JSA And The Hunt For Jobs
In May this year, I found myself unemployed, having moved to Kent to pursue an MA in Autism Studies at the University of Kent. I found myself in my home county, searching for work to the best of my ability. As an experienced telesales agent, one would have thought that I could at least find a job working as a telesales agent, but apparently not! I have applied for every job you can think of - telesales, office jobs, care work, social work, teaching, teaching assistants, even to work as a life model for £14 p/hr.
The problem I have is not with the lack of employers - although that is a rather large issue - but with the amount of JSA I receive. Now let me put this into perspective. I live with my partner and our three kittens, in a one bed flat. The rent is £450 pcm, with £98 pcm council tax and gas and electricity bills on top of that. Then we have our food bill, which incorporates kitten food and cat litter, and vet bills as well for our youngest kitten who has numerous health problems. JSA pays us £227.40 per fortnight, which does cover our rent - but leaves us with no money for anything else.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is my issue. My total bills per month comes to just under £600-£650 and JSA is £454.80 per month. So after our rent, we would have 80 pence to last us two months. All that, and we are supposed to go out and look for work - with what money, precisely? Oh yes, the money we don't have! Being perfectly honest, it's no wonder some mothers have children purely to up their benefits money - when you consider the pittance we are expected to live on, it's hardly surprising.
Of course, there are other benefits out there - housing benefit and council tax support, for example, which we have recently had to begin claiming to keep a roof over our heads. Thankfully the council has told us that they can pay £350 of our rent and 94.5% of our council tax, which is a huge relief, but it shouldn't be this way. People should be able to claim JSA and receive an amount that they can live comfortably on, not something that leaves them facing financial ruin.
Having had a look at the GOV website (www.gov.uk) it is amazing to think that people are able to live on the money they receive. For example, one person aged 16-24 is expected to live on £57.34 per week (£114.68 per fortnight). In terms of looking for work, £57.34 will buy you a food shop and possibly pay some of your bills. The monthly amount of £229.36 will not cover rent in the slightest unless you rent a studio flat (which normally costs around £250-£350 pcm without bills).
My idea for a solution is simple: double the amounts per week. For example, pay a single person £114.68 per week instead of £57.34 per week. This increases their chances of paying bills, rent and for food etc, and also leaves them some money to go to job interviews, get driving lessons, pay for a licence etc. I can appreciate that some people are likely to waste that money on alcohol, drugs, clothes or other materialistic things, but those are the people who should be monitored and - if found to be wasting money - have their benefits cut or capped. Harsh measures maybe, but the result of the current system is that people like myself are left living hand to mouth with no money to do anything with.
This may seem like a radical idea, but being honest I can hardly see another way forward. The only work I have been able to find is voluntary work in the field I love - teaching. Yes, there are opportunities to move into paid work with the school I volunteer for, but the benefits system will barely cover my transport to and from the school, let alone helping me to continue living a comfortable lifestyle - and by comfortable, I mean being able to buy food without worrying about whether it will affect my ability to pay my gas bill!
The simple fact is this: the government does not pay enough to help people find work, or to help people to live sensibly whilst looking for work. How anybody can say they live comfortably on the benefits system is beyond me, when I can barely afford to survive on the "allowance" I am given.