Tag Archives: debt

Charity Aid still vital in Philippines

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After the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada my blog is most viewed in the Philippines.

I have donated to the Typhoon Haiyan fund before but recently I was able to contribute a little more. Thousands died and a staggering 11 million people were affected. The videos and photographs of the devastation were horrific.

Charities have helped 1.6 million so far but there is still a long road to recovery ahead. Of course the disaster also impacted on infrastructure – depriving millions of basic needs such as food and shelter. Some cities are still reliant on electricity from generators and many survivors are entirely dependent on aid.

Today I finally got round to it and gave £25. After Christmas and the holiday and with only a temporary job, I couldn’t afford to donate much but something is better than nothing. Just £25 can give water purification tablets to ten families for a month. I did this through The Disasters Emergency Committee website, a hub uniting all the major charities. The country remains crippled by foreign debt, with £8.8 billion to repay in 2014. So charities have a crucial role to play in helping the country back to its feet. Just a quarter of the $791 million (over £483 million) appealed for by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to cover needs over 12 months has been donated.

So when you’re sitting cosily by the (fake/real) fire with your (fake/real) tree, or having that turkey curry buffet, or just enjoying the holiday, spare a thought for the millions reliant on charity to supply food, clean water and shelter. Help continues to be needed even though the bright lights of the media have since moved on.

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Staring poverty in the face

Today I was informed by the Jobcentre that due to my appointment missed three weeks ago, I would no longer receive benefits, leaving me with £85 a month to live on.

I had attended that place of misery and contempt the day before to see my adviser. She put me on a two day “Finding and Getting a Job” training course, which I found useful. I attended it unaware that I was no longer receiving any support from the Jobcentre.

I had provided all evidence of my Saturday job, only for my employer to be asked to provide more information.

lifelineA friend said his benefits had been stopped for two weeks, after telling them in advance that he would not be able to attend an appointment. He never received money owed. I have heard of people being sent to interviews when they do not meet the basic job description.

They had all my personal details, why did it take 27 days for them to contact me? Why couldn’t they have asked why I missed the appointment, or at least given me warning that my lifeline was about to be cut?

Luckily although I am nearly out of money to live on, I have received support from family and friends. I have food parcels, tins and the freezer stock. I walk wherever I can to save on public transport. I am making do with a mobile on which I can hardly hear someone’s voice, rather than buying a new one. “Make do and mend” and “waste not want not” are my new job war mottos.

What is annoying is that I did everything that was asked of me. When I was aware I had forgotten for the first time I rang them up and went in on the day. I provided full evidence of my Saturday work and full evidence of my job hunt, I attended all meetings apart from two which I forgot, as I attended the Jobcentre so regularly it was difficult to keep up. I will need a diary now just to put their appointments in.

Despite having a first in Careers Development I even went to the optional (so I was told when I attended) Group Information Session, where I was reminded about how I look for work, along with repeated information about sanctions this, sanctions that.

Where is the compassion? Where is the accountability? Where is the respect for those who are suffering? As a big faceless organisation I do not know who to address my complaint to. I don’t want to bite the hand that literally feeds me, but if I had more financial commitments I would have been tearing my hair out for the 27 days it took them to write to me.

An adviser smirked when I said that I could now buy a printer as I had food. It was to print out job search documents without paying 10p per sheet at the library every time.

In between saving up for one, I was referred to their free printing service. It involved a computer with a program different from Word, so every time I copied and pasted from Word it wouldn’t format and I spent about an hour playing about with it until my c.v could actually be printed on two pages. The reason given was “Word is expensive”. Once finally sorted, I had to ask permission from an employee to take it off the printer. You don’t get much more patronising than that.

There was no one to assist and while I was struggling, I heard two employees chatting. One imitated a man’s broken English. This father had just come in to get a bus pass so that he could take his children to school. I found the lack of understanding and respect disgusting. Clearly he had never experienced the daily financial hardship of being unemployed. The job seeker was desperate and needed his help, yet he and his colleague thought it appropriate to joke about his language ability, something which was probably holding him back.

My adviser was really helpful and thankfully had people skills. I won’t be referred to her this time I expect. I am going to the Jobcentre tomorrow to get myself off the streets, so to speak. Although thankfully I have accommodation provided for. I would now be in debt as a result of the delay, had I not saved.

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Pros and Cons of Unemployment

You’re probably wondering how there could possibly be any upsides to unemployment. But some of the negatives have a silver lining…

Negatives

1. Financial hardship

Most of us do not get much in benefits and every time you go shopping you have to be aware of your dwindling bank balance. You have to budget according to your reduced income.

2. Cold callers article-2167683-0C6EFE84000005DC-962_468x286

Thinking it’s that important interview call you rush to the phone, only to hear it’s some rude dimwit advertising something you have no interest in!

3. Daytime TV

4. Negative attitudes towards your job status snooty

Don’t listen to them though, it’s just ignorance.

5. Lack of company

Most people you know are working and you’re home alone noting down details of every job you’ve ever done and every qualification you’ve ever achieved.

Positives

1. You have more time

You may be busy filling in application forms and doing interviews, but in between you have time to enjoy yourself (albeit with free or cheap activities).

2. You can go to events during the week

I went to a lambing event yesterday, something I couldn’t have done if I was working. I saw piglets, I had a meerkat on my shoulder and saw a skink, armadillo and racoon for the first time! Unfortunately the 80 lambs were 4 days overdue and didn’t appear. We just saw a lot of grumpy sheep standing about, scoffing so much hay you weren’t sure which lump was baby and which was belly.

3. You learn/have to be more sensible with money images

As it runs out, you think of ingenious ways to save, such as living on tins and frozen food! You should minimise expenses or debt will be your enemy. You may start going to your grandparents for Second World War/post-war saving advice. In those days it was “waste not, want not”! We need to remember the wisdom of  previous generations facing harder times than we are in today.

4. You can enjoy the sunshine

I went for a run this week in the glorious sunshine under a bright blue sky and took in the scenery. Usually I’d be in an office during the week. You may miss the sun as you work, and when you get home you may be too tired to enjoy the fading light. Now you can enjoy daylight hours outdoors. You may have more energy to enjoy the day. You can get a good sleep with fewer early starts.

5. There is good support for Job seekers

Unlike other countries, we are lucky enough to have a welfare system. I have heard of free training courses which may help me find work. I have already made use of free interview training. People are generally understanding because they’re aware of the tough job market situation.

5948249-piggy-bank-squeezed-by-a-measuring-tape--concept-for-money-is-tight-budgeting-squeezing-money-out-ofTurn the negatives into positives

Money is tight, but when we do have it,  we may be thrifty enough to start saving or spend more wisely. Maybe you do a training course and edge out the competition to get the job. Your dream job is still out there, there are just more people applying for it, so you have to stand out from the crowd (this does not mean wearing a pink suit to an interview). You may have had more interview practice than employed people going for the same job so you may perform better.

Of course we all want a job, but when we fall on hard times it’s best to make lemons into lemonade, rather than eating them and getting bitter.

Another blog writer suggests throwing the lemons you’ve received back at life!
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is an expression meaning when life gives you negatives, turn them into positives.

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February 22, 2013 · 1:48 pm

Struggling to find work? Could be your degree!

I had an interview yesterday where a manager said “yes but you have a  degree, it seems such a waste”. I had just said to the panel that due to my study of medieval literature, the Latin spellings in the typing would be no problem. I got  a funny look.

“My degree is a hindrance rather than a help”

I had a job-specific qualification, but not in that particular field. Management were hinting that a degree meant I wouldn’t stick around, and asked me why I had left my previous secretarial job. In a small city with a lack of degree-related jobs it is necessary to look at other areas. Graduates are two-a-penny, so I have worked in non-graduate jobs as well.

TEFL-diploma

I can no longer use my English teaching postgraduate qualification, as the government has made a “Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector” Certificate compulsory. I realised after the first lesson that it’s the same course I did with a different name. My expensive qualification is unusable due to this policy.

“As Nick Clegg MP said, “the minimum wage is not a living wage””

I have another interview next week – the care sector is expanding as the ageing population grows, and I have found the search there quite fruitful. The problem is that even if they don’t require you to have a qualification (for something I have done for years), or don’t require you to have your own car, you’re lucky if you get more than £7 an hour. You are probably less well off on minimum wage than you are on benefits. But MP David Cameron is cutting benefits rather than raising the £6.19 hourly rate.

How can Mr Cameron understand the plight of those struggling on a daily basis? I wonder how he would cope living on the breadline. I have known people who after bills, rent and student loan payments are deducted are left without enough money for food. How are they supposed to save for a pension?

  5857387835_637b75b1cd_z

clegg-300Nick Clegg MP nailed it when he said that “the minimum wage is not a living wage” in Parliament. Mr Clegg is a dedicated, caring, lovely politician who has helped me as his constituent, despite being responsible for central government matters.

“Some roles require NVQs for jobs I have already done”

I have become aware that my degree is a hindrance rather than a help. I will have to directly address concerns about it at interview. Of course it depends what type of degree you have. Those I know with a post graduate teaching qualification are all in work. Those that graduated in I.T and maths have mostly found work.

I have applied for 5-10 jobs every day for the past month and a half and I have had three interviews. I have applied for work in two sectors. Some roles requires NVQs which I cannot afford to do, although I have already done the jobs.

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It is stressful being in work, all the outgoings mean that the average person is not much better off. It’s tough being out of work too – usually I would go halves on food when my sibling visits but as I am living off tins and pasta I cannot afford to do that. I have found that if I spend more than £2 on an item of food during my weekly shop I go over budget. Meat is a luxury, as are other things I used to take forgranted, like pop tarts…

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“People are surprised when they hear I can barely feed myself”

Some people get fooled by the media and think that the dole is cushy, that people just lie around waiting for their handouts.  They are surprised when they hear I barely have enough per week to feed myself.

There is lots of temporary work available, and some people who are desperate bounce from that to the dole, as I have done since I graduated. This short term work means I have not been able to get enough experience to do permanent roles. Those jobs are like gold dust.

Wages are low, with the average wage in administration being £14 000 per year and for care work £11-14 000. If you are prepared to move opportunities may be better.

“I have encountered discrimination on my job status”

Times are hard, but if you are unemployed you need to keep hope and keep hunting. Your c.v should be fresh with voluntary work/part time work too. I like to talk about my Saturday job at interview because it shows that I am not just sitting around getting money for nothing. Indeed I think the proportion of jobless people doing this is smaller than is widely assumed.

I have encountered discrimination on my job status which surprises and disgusts me. I am avoiding meeting new people as one of the first questions people ask is “what do you do?”. Our identities are defined by what we work as. Sometimes we are judged accordingly.

118E9573F5AEE9CB4B9EC713D844_h316_w628_m5_cLLkGXHSBIt is easy to use those out of work as scapegoats, as some in government like to do. The media encourages this too – just the other day I saw the story about a lady on benefits with 11 kids and a pet horse! But I think a much larger proportion of us are desperate for work and are trying.

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February 21, 2013 · 6:06 pm

Pole dancing – beautiful art or seedy sexiness?

Have you ever applied for a job you wouldn’t normally consider if you were in work?

Recently in my desperation I was considering pole dancing. I saw a documentary on it on the BBC a while back and it didn’t have to involve any contact.

Then it showed the luxurious lifestyles of the dancers, and described how they earn £80+ an hour. Now when you’re looking at a series of jobs at minimum wage or £7, the hourly wage of a dancer could look almost as tempting to a woman as they might to their drooling onlookers.

I’d like to see more male pole dancers – why aren’t male strip clubs more common? 156989317

Last time I was desperately jobseeking (recession, July 2008) I resorted to door-to-door sales. I was working alone, doing 12 hours shifts on commission only. A colleague had numerous experiences of harassment, abuse and downright creepiness. Luckily I just got kindly folks inviting me in for a chat and sometimes (thankfully) a cuppa. I may do a separate post on this, let me know if you’d like to hear about it, or your experience of it.

The reality of the job is quite different to this picture

The reality of the job is quite different to this picture

Last week I nearly applied for a pot washing job. The total 2 hour walking distance from my house put me off, as there was no public transport link. I think I’ll have a separate chat about bus “services”.

This week I’ve reached my final bastion of desperation. I applied for a life modelling job.

That’s right, I’m now so fed up of bouncing between short term work and unemployment that I’m prepared to get my kit off for money. I hope the artists see me as a collection of forms, line and shadow.  Ok, the money’s about 8 times less than

timthumba dancer’s, but I would be naked for the sake of art, so it seems acceptable to me. Only artists could see me and not anyone who wants to. I would feel like I was selling my soul pole dancing. Dancers call it art, and “beautiful”. In a  BBC 1Xtra interview a dancer doesn’t think it’s seedy, but I can’t see how making money by arousing sexual interest isn’t, no matter how graceful her moves are. I’d be curious to see what their lives are like. May buy a book on it. 

I still think pole dancing is seedy when done for cash, as opposed to beautiful. Beautiful to me is Grace Kelly.

She was graceful and modest. Without modest dress I think you're sexy and hot rather than beautiful.

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February 6, 2013 · 10:32 pm

Musings and Observations of an Unemployed English Graduate

The state of the job market 2013 is summed up by the statistics on a recruitment website – 5 million c.vs to 64,000 jobs.

Some jobs are up for less than a few hours before closing under the weight of applications. In 1 hour a job can be viewed 170 times, and each job has 50-200+ applications.

I was recently turned down for a receptionist interview – I met all the criteria with experience and additional qualifications but they had received “in excess of 200 applications”.

Every day I spam admin and care work employers. From doing this every day last month I managed to get one interview.

Labour’s target of over 50% of young people going to university has worked. So effectively in fact that graduates are now being overlooked in favour of postgraduates – I know people who have had to do a masters because an undergraduate degree in a non-vocational subject isn’t enough to beat the competition. I would like to do another degree, but as the tuition fees have gone from £1 000 to £9 000 I can’t possibly afford it. I still owe Student Loans £7 000. It goes up by £100 or so every year and I haven’t been able to earn enough to pay it back yet. In the 70s a member of my family did two degrees with government help – a general one and then a job-based one. Bursaries are not what they used to be.

Our generation often thinks that debt is normal. A lot of students aren’t bothered about debt – they’re already saddled with it. Many use their overdraft and go into debt on their credit card.

Many students saw, and still see the loan as free money and bought luxury items or went on holiday with it. It would be paid back one day. Unsurprising then that with these attitudes, public debt has doubled in 5 years to over £1 000 billion and is projected to rise by a hundred billion every year. Perhaps the increase in public debt is partly attributable to the rise in the cost of education.

As soon as you come out of university, you’re applying for jobs against people who have experience. But you have to have a job to get experience. So unpaid internships and voluntary work are sometimes the only option. I did unpaid work experience until I ran out of money, and then looked at another career area.

I sometimes wonder whether there was any use in getting a degree. It developed intellectual qualities but didn’t really make me more employable. One employer remarked that I was overqualified for the job. It’s disheartening applying for jobs requiring 2-5 GCSEs when you have a degree. I would recommend saving thousands and thousands of pounds and a hefty loan and doing a paid apprenticeship instead if your degree is not job-related.

Granted, if I’d moved to the big smoke I would’ve had more opportunity. But I don’t like the dirt, noise and crowds of London, and it would be tough doing an unpaid internship there with student loan debt and no savings. Still, it’s the best way to start – a friend got a marketing job doing unpaid work there, and others I know did the same, living for free with their family or friends. It’s all about contacts, and often it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I can’t help but think that maybe the method of separating people into grammar school and technical school sections wasn’t such a bad idea.

Perhaps I’m just in the wrong industry – my boyfriend’s housemate informed me that his son came over to the UK aged 20 and got a job with no trouble. He went into a recruitment agency and they paid for forklift driver training. From that he got a better-paid job. Perhaps manual work is different.

I feel like I keep getting on the career ladder and falling off – I’ve done teaching, admin and care work but most were short term jobs and I left a secure job for a job where I was promised pay and didn’t see any, hence my predicament. Luckily I do a Saturday job for a few hours so I’m not totally reliant on National Insurance based help – which runs out in June.

So if you’re in sixth form and looking at university, think about what will happen afterwards. Look for gaps in the job market and think about whether you need to go to university to do what you want to do – you wouldn’t want to end up with thousands of debt unnecessarily. My friend decided not to go to university due to fees she couldn’t afford, and now has a job in the NHS with the experience she gained instead.

I’d welcome comments from you, my new reader.

unemployment-grads-cartoon

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