seem to care," said 23-year-old Sarah Seales, of Ladbroke Road, Redhill, who has been unemployed on and off for three years.
Sarah believes that while there is not enough support for people searching for work, young people without a job get stuck in that situation and lose the impetus to search for a new job.
"People my age don't want a job – there are not enough around and they get used to not working," she said.
Sarah has volunteered at the Marie Curie charity shop in Station Road, Redhill, in a bid to fill her time productively and believes volunteering offers important skills while people search for jobs.
"When I haven't been working I volunteer in the shop. It gives me a reason to get up and I have made so many friends," she said.
"People should be encouraged to go and volunteer – they don't know how much they can help themselves. Most charity shops are quite good too and they will help you get a job."
Despite this, she says more support is needed to help unemployed people get back on their feet, as they cannot get a job without experience and cannot get experience without a job.
"You are left to fend for yourself," she said.
"They told me to go and get qualifications and then they say you need experience, but if you haven't got work you can't get work.
"Nowhere around here would take me because I had no experience. People don't get the chance to get experience they need for a job."
For some, the problem can be even worse.
John Percy, of St John's, Redhill, is HIV positive and says the lack of knowledge about the disease makes finding work difficult.
"People with HIV are being left out of the job market," he said.
"Employers need to be aware of the different issues with HIV. People with it need to be able to take their medication and relax after taking their medicines."
Many others faced disappointment and frustration – but sometimes elation at Redhill job centre on Friday.
One happy customer emerging from the centre in the High Street was Katie Kennedy.
The 21-year-old had finally put an end to 18 months on jobseeker's allowance by clinching a job.
Miss Kennedy, of London Road, Redhill, said: "I've just been in to tell them I've started work as a care support worker.
"I started work last Monday. It's such a relief after so long.
"I've got a son and it has been a struggle to get by with so little money. I kept applying for care jobs but they all said I needed experience."
Miss Kennedy now earns £12,500 a year working at Whitepost Health Care Centre in Whitepost Hill, Redhill. She added: "After being on the dole for so long, it's great to have a decent wage at long last. I'm planning to save up and take my son to Disneyland next year."
Tom Noonan, 60, of Redstone Road, Redhill, spoke of the "demeaning" experience of having to keep visiting the Jobcentre to sign on.
The self-employed builder and decorator has been out of work since last July when the jobs dried up. He said: "The recession has really hit hard.
"People generally don't have the money to spend on 'extras' like new kitchens and replacement front doors."
Mr Noonan, who hopes to clinch a building contract in Reigate shortly, added: "It's a depressing feeling, being unemployed. It has been demeaning having to explain in the job centre how I have been actively looking for work."
Dean Stone, 33, of Heston Road, South Earlswood, a struggling decorator, said his income has diminished from about £150 per day six months ago to £100 per week now.
The father-of-two said: "It's a financial struggle. All my money now goes just on basic essentials."