This morning I received another letter, in an envelope obviously from a government department. I put it on the coffee table and looked at it for a while, not wanting to know what was inside. Eventually, with a calming brew in hand, I opened it.
My Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit has been suspended.
So, trying to stay calm, I immediately checked my bank account online to see how much money I have to survive on until my employers pay me my part-time wage or Jobcentre Plus reconsider my situation: I was hoping it would be enough to last till a get a giro next week when this mess is sorted.
Then I find £30 has been taken in unpaid direct debit fees from my benefits (for reasons beyond my understanding because everything has been paid on time).
I would’ve been better off staying on benefits.
If I were still on benefits I wouldn’t need to find bus fares to my part-time work. I could go hungry at home rather than while trying to give lectures. I could sit in front of the halogen heater and not have to venture out into the snow only to return to a permanently unheated flat.
Jobcentre Plus agreed to my working – I asked for permission before I signed any contracts – but still I’m penalised.
This is the reality of how workers are treated when they make concerted efforts to get off unemployment and to earn an income, albeit a part-time, temporary one. For trying not to rely on unemployment benefits, for trying to find work that could, perhaps, lead to getting off the dole completely, I now have literally no income.
I’m at a loss at what to do. I can’t begin to imagine what rabid Tories would suggest. I assume this would still be my fault: perhaps my entrepreneurial skills have failed me yet again; perhaps I chose the wrong two careers in journalism and academia; perhaps my qualifications aren’t the right type; perhaps I over-achieved; perhaps I under-achieved; perhaps living within my means doesn’t show enough gumption and I should invest my £67.50 per week into some money-spinning venture from which I’ll emerge richer than Mark Zuckerberg.
All I want is a job. I just want enough money to live on. I’m happy to forgo holidays, meals in fancy restaurants, new clothes, a car, a mobile phone and all the things I once took for granted. I can’t, though, not have money for rent, council tax, food, travel expenses to work.
I no longer know what I’m expected to do. I would’ve been better off staying on benefits.
Amount of money I have £21.62
Cost of travel to work: £11.50 per week
Days until I am paid: 40