I am 34 years old and single mum and long term unemployed. My local job centre referred me to a 2 year work programme to help me back into work.
Recently, my CV was put forward to a company with whom I got an interview and on the same day was asked to go in for two day’s training to see if I liked the job.
My advisor at the work programme prepared a calculation for me setting out how much better off I could be in work. The total figure he showed me was £133.90.
I left school at 14 (already passed my RSA 1 2 and 3), went to college for 3 years and got my first job with ease at 19. At 24 I was a victim of domestic abuse and, admittedly, lost my job as an office manager at a small firm of solicitors.
In 2009 I set up my own domestic abuse voluntary page; supporting victims of domestic abuse and to date I have constantly raised awareness for other through the media and on a voluntary basis.
I am on benefits and hate it, I despise the way it makes me feel and seems to have this overwhelming control over me. The way society looks at me with disgust, how people judge me and talk about me as though I am no one and nothing. I hate walking into the job centre every fortnight, it feels as though I am walking through the shadow of darkness, with all eyes on me, people talking and whispering about me. I hate being a dole dosser doing nothing for my self esteem self worth. I hate how I have to rely on the Government to home, feed and clothe my daughter.
We have all seen recent television documentaries and how they portray and perceive people who claim benefits, I hate how this makes me feel too. People are not all the same, they might have one huge similarity but how we deal with that makes us all very, very different.
Yes, I am long term unemployed but that does not mean to say I have never done anything active, and alone, to help change my circumstances. I have volunteered, gone on various training course, completed college courses and still, continually, run my domestic abuse support group.
However, like many single parents I want to get back into employment, the main reason, like everyone else, for money but with for other factors such as being a good role model to my 8 year old daughter.
Since being unemployed, I have heard and read various stories of people saying how difficult it is to get back into work and how they will be worse off in employment and for that reason they want to stay on benefits.
I could never understand that. Until now.
As I claim JSA I have to be actively seeking employment, this is something I do using Universal Job match, for the jobcentre to pay me and, now, I have to go to this 2 year work programme for extra support and help, getting me back into work.
My first visit to this work programme was 5th November 2013 and 7 months down the line an interview comes up.
I felt so excited and ecstatic to say the least because after applying for over 100 this was my 3 interview – the previous 2 being rejections. The interview was for a part time legal secretary. Fantastic! It is small company and the staff all made me feel very welcome. They were down to earth and I felt the interview went well. Obviously, they did too as they asked me to go back for two days training.
I went back and my initial feeling was it was like I had never left the legal profession and as though I belonged there. Great! I was even offered the job!
Of course I had to speak with my advisor first and get my calculations all worked out before accepting the job as well as try and arrange childcare for my 8 year old daughter.
In fact, it was only at this point I actually realised how hard it is trying to weigh up the pros and cons of going back to work and trying to arrange everything that goes hand in hand with getting back into work.
I am a single parent so for me childcare is a huge issue as well as travel costs as I don’t drive either. In the short term, my daughter could possibly be shared around with family but then we have the 6 weeks holiday coming up so I got quite excited about the childcare vouchers that are available. I was dismayed that I have to take a salary sacrifice to obtain the vouchers http://www.childcarevouchers.co.uk/Parents/HowItWorks/Pages/default.aspx and I dread to think of the cost of child care during the six week holiday.
So the £133.90 per week that I am going to be better off is slight going down and we haven’t even included the travel expenses yet.
I would, obviously, have to take my daughter to the childcare so that’s added travel expense as she is over 5, I have to pay for her bus fare too so although it doesn’t sound a significant amount that is £2 extra a day, £10 per week in travel expenses.
I have paid my rent, council tax, childcare, travel expenses and then, like everyone else, obviously I have to pay my bills too. So the information my work programme advisor has given me telling me I could be £133.90 is very, very misleading.
It has taken me such a long time to even get an interview let alone be offered a job near enough straight away and for a while I felt good, like I had achieved something, like I was getting somewhere and as though I could have a financially stable future for my daughter and I. So, since Tuesday I have been working out what to do. Do I take the job or do I not?
With the job centre and the work programme if you don’t see work and if you turn down employment, they can sanction your money. Fair enough you might cry out and so they should you might say but on the other hand, if I do take the job on, I would be financially worse of and, in anyone’s eyes that is just ludicrous, isn’t it?
We all go to work for money not to feel good about ourselves because we all need money to provide for our family. Without money, I can’t keep a roof over my daughter’s head, I can’t put food at the table and I can’t put clothes on her back.
I made one mistake in 2004, I got into an abusive relationship and became a single parent – not through choice but through circumstances – and now it feels as though I am being punished for the rest of my life; dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t.
We have our Government telling us how they all want us to go to work – fantastic, but who, realistically will work for nothing – they won’t, they wouldn’t so why should I?
I am genuinely looking for employment but I want to know why the Government is making this so difficult for me and more importantly what are they going to do to make it easier for me?
Going to work for nothing is not going to benefit my situation whatsoever, I am stuck in a rut that I can’t get out of, no matter how hard I try. I get a pat on the back and a well done for the voluntary work I do, yet getting into employment is a different story.
From where I am standing the Government is treating all unemployed people the same and you cannot do that because we are all different! There are many people who are happy to be on benefits and want to stay on benefits but there are also people who receive benefits but who genuinely want to get off them completely and back into work so, in reality, we all need different support.
If you want parents back into work you have to give them the support they need in order to do that. Why can’t there be a free childcare scheme for parents who genuinely want to go back to work?
For those who want to stay on the dole, why not give them a fixed and less amount of money to live on and the money you save that way, put into a scheme to help others back into work!
For many parents wanting to get back into work, childcare is going to be a main issue so why make it a barrier for them?
We have Mr Iain-Duncan-Smith wanting to stop “Benefit Street Britain” but through my experience this week alone, I have no idea how he will be doing that. Do you?
The welfare changes “have helped people feel that bit more secure about their futures”, Mr Duncan Smith will say.
So what are my options?
• Take on the full time employment and be worse off
• Don’t accept the job and stay on benefits
• Try and find a part time job stacking shelves
We have David Cameron saying how a visit to the job centre every day will help the unemployed back into employment – please explain to me, how?
How can unemployed people get back into work when they have so many barriers stopping them?
Yes, there are jobs available but how are people supposed to go to jobs when they have to travel and childcare expenses that are ridiculously high?
Does our Government really expect us to go to work for nothing – they wouldn’t so why should I?
This week has been a rollercoaster of a ride for me. Happy and excited for getting an interview, amazed and overwhelmed I got two days training and even better, I got offered the job and back down on a low because if I accept the job I will be worse off.
What do I do?
What would you do?