I want to say here and now that in my entire working life, I have spent less than 6 months existing on any kind of state benefit. I don't count my student grant - not loans back in 1969/70. We are supposed to have free education in the UK, and hopefully we will again one day.
However, I am feeling very let down by the system into which I have paid my taxes and NI contributions since aged 21 and it's about time it gave me a little back. I wasn't at all in good health when my husband left, and I hadn't been for several years. He was happy to support me (so he said) for a long time, I was hoping to build a business online, and now I am beginning to get there, but have had a lot of false starts. However, it is barely feeding me, not enough to pay the mortgage or my utility bills and my savings have dwindled to below what I am told is the means-tested benefit threshold.
So, as of tomorrow, I am setting my sights on incapacity benefit, council tax relief, housing benefit, and anything else I can get my hands on to help me keep my home and pay my bills, until such time as my depression lifts enough to look for properly paid work again - if I can get a job without running up against the age discrimination I experienced the last time I was looking seriously.
I can see how and why people get into the benefits system and never escape again. As long as you don't actually have money in any kind of savings, you can get away with not working because the Job Centre system is, frankly a joke. Employers don't have to advertise every post with them, not even public bodies like local authorities. I told the Job Centre that IMO I had been discriminated against by our local council on one of the vacancies I applied for. I got no help, no advice, and they didn't call the council and investigate, even though the vacancy was one that had been on the Job Centre system.
Secondly, the training that the Job Centre can provide is very limited and if you go to them and say you want a couple of hundred pounds to buy online training that would give you a better chance of finding a job, they have no mechanism for doing this. I actually had to pull out of applying for a very good scheme that would have given me temporary employment at the end of it as well as some top class training because I found out that the Job Centre would not fund my travel. If I'd gone through with it, I would not in all probability now be a prospective drain on the state system.
They say glibly that you should be applying for 20 jobs a week - HUH? - in this economic climate ? I'm going to be 58 in a few months. In terms of the amount of administration that it is going to cost to get those benefits and do what I have to, in order to stay on benefits, the State would be better off giving me my retirement pension early and have done with it.
I hate begging, and I am going to feel a distinct sense of shame and failure about becoming part of the benefits system. However I am going to grit my teeth and say to the world, there were a lot of years that I contributed, I've never had a family to need educating and healthcare, never lived in publicly provided housing etc, but now I AM in need, I hope that I'll get some help. We don't have a 'work-fare' system in the UK as such, although there are mutterings it is on the way. If there was, I would be more than happy to do a job that was of benefit to the community in return for any hand-outs.
If you have any sympathy for me and my present predicament, I'm putting a Paypal donation button on this blog. I can promise you that it won't be puffed into the air in cig. smoke or swilled down my throat in cheap supermarket booze. I would very much rather you joined one of my online businesses (see the list of my other blogs), or even paid a paltry dollar or two to advertise your blog on mine, but will understand if you prefer to make a straight donation.
And if you want to offer me a job - I've got years of IT experience and a willingness to try any office-based admin job in my locality that anyone might suggest. If there is a way I can make my CV downloadable here, I'll do it, or you can ask for it.