I haven't been commenting much because I have finally been coming out of unemployment and I have just this month started a new (semi) permanent job on a years fixed term contract that can be reviewed.
This is my diary of what it is like living on less than $100 a week (£65).
I made this comment before - lifetime membership should be continued. It is great value and it allows those who can to commit their support to what is a great community. I will be able to subscribe in February / March but I have now only just started full time permanent employment at just the wrong time to build up money to subscribe.
Unemployment and poverty suck. Not only that getting out of it is equally as hard as wages are paid a month in arrears and the bills keep coming.
I love my new job. I'm finally positive about life but now is not the right time for me to be able to subscribe - for those who can DO.
Conservatives in the UK have the same message about the unemployed as Conservatives in the US. They claim unemployment is a lifetime choice. It is not, it is a very painful and deliberating trap.
I have worked in the field of Welfare Benefits for now on 20 years. I was instrumental in some of the legislation passed by the Labour Government to reform the Housing Benefit system. I moved away from the high profile legislative side to the rather less exciting and lower paying implementation side at local government because I was hit by pneumonia. I had an excellent contact job with no security but reasonably good pay to turn around a local council that was delivering a bad service to the poorest in their community. It met all of my political beliefs. Well run public services can run good services to the clients that they serve and be efficient for the taxpayers that pay for it. The time it took to pay benefit claims was reduced from 90 days to 9.
Staff training was improved. Management was improved. Staff confidence in decision making was improved.
Tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit no longer needed to fear their landlords knowing about their circumstances. Benefit claims would be paid promptly.
The service was turned around. I had however worked myself out of a job.
May 2010 came and the Tories wiped Labour off the map, although they did not win. They formed an alliance with the Liberal Democrats. It made many on the left suspicious but the coalition promised fewer cuts than the Tories on their own would deliver and the restoration of civil liberties that had been eroded by New Labour.
The cuts meant no more contracts. Not only that any new posts were going to be advertised internally only in order to protect existing staff. If you were not already employed you had no way of getting a job.
I was destroyed.
I was also foolish. I had not saved massively because I thought the jobs would always be there in some or other.
I have to say for the first month or so unemployment was fine, it was like an extended holiday. I had the savings to put me ahead on the rent and to pay my bills. It was like an extended holiday.
On Month two things became more difficult, bills were hurting more. The rent was not being paid because my local Council was slow to pay.
Month 3 was harder still. Finally the rent had started coming through but my weekly rent was £125, my weekly housing benefit to help meet the rent was only £115. I was getting only £65 a week unemployment benefit.
I was then hit with a £130 gas bill. My car insurance and MOT (UK road safety certificate) became due. I could not afford to renew the car insurance so I was forced to sell a £1500 car for £300 as an uninsured non MOT car.
The problems continued. Utility bills hit. I had to balance my bills by effectively robbing the money I got in Housing Benefit (which is designed to pay the rent) to pay the bills. I am eternally grateful I have an understanding landlady.
That kind of stress and that kind of pressure somewhat kills your interest in politics at a time it should really increase it. My blog, it has been somewhat dead for a while. My participation in the community that is Kos has been minimal at best (although I did check in every day).
The sad thing is it is hard to care about civil rights when your greater worry is how you pay your bills.
My health suffered. My weight increased massively. I went from lean meats and salad to eating cheap processed foods.
I was very proud at one stage to have been a slimmer of the year. All of the weight I had lost all got put back on and more as a result of my poor diet.
I have now just had a breakthrough. I found a job almost designed for me. The problem is it started at the wrong time of year. There is an expectation that everyone will have a "happy Christmas". There is an expectation to give gifts. I simply cannot.
I will not get paid until 28 January. I will be paid a month and a bit in arrears. It will be a good wage but it will be gone on bills almost the minute I get it. I have also had to borrow money off my friends to be able to afford to start this job. So my friends will need to be paid back. So despite getting a good job I can see that it will take months to recover.
All I can say is if you ever hear a Conservative claim unemployment is easy - get them to try it for more than a month and then give them a slap from me. It is not easy, nor is it easy to come out of unemployment. Those who are unemployed DO want to work, of course we do - just to meet other people and interact. We just need a little dignity and assistance - not the stick of even greater poverty.
7:34 AM PT: Thank you very much for adding this to the Community spotlight and the Rec list. I hope that those who read the diary come away with an understanding that after prolonged periods of unemployment - even if you get a good job - the pain of that experience is still not over. What if your new job requires a suit? Or travel? I had friends to fall back on and a lot of people do not. All the right offers is greater poverty under "austerity". If I did not take this job (and I love it) I would have lost benefits. So I would have been further impoverished because I was too poor to start work. There are better options. It is up to us to present them.