A Foolish Finale, or The System Sucks

Having made my way through the Employability Skills course and the subsequent rerun at The Gatherings, it was clear that the course I ought to follow was that of going freelance through the NEA self-employment program. So, I was booked to attend the introductory meeting. If I made the grade, I’d have twenty-six weeks of lower benefits than I receive on JSA (halved at the halfway point) was safety-net while I set myself up. It would be tough and there would be the option to cut-and-run without penalty if things didn’t work out during those twenty-six weeks, but I was determined to make it work.

As you may guess from the title of this post, it didn’t quite work out like that…

No. Unfortunately, my turn on the Community Work Program (CWP) was due and I was booked to attend the induction on the afternoon after attending the NEA meeting. What I didn’t know and nobody at the Jobcentre seemed to realise is that, thanks to EU rules on double-funding of course, you cannot be booked to both programs simultaneously. And, of course, the CWP takes precedence. So, suddenly, I find myself locked into six-months of mandatory ‘voluntary’ work, with no chance of deferring it. Ironically, this will be paid at full rate – rather than the reduced rates of taking the NEA pathway. Yes, rather than save money by funding me to do something I really wanted to do and which had a high chance of getting me off benefits, they’re forcing me to do something I have absolutely no desire to do, on a program which, from past experience, will do nothing to actually address the real barriers to work that I face.

So, I’m left with three choices. I can attempt to go it alone, perhaps finding assistance from some other source; unfortunately, as I don’t envision making much money, it’s quite possible I could end up unable to pay the mandatory National Insurance contributions, something the reduced rate NEA benefit would have helped cover (not to mention, where I’d stand with my student loan). Or, I can attend the CWP and do everything I must and there’s an outside chance I may land a job, and, if not, I can do the NEA in six months time. Or, I can sabotage the CWP, doing my best to avoid getting a job, to ensure that I’ll still be on benefits in six months in order to be able to do the NEA, with the attendant probability of losing my benefits altogether (as well as completely wasting six months of my life). Of course, the latter two options both assume that I don’t lose my motivation in the interim and decide to abandon the idea.

So, I’m left with deciding whether I prefer the devil or the deep blue sea. If the system worked better, there would be no decision to make and I’d be making a go of going it alone. Ian Duncan Smith should be proud of himself.

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