I’m sitting here feeling a bit confused. Perhaps you can help me work this through. Now, surely nobody can disagree that we’re facing tough times and, from your comments, many people out there have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. But it seems to me that there is a world of difference between how you are treated by the authorities, depending whether you are a jobseeker or a major bank.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that if you’re Mr Bank – a big greedy institution that can’t be bothered to invest sensibly and keep your balance sheet in order – you can go cap in hand to the government and get armfuls of taxpayers’ cash. Then, you can go away and despite the share price value you’ve destroyed and the jobs you’ve liquidated along the way, you can take taxpayers’ cash and use it to pay yourself a big fat bonus.
But if you’re Mr or Ms Jobless – an individual who’s worked hard, raised a family and paid your taxes, maybe scraped together the fruits of those labours to buy a home or save, but lost your job through no fault of your own, you get a pittance a week and you have to jump through hoops to get it. And unless your partner can cover all your expenses, you risk losing your home altogether. It might take you years to get back on your feet.
If you’re Mr Small Business and need a cash lifeline from Mr Bank to keep going, you won’t get it because Mr Bank, while happy to help himself to the taxpayers’ money won’t lend it back to the taxpayer, Mr Small Business, at a fair rate. And if you’re Ms First Time Buyer saving to buy your own home, that same Mr Bank will demand a 25 per cent deposit or else tie you into a crippling five year fixed rate mortgage of 7 per cent, when the Bank of England’s base rate is 0.5 per cent. But don’t despair. Mr Halifax sent out a press release this week telling first time buyers they could easily save for a deposit and afford one of their mortgages if they gave up smoking, their morning latte and gym membership. Perhaps giving up eating and breathing would help too.
Am I missing something here? Now I’m not an economist, but I recognise that letting these big institutions go to the wall could destabilise the economy even further, and even more jobs would be lost. However – maybe it’s just me – but doesn’t something in our society fundamentally need to change? I know there are people who work the benefits system and that Job Centre workers have to guard against them, but don’t jobseekers deserve to be treated with dignity? And don’t they deserve an allowance that it’s actually possible to live on?
Anyway, rant over! Back to my own jobseeker’s challenge, the things I’ve found hardest so far are not having a little money to go out and having to think even harder than I usually do about every expense. At least the good weather has lessened the impact of staying in, because it made me feel cheerful and I can enjoy pottering in the garden for free. I’m making an effort to scour the kitchen and be inventive with store cupboard ingredients too, so that I don’t have to go to the supermarket. And not use the car too much, so I don’t waste petrol. But I know this will only work for so long.
This weekend will be a bit tricky as we have friends coming to stay. I’ll let you know next week how we get on.
Do you think the Jobseeker’s Allowance and other benefits should be overhauled? What changes would you make to the system?
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