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A few news headlines have been brought to my attention that quite frankly make me sick. The one that springs to mind is the one about the jobless couple raking in £815 a week in benefits and yet moaning they don't have enough money. Here's a little bit of history though, perhaps you'll understand why I am so angry at this.
About a year a go my brother was unemployed and actively seeking work. He'd been for loads of interviews and those jobs included minimum wage jobs. Part of the problem is that he lives in mid Wales and to be honest there isn't really much in the way of employment there anyway. He's a skilled engineer but he was prepared to take whatever he could to earn a living. It's not easy finding work in the middle of a recession when you're close to retirement age anyway, but in that part of the country, at that particular time things were particularly difficult. Anyway, he'd had an interview at a local Tesco which had just been built and was about to take on staff. Unfortunately he wasn't successful (sheer numbers I suspect) but the main problem was that his unemployment benefit and housing benefit was cut because of some sort of communication problem. Apparently the fact that he'd been for the interview hadn't been registered.
As I said, things were pretty tough up there anyway and at the time he lived in a remote location and didn't have transport. He had to spend what little cash he had on buses (very few of these) to sign on and go to interviews. Whenever he tried to contact the job centre to get it all sorted out, he was passed from pillar to post, someone would ring back, there's nothing we can do etc. etc. He even ended up getting in touch with the guy at Tesco who interviewed him to try and sort it out, but the job centre were adamant that he wasn't looking for work and that was it.
The outlook was bleak, no money, none coming in and no job. Also, it was November and the weather was starting to get cold in Wales. Did I mention that my brother is also a diabetic? This wasn't a good position to be in at all!
Things weren't going to great for me either. I'm self employed and don't earn a lot myself (probably less than 10K a year). I had a tax bill coming up as I barely earn enough to live on anyway, I had to do some temping to earn the cash to sort that out and pay off my overdraft. Luckily with the extra temp work I was able to arrange to have a bag of logs sent to my brother that week just as a big freeze took hold. He was spending a lot of time wrapped up in blankets just trying to keep warm. I dread to think what might have happened otherwise.
working in a factory on a minimum wage...
Personally, I've never ever claimed benefits and always managed to get some kind of work. Even if it is working in a factory on a minimum wage. Luckily there's plenty of that around where I am if you're prepared to do it. I'm aware that some people aren't. Last November I was up at 5 every morning cycling through the snow and whatever to do a manual minimum wage job to pay my bills. My brother and I are quite prepared to do this as there's a sense of pride in our family.
It just makes me so angry when I read these news headlines about families living off the state in nice houses with all the comforts of home including Sky TV, games consoles and hundreds of pounds to live off. Then on the other end of the scale the help that is supposed to be available for people actually looking for work (my brother for example) just isn't there.
I also remember reading an article at the time about a family of asylum seekers living in a luxurious home worth millions. Okay, the tabloids are all about sensational headlines and I'm sure these are minority cases (I hope), but the fact is that our benefit system is quite screwed up.
I'm off to my temp job now again. Tax has to be paid after all so that some can live in luxury!