It’s a little bit more than a year ago since I had first signed on with Jobseekers. There was such a palaver with it that I wondered how anyone could possibly get along with the system if they were truly and utterly desperate. Understandably, they investigate every financial aspect of your life, and even some personal ones, in order to determine what you would be entitled to, if anything. Fortunately, what savings I did have was enough to see me through for a little while, but it was more than enough for them to limit my entitlement. So, I was therefore required to provide information that would normally be no one else’s business. In return for giving up my privacy, I received about £74 a week, plus most of my council tax was paid. That’s it, even though my savings was dwindling rapidly. Now, if that isn’t enough of an incentive to get out to work, then I don’t know what is, but some people never seem to manage it.
I have no compunctions about taking something from the government if I am entitled to it. I collected Child Benefit. When I first heard of it I couldn’t believe it. Imagine, being given money for having children! It was barely enough to buy a box of nappies each week, or a can of baby formula, but it was extra cash which soon adds up the more children you have – though they give you a bit less for subsequent children. Go figure. Do they think that the more children you have the less they eat? The funny thing is, if you don’t collect it if you are entitled to it, it doesn’t go anywhere else, so one might as well have it even if you don’t think you need it. You can always put it in a savings account for your children.
I do not feel bad for collecting money while being unemployed. For one thing, I was made redundant along with four other people, and secondly, I pay my taxes and am therefore entitled to it. Also, if my council tax wasn’t paid, I really don’t know how I would have managed. I paid my taxes for that too.
For those of you who have been keeping up with me, you know that I made looking for work a job in itself. Looking for work took me to places in London I had never been before. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t any work as a PA. Companies were economising and there were too many people for the jobs available. Employers were taking the piss on pay and asking for the moon. It was very disheartening.
When I wasn’t going full speed ahead looking for work, I filled up my time with writing and the blogs, seeing friends, walking in the park, doing some voluntary work for a charity and internet dating – all this while trying to sell my house. Fortunately I got a little break and found a part-time job. If one works 16+ hours a week, you are no longer entitled to anymore Jobseekers Allowance, but you can still get other benefit. Even being on minimum wage for 16 hours pays more than Jobseekers. I thought if I had a couple of days off, I could still look for other work. It has not been a good year for secretarial work so I became a retail therapist for awhile. Tiring as it was sometimes, and boring when no-one was spending any money, the people I worked with were great and we generally had a laugh. It also helped that the store was literally down my street so I didn’t have to worry about commuting, unless they needed some help in another store. Then the company paid my travelling expenses each day.
When I sold my house, I had to leave my job as I am changing my life and have moved out of London after more than 20 years. I can get more value for money on a property in Eastbourne and still have some change left over. While this is all good, I still need to work for a living. In the meantime, I have signed on again. However, this time I am going for Contribution-based Allowance and not Income-based. It just means that my NI contributions are being covered and I don’t have to tell them my whole life story. It is also easy to apply online. Boy, are they moving with the times!
As I hadn’t heard from Jobseekers since I filed the application, I called them when I got back from holiday to find out what happened and to determine when I could make an appointment. I was lucky as they were able to give me an appointment that afternoon and all I had to bring with me was my passport, P45, and NI card. An hour later they called me to see if I still wanted to come (it was snowing heavily) as there were some cancellations and some staff were going home early. I thought that it would be best just to get it over with, and as the place is just down the road from where I am staying, driving wasn’t going to be an issue as I could walk there.
When I arrived, I was greeted by the security guards. They were friendly, yet professional. I suppose they get some tough cases. I was asked to fill in some forms while I was waiting to be seen. There was a little bit of confusion as to what I would be claiming and which forms should be filled in, but they eventually worked it out. Now here’s the thing, because I had claimed benefit in the last year, I was still in the system, and sure enough, they had all of my previous details. Scary that is. However, even though I was just claiming for NI contributions, I still had to go through the usual palaver of coming into the Jobcentre every two weeks to sign on and give documented evidence of looking for work. I had to show them six things I did to look for work every two weeks. Hmm!
The upside to this encounter at the Jobcentre was that I had spent a whole hour with a young woman who provided me with information of companies that could help me with my CV and give me advice on interviews and what jobs to look for. The average person would have to pay for this help, but the unemployed can get it for free. None of this help was offered to me over a year ago. The young lady very carefully and methodically provided me with information and asked me interesting questions about the type of work and salary I was looking for without being patronising. She then updated my details. I had to sign some documents, and then it was time to leave. I was pleasantly surprised how painless it all was. I was even referred to as a customer! (I have it in writing!) How things have changed. Everyone was so nice it took me awhile to get my head around it. I’m sure they never would have been like this in London. They were particularly awful a year ago.
Now all I have to do is find a job. What to do? The salaries in these parts are not as good as in London, but I kind of knew that before I came down here. However, I didn’t expect them to be as low as they are, even for decent administrative work. They are paying what I consider entry level wages in return for one’s soul. Add to that up to an hour or more of commuting each day. I am finding it difficult to get my head around that. I’m thinking I might do some temp work until the right job comes along. There are tough decisions ahead.