Millions of people are going to be unemployed over the next few years enduring a long-term, and often demoralising job search, because of the state of the economy. Let's make it a bit less stressful for them by giving people clear guidance over where they can travel while looking for work, and that people genuinely seeking a job full-time and failing might be in need of a bit of a break.
I've known someone made redundant, wanting to take a foreign holiday they had already paid for while in employment, not able to take that holiday because they would lose housing benefit. If they'd have been going somewhere in the UK, it would have been alright because they could have apparently signed on in another jobcentre. What a joke! Of course they would not have really been looking for work during a break in the UK. A pointless kick in the teeth to have to forego the holiday you can't get a refund on for no good reason.
I have another friend on jobseekers who has been offered a free break abroad to visit a friend in Spain. It would really lift her spirits after a miserable year. If she goes and tells the truth, she'll lose her benefits. If the friend was in Cornwall, she'd be alright. Seems senseless to me when a flight to Europe can be cheaper than a train fare to Scotland.
Let's recognise that unemployment, and dependence on the benefits system, is something that could happen to any of us, and not exclude Jobseekers from mainstream society any more than is necessary. Let's have a set amount of 'leave' that they can use from jobseeking, like those employed have, to use for visiting family, doing work experience, or just being away from depressing bureaucracy for a short while, renewing the spirit. This would make things much less stressful, and stop a lot of pointless lying.
On a national scale, with slightly reduced numbers of meetings, you could probably even sack a few jobcentre staff.
Why is this idea important?
The number of people who are jobless is predicted to rise and rise over the next few years. Quite a few of them might, in this 'big society', be offered the use of a caravan/spare room/have a few bob put aside that will enable them to have a couple of weeks' escape from the depressing reality that jobseeking often is.
Let's not make things even worse by making people lie to the dole office and the council – and therefore risk losing their benefit entitlement – when they will probably be absolutely desperate to get away from it all (and it might well be good for them). Especially when there are even fewer jobs for people to hunt after.
This idea would avoid criminalising good people unnecessarily.