No Job/Job – A Long Look At the Government Sucking

I have no idea what I’d like to do right now, so instead I thought I’d blog. Warning: This post is quite long, but as frequent readers know, I’m a conversational blogger. Hope it’s not too tedious.

I’ve been at my new job for about two months, and everything’s going great. I really count myself lucky that I managed, after all this time, to get a job I not only like, but am fairly good at, too. The other day I had to start doing some research for an article I’m going to write, and as I was writing notes, it made me think of my uni essays and how I’d do tons of research (seriously, at any given time I must have had at least 50 articles to reference for one question) before actually forming an argument, and then write my ideas down. It made me remember that I really loved doing that. Researching and learning something new, something interesting that has a lot of opinion on it is something I thrive on. And as I sat there, writing down some notes for my article, I thought “oh, I missed doing that” and then I realized – I am doing that.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Before I got this job I was out of actual work for about three years, one of these years being my final year, and I decided to focus on my studies and managed off my loan. The other two years I went from volunteer jobs to shitty ridiculous work placements to doing a stint at Tesco. In all, I’ve actually been looking for a job I know I’m skilled for ever since my second year at uni, when I realized I needed to get some experience as well as a good grade.

I started properly job searching in my final year, mainly looking at the job market, what was out there, if I fit the role, stuff like that. I looked to even see if what I wanted to do existed, and if it sounded like something I would be happy doing. I had a few promising interviews, but due to time restraint or location, I had to turn these down. I also applied for a few work experience roles at publishing companies, but as these are few and far between in the North of England, and small companies, this amounted to nothing.

I didn’t panic when I graduated in July. It was actually really nice to have a break. In my final term, I had three 3,000 essays to complete and a 60 page script to finish. I literally spent four entire weeks in front of my laptop and writing. I exhausted two A4 notepads, four pens and my social life, but I enjoyed doing it and it got me my first class grade. Anyway, when I graduated, I was looking for jobs, but not really trying because I thought I’d get something by Christmas at least. After about four weeks, I got a volunteer role at a charity thing and I signed on for Job Seekers Allowance.

I had gone out with my now ex then for a couple of months, and he worked for some phone company. He tried giving me advice to get jobs, but this frustrated me more than the replies I didn’t get (even for being rejected) as he thought a job is a job, and he just never understood that working in a dead-end job that I hate actually makes me want to shoot myself.

I was learning to drive then, and single come the end of August. I rarely went out because the friends I had made were scattered about the country, and my other friends in Leeds prefer house parties, which made socializing cheap. I managed to save up enough money to take my test (4 times in total ^_^), but because I lived with my parents then and didn’t pay board, I was okay financially.

October came and the advisers at the job centre were pushing me to try something, despite my volunteering at the charity place. They eventually got me to go on an 8 week placement, where there was “no guarantee of a job” but that “it improves your prospects and looks good on your CV.” So off I went to this placement thing, and worked for free in an admissions office for a housing company. I never got a position, and they were okay to work for, some people who were on the same placement got jobs at Primark for zero hour contracts and they thought it was the best thing in the world. I’ve worked retail since I was 17, part-time and I fucking hate it. If you go into a shop just before it closes and you’ve shopped all day, you might feel a bit exhausted. But please try to remember that people in retail have been on their feet all fucking day. My mother has varicose veins because she worked full time retail for years. Seriously, if you’re doing full-time now and want to keep your legs deep-blue-veins-free, reconsider your career choice.

So I didn’t want to go back into retail, ever. I specifically stipulated this as soon as I applied for JSA, and always refused when they tried to get me to change my mind. After Christmas, the people at the placement offered me to apply to Tesco. My reasoning for this was because during the placement, I did a mock interview with a Tesco woman and she gave me all these options I could apply for. Some of them sounded really interesting, something I could probably enjoy doing (like merchandising and marketing) so when this interview came up, I thought why not?

Within a week of getting the job, I had also passed my driving test. This made me really happy because the job would be over 5 miles away, and they asked if I’d be okay doing any shift. They also called me to ask which shift I’d prefer: Mornings (6.30am), Evenings (finishing at 11pm) or weekends. I said to them very specifically:

“Well I’d prefer mornings, I don’t mind doing nights, but I really wouldn’t like weekends because I have a lot going on this year, so I’ll need to take time off. If I worked during the week, I wouldn’t need to take this time off.”

Plus, I’ve worked weekends before and they fucking suck. It has nothing to do with not being able to go out at the weekend (I did this in college and worked a full day on two hours sleep and severely hung over), but that I’d need to take days off just to go away for a weekend somewhere, seeing as the rest of the world works during the week.

They were also a bit wary of me doing early mornings and late nights because I didn’t have a car. I told them I had just passed my test and was looking at some cars that weekend so I’d more than likely be able to get there. They of course didn’t listen to me at all and called me to say that I’d be doing “9-4 Saturday and Sunday and 9-2 Monday.” Great. Cheers. Thanks for being a company that “values its customers and it’s employees.” They also tried to sell the whole “Well, we pay 6.18 an hour. This seems low, but actually, out of all the supermarkets, we pay the highest.” That’s like saying “you’re a cunt, but out of all the cunts in the world, you’re the least cuntish.”

So to cut a shit job short, it worked out fine until the new shop opened (which is what us newbies were training for).  I often didn’t get a break until well over 5 hours, at which point I was about to chew my own face off. They also had no idea what it meant to have diabetes, as I called a manager over one day and discreetly said at about midday “I need a break because my blood sugar is dropping.” He ummed a bit before asking me to stay on tills for 5 mins while he got someone to take over.. Two hours later, I got my break and almost had a fucking hypo. Two or three times I didn’t get a break at all. Then when they called me into the office for a “chat” they asked me why I wasn’t happy when I was behind the tills. My manager actually said “it looks like you want to slit your wrists” and I replied “When I come here, I do.”

Because of the lack of support I got from them and that I hardly got breaks, ultimately my health was suffering. I’d not do insulin in the mornings in case I was low at midday, and I wasn’t allowed breaks whenever or to have food or drink on the shop floor. I left after five months because I wasn’t going to let myself get seriously ill from working at a job that was only doing me a favour by making sure I had money in my account every month.

Anyway if you’re still with me, at this point I was weighing up my options. With the money I was getting from Tesco, minus the petrol going an extra 45 miles a week, I would be about £60 worse off if I went back on JSA. I had met my current boyfriend, Dan about two months before I left Tesco, and it was with his encouragement that made me pluck up the courage to quit.

And so began my toil of job searching. The summer of 2012 compared to 2011 was worse. Much worse. You could say I made some choices that made my financial situation worse, but I’m not in this for the money, I’m in it for satisfaction – something my mother in particular couldn’t understand. Dan had also left/got fired from his job a month before I left mine (family issues, he worked for his father).

This past year has been a bit of a struggle, but we’ve managed. In July, I moved in with Dan and we went from claiming JSA singularly (£53 for me, £71 for him) to claiming just £111 for the both of us. Like things get easier and cheaper when there are two people. We made this up though by claiming a bit more through our rent, so at least that was covered.

Over this past year, we’ve sold stuff to Computer Exchange (including my PS2), sold books we didn’t want, borrowed from friends and family and used my overdraft and credit card just to pay for basic things like food and bills.

Let me tell you, this so-called £53 a week is not enough. The thing that frustrated me over this time when both of us were claiming JSA was not the fact that we had to really focus on budgeting and trying to get money for bills and food, but the prejudice both Dan and I have received from family, friends and even stupid Facebook things like “ALL PEOPLE ON BENEFITS ARE SCUM AND NEED TO BE GIVEN FOOD VOUCHERS ONLY.”

Questions/statements I’m sick of answering are:

Beggars can’t be choosers. No, you’re right. But at a point in my life where I have a degree and have been studying hard for four years, where my boyfriend has been working for 8 years, we can be choosers. There is no point in applying for a job that I do not like and I am not skilled at. Working in retail, I can do. Working at Tesco, I did. But I wanted to blow my brains out. When I could be working somewhere else, using the skills I paid almost £25,000 for, I do get to choose. I didn’t turn down opportunities, but I set my own rules for my own sanity.

But you have a car. I’ve known some people to sell their cars. But working out the finances, I would be paying the same in bus fares as I do in petrol, and that’s just to get to work. Not including taxi’s for food shopping, taxi’s and buses to my parents house, Dan’s parents, our friends etc. And I got my car on finance, so I’m damned if I’m going to sell it. Plus we managed, talk about selling the car cropped up, but living where we live, job opportunities are really scarce.

If you haven’t found a job by now, you must not be trying hard. People who say this can fuck right off. I tried. I really fucking tried. There are some 200 people applying for any given role at any point, so I basically have a 1 in 200 chance of getting somewhere. I had a few interviews (one at the British Library but I wasn’t qualified, which I was glad about because it seemed far beyond my skills) but sent out about 300 CVs, applications and letters to companies and people. About 5% of these actually got in contact to tell me I was unsuccessful. I started out by applying for stuff I wanted to do, but after almost a year, I was applying for any old job I thought was bearable. I actually thought about catering jobs again, but the shifts are irregular, just like the pay. I also sent off CVs to recruitment agencies and they never got back to me, either. I had an interview with a careers guy where I basically told him what he was going to tell me anyway, that I’m looking for a long-term career as well as short-term jobs.

If you’re in a job, you’ll get a job. Also not true. My work at Tesco would not contribute to my career as a creative professional. Not even a little bit.

People on benefits have cars and live a lavish lifestyle – they should be given money for rent and food vouchers to live off, then they’ll learn. Ignorant buffoons have been throwing this about all over the internet. Food vouchers? Does that include laundry detergent, pet food, toiletries and clothing? What about prescriptions for glasses and medicine? The dentist? (Because our health service in England, the NHS has like 3 months waiting lists in most dental practices). What about money for taxi’s when you need to go to A & E? (I’ve been their about three times in the past year!). Oh, and I may wear nice clothes instead of tracksuits, use nice bags instead of carrier bags and drive a car, but this does not mean I’m spending my JSA money on stuff I don’t need. I bought new clothes over Christmas with vouchers my mum gave me. And my stuff might look nice, but trust me – that killer dress I’ve had since I was 18.

But McDonalds are always hiring. Can’t you just work there? Just because I’ve been out of work for a year does not mean the only thing available to me is flipping burgers for fatties. They want school-leavers, inexperienced push-overs that don’t know how to say no. They don’t want people who have any amount of intelligence, and to them that means anyone with a direct attitude, anyone with a degree and anyone over the age of 21.

It’s not just people who are ignorant about this stuff that got me down, it was judgement from family members, too. Thinking that I was unhappy because I didn’t have a job, that because I was living with a man, he had to “go out and get a job” because I “needed to be provided for.” It’s the 21st century, and now I’m paying the bills because I have a part-time job does not make Dan a “kept man” or that the pressure is on him to get a job because I’m paying for stuff. I don’t give a shit about money. I don’t care who pays the bills, as long as they get paid.

When I had the interview for my current job, I had by then given up hope of ever succeeding in getting a job. I wasn’t negative about it, but there had been too many times in my past where I had sent off what I thought was a good application to a job I really liked and got nowhere. So this time was no different.

When I got a call to say that they really wanted me to join the team, I was so happy. But not because I was getting money, but because it’s doing something I like.

At this current time, we’re actually no better off financially. Dan came off JSA because I’m working 23 hours a week, which means he’ll get nothing. They said that we might get “£10 a week” IF we still claim as a couple. But this also meant that not only does he still have to attend his meetings, but I’d also need to go in weekly and still apply for five jobs a week despite me having a part-time job. And then if someone offered me a job, I’d have to turn it down, because I already have a job, and then they’d threaten to take away a minimum of 4 weeks worth of JSA because I’d have to turn it down.

The whole system is fucked. Let me share some info about JSA for you:

  • You sign a contract where it states some things. Of these things, rules apply such as you must be willing to accept minimum wage. You must be willing to travel up to 60mins and you must apply for 5 jobs a week (for under 25s). The last two, sure. But this means that because I drive, I’d have to be willing to travel to places like Manchester and York for a job. People who live on their own, paying rent, bills etc cannot live off minimum wage. Maybe they can. But they’d probably have to sell a kidney.
  • The people over 25 get treated differently to people under 25. Frequently, Dan and I would say something about our meetings and often find that I’d been treated like a twat while they practically offer him tea and toast every time he went. He got proper careers advice, wasn’t made to go on silly courses (I went on one telling me how to job search. Seriously? That’s the reason I haven’t been able to get a job for two years?) and only had to apply for three jobs a week.

My understanding of it is that the government are practically pushing the JSA people to get young people into work so the GDP looks better. They want to be able to say to newspapers “the number of 16-24 year-olds going into paid employment has risen by 13% in the past six months.” And it’s a crock of shit.  I told them this on a form I needed to fill out because I couldn’t apply for a job through the jobcentre (because the closing date was on the same day thy gave me it): “I think it is absolutely shocking that I am supposed to use a service which fails to display the closing date for jobs. I am not given a specific time or date to apply for them, as long as I do this within 7 days (or before my next meeting) yet I am forced to give an explanation to why I didn’t apply for a job that closed the same day I got it. Shocking service. Sort it out.”

Consequently, they didn’t stop my payments. We also didn’t get any money from beginning of February to the end of March because of a mix up their end. It took them ages to sort it out. Typical that they take money off you for being five minutes late to a meeting, yet fail to give you £500 quid within a week.

I’m so glad I don’t have to go there every week. I can see why people think that JSA is for dossers, for chavs (for outside UK: a chav is an irritating cunt who thinks he’s harder than everyone. Usually born with tiny penis), for people who “don’t try.” I constantly got treated like I was scum, because the people around me were scum. They didn’t have anything but sawdust between their ears, had serious attitude problems and constantly gave off a smell of potatoes. But most people claiming JSA aren’t like this at all. They aren’t too dumb for jobs, they don’t live lavish lifestyles and they are trying hard enough. The reasons people are out of work and can’t get another one is numerous. But ultimately, the people who complain about the jobless “sponging off the government” is because  of the government. There are more jobs than people who don’t have one, and that’s a true fact.

It’s hard living on JSA. Anyone who says to me now “oh, I’m proper skint this month” or “I can’t until payday”: anyone who has a job cannot say these things and be serious about it. I used to think I knew what being “skint” was, which usually meant I had about £3 left in my bank account the day before I get my loan. Skint isn’t just having money, but not being able to go out drinking, it’s having your parents help you out, your grandparents, friends, being in debt and owing money to the bank. We’re not even a little bit in the clear. We’re very, very much still trying our best to make things easier.

After being out of work for a year, it will take us longer than that to get out of debt. I’m grateful that I have a job, and extremely lucky it is something I enjoy, but I won’t ever take it for granted. I won’t ever forget what it’s like to live off the government, because it’s fucking awful. And anyone who says ignorant things about people claiming have clearly never been in that situation.

So if you’re like me and others out there who’s desperately looking for anything and losing hope, don’t. You will get your job, but I would say to anyone to not sell out. Try and pursue something you love, because the risk is totally worth it.

Plus you won’t become a psycho and kill everyone who asks you “is your bread fresh?”

Thanks for sticking through this extremely long post, hope I’ve kept your attention. Please share among your friends to give them a bit of inspiration (maybe) or in the very least, something to lighten the weight.

Lunix

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