Every so often, I will come across a comment on a newspaper article, full of resentment towards ‘funding someone’s lifestyle choice’ with Jobseekers Allowance.
JSA is £71 for those 25 and over, and a criminally low £56 for those under 25 (because everyone knows you eat much less and get cheaper transport and clothes when you’re 24, duh!). I receive £76: £45 from my Saturday job and £31 from JSA (you get to keep the first £5 if you’re in part time employment. Goodness, how very generous.)
£71 is not a lifestyle choice. It does not fund what I wish my lifestyle to be. I want to be able to go out every Saturday, buy a new outfit every few weeks, meet friends for drinks and a meal every fortnight, go on day trips – I really want to see the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum. If you can do all that on £71, tell me your secrets!
I’m lucky: I live at home. I have no bills, no rent, no grocery shopping to pay for, no car to run. People with all those expenditures and families are expected to survive on that £71. I literally do not know how they do it. It’s not subsistence level, it’s poverty.
I couldn’t afford to go to Merry Hill to get myself a decent interview outfit out of that £71 – my mom paid for it. I have to rely on my parents to take me to the Jobcentre (which I now have to attend every goddamn week) – you get no travel expenses. There are no courses to be sent on if you have a modicum of intelligence about you, no help whatsoever. Tomorrow I am being sent on a day and half course entitled ‘Finding a job’. Despite the fact that I already have one.
Finding a job is depressing. Again, I’m in a fortunate position because I don’t need to take just anything – although I was told I’m not getting calls back for admin positions because I’m too qualified. I was meant to have an interview today and it was cancelled because they had offered the job to someone else ahead of my interview. How is that fair? That was utterly beyond my control. Employers have started to take the piss because they know they can: there are so many people out of work and desperate for a job that they don’t need to be decent and respectful. They can treat you like the throwaway commodity that you are now.
The fact that Labour abstained from the retrospective Jobseekers Bill stirs so much anger up inside me. I applaud Cait Reilly; she already had retail experience. She was already volunteering in the area she wished to work in. How was work in Poundland improving her CV?
I’m 25. I’m educated. I’m smart. I’m really friendly and I think I’m a fun person to be around. I’m not the most serious or the quietest, but I’m proud of who I am. I won’t change for anybody. I would have thought any employer would be lucky to have me. I’m at the age where I should be – where I want to be – making my mark on the world. I’ve never had a full-time job. I’ve never experienced having a few hundred paid into my account and blowing it all at once on frivolous purchases. I’ve never shown the world what I can do. I’m so eager to get on in life and prove myself and NO ONE is giving me that chance.
So no. This isn’t a lifestyle choice.