Saturday, 16 March 2013

I haven't written for a while. I still haven’t heard about my appeal- I wonder how long it takes? I can’t seem to find a number anywhere to call ‘Scotland’ to find out. I think I’ve almost lost the will to pursue it- as bad as that sounds. 

I’ve wanted to write a post about how all this has affected me psychologically for a while but I’ve been wary to, as that kind of thing often attracts a special kind of criticism. Having finally decided to go self-employed next week, I feel like maybe I’m in a better frame of mind to write it.

Unless you’ve been unemployed then it is hard to understand how much the constant pressure from the Job Centre can affect you. For the last six months I have felt as if I am a terrible person with very little worth, even though I have been trying hard to get a job. Much of the media tries to reinforce this view and after a while, it really gets to you, no matter how resilient or clued up you are.

In some ways I am not a typical benefit claimant (whatever that may be- I am trying hard not to align myself with the rhetoric here), I am well educated and middle-class and have had a lot of opportunities in my life. I read a lot and think I have a good grasp on why people believe certain things- yet I have still suffered a lot from being described as a ‘scrounger' etc. You begin to believe that you are not good enough, and that it is only a lack of effort that is stopping you get a job. I can only imagine what it must be like to not fully understand the mechanics of a situation like this.

To get an interview for a recent position that I applied for I visited the premises, interviewed the staff, wrote an article and got it accepted for publication in three different places. I got the interview, did a mock-up interview with a friend of mine who is in the same profession, practiced my interview answers for hours in front of the mirror and did an excellent interview. I made it to the last two candidates and only just missed out.

This is Iain Duncan Smith’s idea of someone who is not ‘doing everything they can to get a job’, and this is just one example out of many jobs I have written carefully worded cover letters or application forms for. I don’t expect it to be easy to get a job having been out of (paid) work for 7 years, but the competition for these positions is absolutely phenomenal. I phoned up one employer this week to ask about a job I’d applied for and was told they’d had over 300 applications.

As I’ve said in a previous post, I have worked as a cleaner before- I’ve done pretty much every low-paid job you can think of. Maybe I should take one of these positions but I feel I have so much more to give to society- I’m full of ideas and capability. At 36 and with a daughter to look after (and impress) I think it might be the time to get a job that really makes me happy and that I can invest a lot in. Is that a luxury? I’m just not sure anymore.

The Job Centre doesn’t care about any of this. Every visit makes me feel worse about myself, less able and productive, and less hopeful. I recently lost 4 weeks money for refusing to go on their A4E course and work placement (see below). On speaking to one of the Job Centre staff I was told ‘of course you’ve been sanctioned- you are one of the polite ones- they are not scared of you. They know the ones who are playing the system but they won’t touch them as they’re the ones who will kick off’.

The power of the media cannot be underestimated. Even one of my good friends recently told me that she ‘would rather have an abortion than be a single mother on benefits’ and that I should ‘get off my arse’. Admittedly she was drunk and I have forgiven her because I don’t think she was very happy at the time, but it’s an interesting example of how these notions sink into people’s minds. I am sure my more moderate friends and even some on the left hold similar ideas about welfare. As I say, I really don’t think you can criticize unless you have been there.

It is pretty hard for anyone to have a positive relationship with themselves nowadays. It is something that has to be worked on and developed. You have to have enormous strength of mind to stay optimistic and happy and forward-looking. Many people do not get the love and care as they grow up that is necessary to develop the core of self-confidence and self-assurance that comes naturally to others. Depression is rife and the lack of social mobility these days can act as a huge deterrent to ‘sorting yourself out’. I am only partially talking about myself here, but I can see how so many people struggle to become productive members of society, and it has very little to do with being ‘lazy’.

Perhaps that makes me a bleeding heart but if so, I can’t apologise. I go and sit in a room with these people every week and see it for myself.

Interestingly, if I had been feeling better about myself lately I probably would have gone self-employed a lot earlier. In fact- if the Job Centre had listened to me and advised me properly I may well have done it six months ago and been spared this ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions. Happiness really is the key to economic stability- or maybe that is just unrealistic. My ‘utopia’ would probably never work. Haha.

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