Life for unemployed Sheffield relies on the Job Center made famous by the Full Monty

It’s been 25 years since a story of unemployment in Sheffield became the basis for one of the greatest British comedies of all time.

The Full Monty took its difficult subject, about a group of fired steelworkers, and made it worthy of a good laugh. The film was as heartwarming as it was hilarious, shining a light on the difficult world of post-industrial South Yorkshire and all those affected by the steel mill closures.

Filmed at various locations around Sheffield, one of the funniest scenes shows the guys waiting in the queue at their local job centre, when ‘Hot Stuff’ starts playing on the radio. In prep mode for their big striptease, they can’t resist a quick boogie in line.

Read more: Full Monty Sheffield filming locations and what they look like today

This same Job Center is still in place today. The exterior plan of the building that was used in Full Monty was of the Job Center Plus (as it is known today) in West Street, which remains in situ as an unemployment office all these years later.

YorkshireLive caught up with some of the people who, like Gaz and the guys, rely on the Job Center to help them through tough times of unemployment. One of the people we spoke to was Robert Bolsover, who had been to the Job Center for help setting up an email account.

Robert, 65, has been unemployed for a year and is currently trying to find work through an employment agency, but it is proving difficult. He said: “It’s very rare that I show up here, I don’t claim any benefits, I just use the computers and look for jobs. I find work through the employment agency , but it’s a bit intermittent; I’m looking for a permanent job but with part-time hours, maybe two or three days a week.”

For Robert, like many others, the 54% increase in the energy price cap, which took effect on Friday, is cause for concern. He said: “I’m doing well, but now it’s going to be difficult. [The energy increase] it’s going to be a nightmare and this cold snap isn’t helping, it’s supposed to be spring but it smells like winter.

“Hopefully if the weather improves I won’t have to turn my heating on and I can reduce my electricity to the bare minimum. If this war [in Ukraine] hadn’t happened, I still think there would have been an increase in energy anyway, because the government folks have no idea.

“When he [Chancellor Rishi Sunak] made that statement, he didn’t mention the disabled or the unemployed or anyone. Technically now I could go to a food bank but I don’t want to go to a food bank, I want to pay myself.”

Robert said he “really hopes” he won’t need to resort to the services of a food bank, but he doesn’t have much faith in the government to help solve the country’s unemployment problem. He added: “This country is a disaster, and I voted for it; I voted for Brexit but I didn’t really think it would happen, and I’m sorry to say neither did this government. They’ve created a monster and it’s just going to go on and go.”

Robert said that although he is currently not on any benefit, there have been occasions when he has tried to get Jobseeker’s Allowance but was unsuccessful. He said, “Every time I ask for money they ask about my wife, why? I’m not asking for her, I’m asking for me.”

Mark Austick is another Sheffielder who relies on Job Center services and he said he visits Job Center Plus on West Street about once a month. He explained: “I’m sick, so they tell you to come down and check the sick notes and everything.

Mark Austick, who is off work due to long-term illness, attends monthly meetings at the Job Center.

“I’ve been unemployed for about 20 years now, for a long time, but you’re getting by, right? I’m still. I’m on Universal Credit and it’s been fine so far, I’m not of those who complain all the time.”

Mark, 51, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – or COPD as it’s known – and he said his doctor kept telling him he wasn’t fit for work. He said: “I pissed him off like ad ******d, it’s my fault. I was a cleaner and a steward before, like for football matches and special events, I Would come back if I could, it got me out of the house.”

The rising energy price cap also worries Mark, who said “money doesn’t go up like everything else” so he expects to have to make some sacrifices. “I don’t know what it is yet. [that I’ll have to sacrifice]I’ll see,” Mark said.

Before leaving the Job Center, we also spoke to Shorash Mohammed, 44, who has been attending weekly meetings at the West Street Job Center for two years. “I feel like their oldest customer,” jokes Shorash, before singing the staff’s praises.

Shorash Mohammed is a qualified engineer, but would now
Shorash Mohammed is a qualified engineer, but he would “take anything” now just to get a job.

He said: “They help me, they try to find me a job, they interviewed me. Almost every week they send me job offers but, bad luck, I go to the interview, I go for everything but I can’t get a job.

“It’s hard, I don’t like it. Mentally, it’s hard. I’m an engineer, I was studying engineering and when I graduated, the pandemic came, I’m looking for anything now.”

Like many other unemployed Britons, Shorash is being helped by claiming Universal Credit, but he said that was not enough. He added: “It’s like £200 or £300 a month, what can you do with that? I’m really worried [about the energy price increase]I’m just going to buy more blankets.”

Have you ever had to call on the services of a Pôle Emploi? Let us know in the comments!

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