Last week, I was offered a job.
That makes it sound a bit like I was headhunted doesn’t it. A friend knows some people who are re-opening a local pub, and he gave them my name for a job. I went in to speak to them about it the other day, and did a trial shift on Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours.
Of course, I have just put in a claim for Income Support, and really don’t want to be in trouble for benefit fraud. So I called up and spoke to them. They were as helpful as any government department when you’re trying to get a definitive answer on a specific point. The first five minutes was spent with “well you’ve not done any work yet so it’s not a problem…” and “yes but I want to know where I stand before I do the work and potentially commit benefit fraud!” followed by “but you’re not committing fraud because you’ve not done any work yet” and “*headdesk*”
The situation seems to be that while I am claiming Income Support, I can only earn £20 a week. I will need to submit “a few” payslips to show this. Anything I earn over that £20 mark will be deducted from my benefit so that I’ve effectively not earned it.
I have no idea what sort of job one could get where £20 would be regular weekly earnings. I’m guessing there aren’t many around.
Whilst I understand that it would make a mockery of the system for me to be claiming benefit whilst simultaneously working and earning a small fortune, I don’t think £20 is a realistic limit in this day and age. Minimum wage is £6.19 per hour I believe – which means I can only work 3 hours a week. Since I can’t claim help with childcare until I’m doing 16 hours a week, this means I need to rope in a friend or family member on a regular basis to baby sit so that I can work… but will be unable to pay them to do this, what with my only earning £20 a week.
This also means that if I decide to stay on benefits, and not go back to work in May when my maternity leave finishes, I will potentially have 5 years with no work experience at all. Nothing to help me “keep my hand in” with the working world, nothing recent to put on my CV, no experience or familiarity with working life when S turns 5 and I am suddenly expected to go out and get a job. This can’t be a good thing, surely? After five years of CBeebies and Jeremy Kyle, would anyone have the confidence and skills to go out and find a good job? Surely we should be encouraging people on Income Support to try and maintain a small part time job in order to keep them ticking over?
As it is, the people who offered me the job are fairly accommodating, and only really need someone to cover the odd busy period – so they are fine with me only working 3 hours a week. I sincerely doubt I would find the same situation if I applied for a job in Tesco or Sainsburys though.
The way I see it, there should be some sort of middle ground, where people like me can work maybe one or two shifts a week at a small job, earn a little extra money to pay for bits and bobs, and be more likely to then go on to find a “proper” job when the time comes.
The alternative, as far as I can see it, is for hoardes of parents to just be moved over from Income Support to Job Seekers Allowance when their youngest child turns 5.
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