62-year-old Jimmy Stirling hopes counselling might help him get back to some sense of normality as his Jobcentre routine continues
I AM Jimmy Stirling, a 62-year-old unemployed graphic designer, photographer and musician, single grandfather and social housing tenant living in Glasgow.
I receive Jobseeker's Allowance of £50 per week and have a very small pension payment of just under £25 per week. I do voluntary work for my neighbouring community and look after one of my granddaughters for two days per week.
I was recently conscripted to take part in the UK Government's Community Work Programme, where I would be forced to work for my Jobseeker's Allowance, which I see as slave labour. This not volunteering, this is not being paid a wage, this is conscription.
I am against this terrible programme and this is my experience in trying to avoid a six-month, 30-hours-per-week sentence just to juggle the government's statistics to make them look good.
Below is my latest diary update. You can read the others here.
8 June 2016
I went to the Jobcentre for my usual sign on. My work coach was in muddling mood. He asked if I had applied for the HMRC jobs he gave me previously and I told him I had.
He asked if I had applied for any more government jobs and I told him that most of them were far away and in military establishments, or with the Forestry Commission. He asked if I had looked at ones that were in a 90-minute commute. The only ones were in Faslane. No thank you.
No mention of Remploy this time, so I left after signing.
14 June 2016
I get a call on my mobile from the DWP place in Greenock. The lady asked me if the small pension I get goes up every year. I told her no, it has been the same amount for years. I gave them permission to contact my pension provider back in February, whether they did or not I have no idea. Another odd one from the DWP.
15 June 2016
I attended the half hour job search on the Jobcentre computers. Again, there was some crashing of the system and rebooting required. More rebooting than there is in the Euro 2016 tournament.
22 June 2016
My work coach was on holiday. The lady that I signed on with on this occasion was pleasant and chatty. It was a straight forward signing on.
I have recently been assessed by a mental health body to get help and counselling regarding Jobcentre pressure and problems with my neighbour, and I have also contacted my housing officer to attempt to get something sorted out regarding garden boundaries.
It is quite soul destroying to see parts of the garden go to seed where it was kept neat and tidy beforehand. It is like watching a child die and you know you can do something to save them but can’t because someone is holding a gun to your head. All of this is bloody minded stupidity and it has been affecting me.
The housing officer is trying to find a compromise; however, I feel that I am going to come out second.
I have managed to ascertain an area for which I will be responsible in the garden but I doubt the main part will be looked after properly. I am going to have to live with that.
23 June 2016
I went to cut the grass on my small part of the garden. When finished, I was approached by my neighbour who threatened me with violence because I walked past his window.
I called the housing association who advised me to call the police. This I did and they came out the next day to see me, then went downstairs to speak to my neighbour. I really do not need this hassle, I am now scared for my safety.
24 June 2016
I got a visit from the police asking me what had happened the day before. I told them the story and they then went downstairs to speak to my neighbour. I recorded what had happened on the Thursday and took it to my housing association so that they had a hard copy of the incident.
29 June 2016
I attended my half hour job search on the Jobcentre’s computers. Again, mine crashed, I had to log in and out of the system three times. It is turning into an absolutely total waste of time but it apparently has to be done.
Extremely rarely are there new jobs on that day, you tend to see the same ones that you have applied for already.
6 July 2016
My regular work coach was back from holiday, it must have been good for him as he was actually quite pleasant.
I showed him a citation I received for jury service and it didn’t seem to perturb him. Usually this would muck up the system, but no. Of course, I may not be picked for jury service but I could be spending three weeks of my summer in court.
It has been a very busy few weeks for the world with the EU referendum, the Chilcot Report, political resignations and shake-ups, bombings, shootings, the Euro 2016 tournament and Wimbledon, to name a few. So, my little plight pales into insignificance and seems swept away in the downpours we have been having, except I am stuck on the drain cover.
I have been getting counselling regarding my state of mind. Early days yet, but I hope to get back to normal.
I signed up a few months ago, via the DWP suggestion, to a website called 'No Desire To Retire'; a site that is supposed to focus on older people looking for work. It is turning out to be a total waste of time and energy.
The images on the site don’t really depict the reality of unemployed people in their 50s or 60s – it's all sunny people in middle England who have probably retired and are looking for something to do. I am sure if they read this they will say that it is not the case, but it certainly isn’t working for me.
Still, I plod on, applying for jobs, rarely getting a reply.
Picture courtesy of Jimmy Stirling
Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.