Nathan Wood stands out like a sore thumb. Everyone at the JobCentre on the day I visit is wearing jeans or a tracksuit. There are baseball caps everywhere.
Nathan is dressed in a full suit and tie. When we are introduced, I initially think he’s a member of staff.
The 20-year-old has the same back story as too many young people in Blackpool.
Growing up on Grange Park, his mum was an alcoholic and he and his sister were taken into care.
He went through a string of foster parents before finally settling, and has suffered with depression.
But like so many young people we have spoken to during this Gazette investigation, Nathan talks with maturity and an admirable lack of bitterness about his experience.
“Don’t get me wrong my mum is a nice person and a lovely lady – she just had a problem with alcohol,” he said.
“But you have to learn from it and understand it and grow from it.
“Maybe it wasn’t the best thing for me and my sister, and it was hard being with different foster families that didn’t work out, but at end of the day you have to get over it and carry on and don’t hold grudges – because as soon as you start holding grudges against people you can’t move on, you stay at square one.
“You have to learn and carry on in life. If you feel sorry for yourself you don’t get anywhere.”
The problem Nathan now faces is a familiar one – getting a job.
He has studied for three years at college and has qualifications. “I thought, great, I’ll get a job now,” he said. “But it’s not as easy as that.
“You need help and guidance. You need to go to more training courses because it is harder to get a job as there aren’t as many around – so you need more than what you used to need, what previous generations needed.
“I spoke to my grandparents and my mum and they tell me you used to be able to walk out in the morning and by night you’d have a job. In this day and age you can’t do that, you really can’t.”
Nathan had been working full-time at North Pier. That, with help from his foster mum, enabled him to move into his own place, a flat in Claremont.
But – and here’s another big problem unique to Blackpool – it was seasonal work at the Pier, so now he finds himself unemployed and signing on.
“That is a big thing for me,” he said. “I signed on for the first time four weeks ago. I didn’t want to but I had to.
“I’m working at VIVA, a cabaret bar in the town centre, but it is less than 16 hours a week ... if you work below 16 hours you can claim benefit.
“They (the Government) are obviously cracking down on a lot on benefits now, making sure you actively look for work, and that’s a good thing.
“A lot of people want to pick up their benefit and live off it, but it shouldn’t be like that. There are jobs but you have to go out and look for them. No one is going to come knocking at your door.”
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