Jim’s Journey

Jim Worked over 30 Years Outdoors in all Weathers Digging Roads and Pavements,

The Weather and strenuous Work finally had a toll on Jim’s Health.

Jim was offered alternative employment but he had only known manual labour, the office world was alien to him. He did not know how to spell computer let alone use one, he would say with a chuckle. His doctor agreed, continuing in his present Job Jim’s health would deteriorate.

He should try to find something less demanding now at his age Jim was 55 he had mild arthritis in his joints and sciatica that would come and go.Jim felt he had no choice but he hated the idea of being on benefits.

He had seen the programmes on TV and how people were living a life of luxury on the benefits.

But Jim would rather work.

Pride Before A Fall

He did not want to be called by his mates a scrounger even though he had worked for years and paid into the system for a safety net. Eventually Jim managed to find a Job that seemed to fit the bill, cleaning buses.

It wasn’t what he was used to but the Job was easy enough,it was sort of indoors and outdoor work and a lot less strenuous than he was used to.

So things were looking up, that was until someone else secured the contract and Jim lost his Job after 4 Months. Jim was a saver of sorts unlike the majority of the population.

He had a few thousand pounds tucked away in savings, so rather than sign on as a matter of pride, lived off them for a while. Eventually they dwindled into nothing.

So eventually Jim had no choice but to sign on and claim benefits.

Jim Safety Net

Not having any experience of the benefit system until now, Jim listened to everything he was told to do.

Signed his claimant commitment that was thrust in his face whatever that was he thought and signed it without really looking.

He just wanted to get out and was relieved when the interview was over.

Single, no dependants, wisely he decided to have his gas, electric and water taken from his benefits or he would have spent the money other things like some decent food.

But then have no heating or lighting when he ran out.

Jim also used a budgeting loan to get essential items such as clothes.

So at the least  he can be presentable at Interviews and replace broken items in the home like fridge, washer etc.

Jim cannot afford to buy new so his second hand electrical goods tend to break more often.

Looking at the breakdown of Jim’s finances he has barely enough money left over to eat as it is.

Actual money left over after deductions to cover his priorities is £40 per week .

He has to travel a long way to sign on and that costs him £5.00 per week.

he also pays £ 5.00 per week toward internet to search for Jobs and talk time for his phone to ring for vacancies.

Times Are Hard

Due to cuts in services he has no choice.

So that leaves Jim with a total of £30.00 per week to get food and other essential items.

like soap, razors,wash powder so he can least remain presentable.

Jim lives on the outskirts of town.

The only shops he can get to without paying travel costs are not exactly cheap but he manages to get all his sundries for the week costing him £8.00 .

That now leaves Jim with £22.00 for the week.

So Jim cannot afford to go out and see his friends any more, he used to buy a pint have a chat, but now he cannot afford that any more.

If he buys tobacco £10.00 that leaves him with only £12 for everything else.

His addiction to tobacco is no different to anyone else.

In the death camps at Auschwitz people would swap what ever little scrap of food they might have for tobacco, so strong is the addiction.

So Jim cuts right down and only buys 1 packet each fortnight, but he hopes to pack it in, he knows he cannot afford to smoke any more.

Jim is feeling hungry

So after all that Jim is left with £17.00 per week for food

How is he ever going to get to a job interview should he be successful he does not know unless he goes hungry.

He now is left with a budget of £2.50 per day to feed himself, his local store is expensive so that does not go a long way.

I defy anyone that says living on benefits is a breeze, this is the reason most people want to work.

Jim is constantly feeling hungry and lacking in energy.

He now has no contact with friends from his local pub any more and always feel on edge due stress, his mental and physical health continue to decline.

Jim gets a sanction.

Some weeks later into his claim Jim is asked to how his Job search went.

The Work Coach who is under pressure to get off flow payments and very little time notices Jim did not complete all the steps in his claimant commitment.

So they decide to raise a doubt and tells Jim.

They hand him some information on what happens next, how to appeal, and hardship payments.

Then tells him until then the sanction will last for four weeks he will not receive any money .

So now faced with a wait to see if and when he will get any money, he just needs food to keep him going

Jim knows he is lucky

He will not run out of gas or electric his rates and water are being paid so at least he will not get into any more debt and he has a roof over his head.

Jim lives on the outskirts of town he has to travel a total distance of 10 miles to get to the Job Centre and return.

This costs Jim £5.00 he hasn’t really got and although he has trouble walking he has no choice most weeks but to walk to town and sign on.

This does not help Jim’s condition,he plods on though, he is used to a bit graft, life is hard sometimes.

Jim is finding it hard now he hasn’t eaten anything at all for a few days.

He finds out from a mate that he will not be getting any benefit for a while and should apply for a hardship payment.

But Jim doesn’t really understand the benefit system and a trip to town would take it out on him, he doesn’t think he could do the walk.

Jim by now is starting to feeling unwell he books an appointment with his doctor.

Jim’s Health Suffers

2 Days later Jim goes to his doctors who is shocked to see how Jim is looking, he listens to Jim’s story and refers him to the local food bank.

He explains that he is finding it difficult to walk and he has no way of getting to the other side of town, so the doctor arranges for a home delivery.

Jim feels so disgusted with himself having to use charity and cannot even afford a simple trip to town.

his doctor wanted to sign Jim off but he wanted to work so did not think it would help,.

Anyway in Jim’s mind he was not working why would he need to a sick note ?

Still at least now he can get through for a few days.

If he stretches it he could get to the next time he should receive some money.

Someone from the food bank helped him fill out the form for a hardship payment so he will have something at least again soon to keep him going.

Jim finally makes it to his signing day.

Jim is feeling weak, angry, stressed and in fear of having another doubt raised on his claim.

He just scrapes through after a few awkward questions from his Work Coach something about sticking to his claimant commitment.

This is Jim’s life now, isolated, weak and hungry, constantly under the threat of sanctions and no end in sight.

He has to keep going to schemes and courses that are no help at all they just keep piling on the pressure if anything.

And too afraid to speak up for himself to explain how more and more difficult it is becoming for fear of being labelled a shirker/scrounger.

Eventually Jim realises that he cannot continue, he is feeling depressed and sometimes wished it was all over.

Jim is beginning to see death as a way out, a relief to all the trouble and strife he is experiencing.

But Jim is a fighter, he realises he cannot work due to ill health and should really be on sick.

However much that affects his self esteem, he is beyond caring now what anyone thinks.

Jim’s Budget on JSA

JSA                                       £73.00 pw

Gas and Electric                  £20.00

Rates                                   £3.50

Water                                   £4.00

Budgeting loan                    £7.50

Internet/phone                    £5.00

Sundries                            £8.00

Travel                                £5.00

Tobacco                            £5.00

Income                             £73.00

Total Outgoings :             £58.00

Leaves £15.00 Per Week for food, emergencies and job search.

Jim now realises life on the dole is not luxury, those TV programmes are just propaganda.

If this was what he was paying his taxes and NI for then what was the point ?