Saturday, 10 October 2015
On My Soap Box: A rant about being unemployed, working for charity and the kind of Unemployment programme we need.
Now I had to have a lot of help and support and even some therapy to help put myself back together again after what happened to me (I had my head smashed in with crowbars during a robbery.) The worst thing though was that the place I worked, the place where the robbery had happened fired me while I was off sick suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a recognised mental health condition which I had found myself with thanks to what happened on there premises while I was under there employment, worse than this though they actually tried to bully me into quitting by being as none understanding and pushy as possible, heck even though thousands of pounds was stolen from the business at the time that happened to me, they even tried to deny it had happened until police reports and other things were put in front of them.
On the one side this was probably for the best because well after all the work I had done to piece myself back together would I really want to work in the same place, looking at where it happened on a daily basis? I managed to get myself on a funded educational course for a year to learn new skills so I could hopefully find employment in a new field. This didn't work out though, people were happy to have me as a free trainee while the educational fund was paying for me but when that was done no one wanted to give me a paying job. So I ended up on Job Seekers allowance looking for work at first in my new field and then slowly eventually just any work doing anything.
Now when you go to the job centre they are supposed to help you find work, partially by motivating you and pushing you but also by sending you on courses or to job fairs and the like. There is a dark side though, you get put on these courses and these job programmes where there is no intention to build you up or to make you feel better no the real intention is to make you feel worse. You sit in rooms and get told how the unemployed no matter how or for what reason they find themselves in that situation are the scum of the earth. Countless times I found myself sat there on an upper floor of a back to work agency after having had an epileptic fit, sat with my head in my hands being told how I should just stop being lazy and get back to work and how I was a blight on society. I would sit there and look out of the window and the thoughts that would run through my mind would sometimes verge on the realms of why don't I just get up and jump and end it all now, after all I am a pain in everyone's ass and I am constantly being told about it. Its important to realise that I was filling in more application forms than anyone I have ever known, sending out more perspective letters and literally going from business to business dropping in CV's and covering letters, I could not have tried harder to get myself employed.
I think if it wasn't for four things I very seriously might have killed myself. One thing was my daughter and my parental desire to be there for her, to help her and to ensure that she was taken care of and that she had everything she could, including a Dad who was there to tuck her in, a father who was there to wipe her tears and make sure she was being raised well. Another was the support network I had including my wonderful Fiancée and my parents who were there to remind me that a man is more than just his job, he is everything he means to everyone around him, the way he touches there lives and how pure his heart is. Then I had my writing which at the time I treated as a job, every time some paid individual would try to bully me into feeling like I was nothing I would counter this inside my head with I am a writer. The fourth thing was charity work.
Now I never wanted to work in a shop putting jumpers on hangers not because I think its a bad job, in fact I am glad that there are people who do it for many reasons, one being I like shopping in charity shops for old games, but another is that I know that these things will be sold for cash which will go on to give a charity the funds to help people but what I wanted to do was help people as directly as possible. So that's why I became a Life Mentor working with children who were being bullied and children who were suffering from mental health difficulties. The man who had been damaged himself through the things that had been done to him found himself helping others to deal with the damage that had been inflected on them. This in turn helped me. Through loosing my job I had lost my sense of purpose and when a man has no purpose it looks from his perspective like he has no reason to live. By helping these people to fix themselves I gave my self a reason to get up in the morning. My daughter, my Fiancée, my family, my writing and these poor children who needed somebody all became reasons to live , reasons to carry on.
Mental health issues can be like a chain that drags you down and unless you find something to keep you afloat then your going to drown in them. Believe it or not I actually got mixed signals from the Job Centre for working for a charity, they quizzed me on it and said that it might stop me from being allowed Job Seeker allowance. I had to fill in forms and answer questions and in the end they seemed to deem that it was a good thing as it was something that could go on my CV and something I could talk about in interviews.
Having been a volunteer for a few charities and having looked at working for a few different ones it can actually be surprising how harsh and demanding some can be when it comes to volunteers. I loved working for two charities in connection with young people and there issues. I then looked at working for what I will refer to as Charity X (again dont want anyone to come after me for liable or go nuts that I am bad mouthing someone who helps people), they wanted a promise that you would do it for a year or not at all, a promise that you'd do a set amount of hours per week, at times that they wanted you to do them without fail and a list of rules twenty times longer than the ones I had worked for while telling you how lucky you were that they were going to offer you training and how much that training cost (this is just regular do your job training nothing that's going to get you an NVQ or anything). It was a shock when the last two I had worked for were just grateful for you to do anything any-time for as long as you could and never made you feel like a cost or a burden.
For me I kind of put my family first then paid work and then anything charitable so the above put me off working for Charity X. I think working for a charity is a wonderful thing to do but they do need to realise that your giving your time and skills freely and unlike an actual job where to a degree they can say shut the hell up and take it we are paying you after all, they need to be a little bit more forgiving and make you feel so wanted and like a valued part of what there doing that you drive yourself to be there, that you feel needed, and like if you just don't bother then your letting the team down.
In the end most charities exist to fight issues and problems which our government either is not fighting or arguably is not putting enough time and money into. So what am I arguing here? Well for one people who work for charity as unpaid volunteers deserve some level of respect, most of the time they are doing it purely out of the goodness of there heart or out of a desire for a purpose a reason to go on. I believe that if someone is working for a charity that they should get cut some slack when it comes to job seeking, it should be treated as a positive thing as showing there desire to do something. When I attended the job centre everyone got the same treatment you could be sending a million applications while working for a charity while trying your best and apart from a few special advisers who seemed to see the bigger picture you were seen as the same as the drug addicted dirt bags who arrived to the job centre in shell suits stinging of alcohol and drugs with there job search notes scribbled on to a filthy piece of paper which had been slung n there pocket.
Maybe to some degree here I sound like I am having an attack against certain types of people but what I am really getting at is we need a job search/unemployment programme which takes a deeper look in to peoples situations, who they are, what they are dealing with, be this health wise physically or mentally and what they are trying to do to better there position. I personally feel that anyone who is putting in time working to help a charity deserves to see recognition for this instead of facing the third degree. Most of all though I think we need to see the end of courses and treatment that tries to bully people in to finding work as I do not believe this works at all. Those determined not to work will have made this decision and no amount of bullying is likely to alter this decision, where as for those who are actively trying, for those who desperately want to work it is just kicking them while they are down.