Monday, 5 September 2016

My Experience of being a Dole Sponger.

Friday July 1st was an odd day, it started off as any other Friday, and ended in a complete train wreck, basically I was made redundant after 13 years with no warning, from normal to out on the street within 30 minutes. Basically the company was placed in liquidation and as such no redundancy would be forthcoming, sure I filled the RP1 form in, but at the time of writing I've received an acknowledgement letter and no more.

Firstly, I reported to the bank that I was going to be unable to be able to pay the repayments on my credit card and loan for my car, after speaking to a girl in India who assured me that the bank would help me in every way they could, I felt happy enough to then report to Tax Credits that I was no longer working. That brought me onto monday when I went to make a claim at the benefits office.

In I went, P45 in hand, letter confirming my redundancy, to be told I would have to make an appointment and come back on Thursday, here's a Housing Benefit form, now clear off. I filled the HB form in and sent it away. Thursday came and I made my claim, then I was referred to my "Adviser"and we drew up a "Jobseekers Agreement" which basically says you'll look for a job in short order. 2 weeks later and I hadn't received a bean, I had just about been able to eat by selling some stuff and through the kindness of friends and family. Meanwhile the NIHE couldn't decide what to do about housing benefit. I live in a 2 bedroom house, seemingly I should be in a 1 bedroom house, fair enough, but where does one find one? Do they expect you to just have one on standby in case you become unemployed? Anything with one bedroom locally is a hell of a lot more expensive than where I rent now. Jobseeking was not a great success, I was applying for everything, usually with no response, I applied for a job driving vans, I drove vans for years, I didn't even get past the psychometric online test, generally I heard nothing back, this would become a frequent theme.

The last week in July was a killer, I still hadn't received any JSA and I was literally living on noodles and porridge. I had signed on for the second time and must have cut a pathetic enough figure that the woman in the benefits office managed to get me £114 of a payment. That was apparently my sum total of benefits for the whole of July, On returning home, I had a letter lying on the mat from the NIHE, seemingly I would have to pay £64 from my £73 weekly JSA towards my housing costs, clearly this was a massive mistake, ringing the NIHE was a waste of a phone call, disinterested woman on the other end who told me I could present myself as homeless, tough shit was the impression I got from her. This was beyond me so I went to my local MLA's office. This was a real turning point as the NIHE basically crapped themselves and rolled over, the problem was that the NIHE assumed I was receiving £39 tax credits weekly. For the record, I was getting £29 a MONTH from tax credits and they were cancelled at the start of July.

After much fannying about, the NIHE told me they would pay the full amount  for 13 weeks, after that £17pw would have to come out of my JSA. £73 would become £56. Great. Interestingly enough I was given an unofficial breakdown of what an adult on JSA is supposed to spend on food, it works out a £3.57 a day. Meanwhile I was applying for more jobs than I could count, the email applications alone took up 2 pages, the wee books they give you to note your jobseeking activity? I filled my first in by the time I made my first proper signing. Then I got another boot in the balls.

Another letter arrived, telling me I was losing another £11 odd a week, the reason for this on the letter was blank. A not so quick call to the benefit office revealed it was for overpayment but nobody knew why, they gave me another number to phone, another drone woman told me it was an overpayment from when I was on incapacity in 1999 after a bike crash left me unable to work. Let me take a moment to clue you in on this. Back then, I was a mess, I was in a failing marriage, in near constant pain and throwing down painkillers and antidepressants down me like smarties, I was literally falling apart, I managed to drag myself together long enough to go back to couriering just long enough to have another biggish crash where I literally signed myself out of hospital to go back to work, to the best of my knowledge I informed them of every change in circumstances, certainly they never got in contact until now. They said I was "untraceable" despite being in full time employment, receiving tax credits, having a car registered in my name, a credit history and indeed being on the electoral register, methinks this was just a way for some computer to try and claw back money. £73 was down to £46.

For the first time I felt useless, old and past it, I could feel the old black dog of depression starting up again, it became an effort to get up at 7am, I had to force myself to go out the front door, I was not a happy bunny and could feel myself withdrawing into a bunker in my head. The old self fortification technique was working again, harden the fuck up Son.

But, like a bolt from the blue I'm back in work, in the old shop, doing the same job because somebody decided to buy the remains of the business and bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

A job is a job, but being unemployed is no picnic, I hope to fuck I never have to do it again.

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