Last month the Bishop of London suggested redundancy isn’t always a bad thing, and that it could in fact be good for the soul. He argued that the ‘crackberry culture’ of people in the City was unhealthy and that getting off the treadmill could be good for them in the long run.
His comments didn’t go down well with everyone. I’m not sure if he really deserved all the flack he got – I can kind of see the point he was trying to make. He said, for example, that at these times in their lives people get the chance to change direction or ‘reboot’ and decide what life is all about. On the other hand, coming from somebody like the Bishop, obviously in a secure job and with plenty to eat, these statements can seem a bit blunt and unhelpful.
Struggling to feed your family and losing your home is hardly good for the soul. And after reading your comments on my Jobseeker’s Allowance challenge (thanks very much for them, by the way), and hearing your harrowing stories about unemployment, nobody could argue that poverty is ennobling. Going without something you can actually afford is one thing, but not having any choice is entirely another.
Jobseekers aren’t serene, as the Bishop’s comments might suggest. They don’t sit about pondering the meaning of life. They’re broke and they can’t relax. They can’t sleep for the worry and all they can think about is how they’ll struggle through the next week. My friend phoned me yesterday, concerned because she hasn’t heard back about a job interview she’s been on. Really she needs to take a week off to recover from the shock of losing her job, but she can’t afford to let things slip and she can’t relax until she’s got work. She’s concerned that if she’s out of her industry for too long, she won’t get another job in it and the stigma of being long term unemployed will stick. The Jobseeker’s Allowance will pay for her week’s shopping but that’s it. Luckily her partner is still in work.
As for me, I’ve examined my budget and realised that, without DJ’s support, we would lose the house. I couldn’t pay the council tax either, he would have to pay that too, and Jobseeker’s barely covers the energy, phone and TV licence. After that we have about £20 a week for food and nothing put aside if anything goes wrong, like a flat tyre or a bust boiler. The feeling that DJ has to pay for everything else isn’t good, either. I don’t like relying on others.
As you warned me, I can’t go out, unless it’s to a local friend’s house for a coffee or for a walk. Friends had asked me to meet them in London but I can’t. It costs £10 to travel into London, and it’s easy to spend at least £30 – half the weekly Jobseeker’s Allowance – on a night out. Of course, unlike a real Jobseeker, I’m not forced to spend money on travelling to job interviews, getting an interview suit or on posting job applications. Nor am I having to endure the humiliating Job Centre interviews some of you have told me about.
But your experiences and those of my friends lately have reminded me of how I felt when I was made redundant nine years ago. Not only does it hit your pocket, but it hits your self-esteem. You can’t help but feel down. Even though the job cuts may not be personal, it feels that way.
I’m not complaining – far from it. It’s just that it’s dawned on me how close we all are to serious money problems. It’s easy to look at somebody on benefits and think less of them. But through no fault of our own, any of us could end up in their shoes – especially in this economic climate.
How have you coped with the psychological issues of redundancy? Is it still the stigma that it used to be?
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