Unemployed British workers join in nongovernment self-help plans

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Faced with the prospect of long-term idleness, an increasing number of Britain's 2 million unemployed workers are joining in projects designed to rely on group efforts rather than state benefits or subsidies.

New self-help schemes have been planned by the Mormons, the War on Want Movement, City Farms, and some trade unins anxious to provide job-seeking members with useful education activity. The Mormons, with a UK membership of 110,000, are starting aid to their 3,500 colleagues who are currently unemployed with farming activity on a 300-acre holding near Manchester. Other farms may soon be started in Kent and Wales, where pilot communes launched in 1977 have shown good results.

The Mormons, who launched similar projects in American during the 1930s depression, are particularly concerned about freeing chruch members from the need to depend on state unemployment benefits and see the new farms as a means of offering dignified work during Britain's current recession.

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The War on Want Movement, a UK charity largely concerned with helping the third world in economic and educational developments, has also been aiding Britain's unemployed with group job undertakings. City Farms, an organization founded in 1972, has 32 urban farms stretching from Bristol to Glasgow. It is providing training for many young people who may find it hard to find jobs and who see land cultivation or animal breeding as satisfying employment.

One of City Farms' most active units is in North London's Kentish Town, an area of much desolation and growing unemployment.

Yet not all of the projects concerned with developing work programs are concerned with manual activity. Many young unemployed people who are out of school are taking practical work courses organized by the Business Education Council, a new body anxious to provide direct commercial training for job-seeking youngsters.

A spokesman for the educational organization has sais that the young people on the training courses like to work out buying goods on hire purchase or loans, also percentages and compound interest in practical banking.

Some trade unions are trying to interest unemployed members to become involved in educational schemes.The unions are worried abour rising layoffs reducing membership figures, but it appears that many of the idle workers who belong to trade unions are having to organize their own activities at branch level or in day centers.

Oddly enough, the strangest effort to keep self-help jobs on the increase has been a school strike -- a walk-out by a group of schoolchildren in the southwest Scotland town of Dumfries. The senior pupils have been complaining about a bylaw which restricts them to limited employment without classroom hours but which the local authority maintains is essential to protect the youngsters from overwork.

the pupils engaged in "self-help" jobs appear to have gained some concessions in their campaign for more paid employment, although the town's civic body is reexamining the whole issue of work permits outside of school hours.

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