One thing I haven't gone in to too much detail about on my blog is Ross's working situation. I have briefly mentioned he has had to give up his job without really explaining why.
Basically, he was being bullied in work. He was signed off sick with 'work related stress' by the Doctor because of this bullying. He was put on to Beta Blockers to help with his anxiety and palpitations, also sleeping tablets and very nearly anti-depressants. He would suffer panic attacks on his way to work.
Ross followed the correct route and raised a grievance with his boss. The person who was bullying him was his Kitchen Manager, so he had to go above her, which was to the Headmaster of the school. Emails and letters were passed about, Ross was slagged off and was told he was useless at his job. Eventually we decided enough was enough. He'd had six weeks off work, statutory sick pay wasn't enough to survive on, so he decided to hand in his notice. We contacted the Job Centre and was told as soon as his notice was over, which was Monday, we could apply for Job Seekers Allowance.
So, on Monday, I filled in the online form, sent it off and promptly received a text message confirming my appointment for the next day. I was told to bring I.D for both myself and Ross, as well as any proof of work. Baring in mind we obviously decided to go for a joint claim - I have made the decision to go back to work part time, whilst he has been looking for a full time job.
We made our way to our local Job Centre and I was quickly called over to a lady at a desk whilst Ross was told to take a seat. A bit odd I thought, considering we were told we both needed to attend, but I ignored it. Two minutes into the conversation I realised she was only registering me alone, for the Job Seekers Allowance.
"But it's for a joint claim," I told her.
"Are you a parent?" She asked.
"Well then you can't apply for a joint claim. That would imply you were both looking for work."
"Well we are.."
"Yes, but you would have to be looking for full time work. Even if you only got part time. You can't both look for full time, you have a child."
"There is such a thing as Childcare..."
"That's not what we're applying for."
I was incredulous. I was sat here being told that because Ross and I have a child together, only one of us could work because clearly, the other one had to stay at home and look after Princess.
"But we both want to look for work," I tried again.
"Well really your partner should be the one signing on whilst you stay and look after your child."
Woah, woah woah.
Did she really just go there? Yes, yes she did.
So it would appear the Job Centre is sexist.
Apparently, I am meant to stay at home, whilst Ross goes and signs on and looks for work. I have done that for the past 2 years and have finally decided I would like a Part Time job. Is that against the law?
Eventually I just shook my head and nodded at her to carry on. She asks me what type of work I've been looking for and what I think is best suited to my abilities. I tell her I have been looking for retail, admin and cleaning work. Anything I can find that I know I can do.
She types in retail and adds it to the list.
She types in cleaning and adds it to the list.
She then types in 'recepcion' and adds it to the list. I then have to correct her.
I never, ever make a point of telling people I'm a good speller. People often ask me to spell things for them, but I don't ever brag about it. But when I'm sat across from this woman, desperate for a job and I'm watching her tap away at the keys with ridiculously long fake nails that she cannot type with, and spelling words wrong.. I began to lose faith. I know that makes me sound really pig-headed, but it makes you wonder.
After she had thanked me for my correction, I sighed and nodded at her to continue.
She asks me to list my qualifications and previous job experience.
She prints it all off and I sign a few forms.
She hands me over leaflets and tells me that because of my age, I have to attend a 'special youth centre' to help me gain 'tips and tricks' to help me find a job. It is a centre that is aiming to get 'the youth of today, back into work!'
I stared at her open mouthed.
I do realise that at the age of 23 I am still considerably young and by no means old. But I am not a youth. I worked from the age of 17, was promoted, had a baby, raised said baby and have ran a home in the space of 6 years. If I still lived at home and went out every weekend getting drunk, then fair enough, I still have a level of youth in me. But I don't, and I haven't done for 3 years. I have my own family now, I am an adult.. not a youth.
I was offended.
On top of this, the special 'youth centre' I have to attend, is on the other side of the City.
I have to get dressed up in my 'interview gear' and head on down for a fake interview that will last approximately ten minutes. After getting off my bus, it will take me at least 20 minutes to walk there.
Basically, I had a very bad experience of the Job Centre. Some people
probably think I have taken it too personally or have been offended for
the wrong reasons. What you have to understand is my family currently
has no income. I am stressed, upset and tired of fighting to keep our
heads above water.
All of this hassle ladies and gents, is for £71 a week. Which myself and my family are expected to live on. To pay bills on. To pay rent with - because yes, I still have to pay some rent.
I know I shouldn't complain. There are people out there far worse off than me, and I am getting some sort of help. But I just don't agree with it. For a country that is apparently hell-bent on getting people back in to work, especially stay at home Mums, they have a funny way of showing it.
Why can't a Mum and a Dad both look for work?
Why can't a Mum go to work and the Dad stay home and look after the baby?
Why, at the age of 23 are you treated like a child?
You will have to ask the Job Centre.