Jimmy Stirling’s DWP Diary: The pain of saying goodbye


In his latest diary update, 63-year-old Jimmy Stirling recounts a difficult few months

I AM Jimmy Stirling, a 63-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.

For two years I have been keeping a diary of my experience in the UK welfare system.

Below is my latest diary update. You can read the others here.

25 October 2017

Today was a regular signing. After the last one, I was very wary and did not answer some of the questions asked. Even when I was asked how I was, I thought silence would be the best response. I was not in the mood for any mind games.

Radish, I managed to get all my national insurance questions answered. It took phone calls, letters, letters which seemed to have got lost, a letter that was found. It appears I have 42 years’ worth of national insurance payments which means I am well over the minimum contributions. Thank you for your concerns and suggestions.

A small correction from my last post. My daughter’s airfare to Australia is actually being paid by the company for which she is going to work. Since then, my son in law has also been accepted for a teaching job so they are well on their way to a good start down under.

8 November 2017

My work coach was busy with a double signing so I got someone else to sign me in. We spoke of past holidays and it was very pleasant indeed. Sometimes humanity makes you smile.

I had been away at the six-monthly music weekend in the far north west of Scotland. I had visitors over from Canada and the USA who wanted to be part of it. I stayed a few extra days in a cottage they hired, I needed the break and it was highly enjoyable even though it rained. 

Saving up for these weekends is important to me as it allows me to see likeminded friends, enjoy music and, most importantly, experience much laughter.

22 November 2017

I saw my regular work coach again. I wasn’t feeling well at all. I caught one of these bugs that go around at this time of year. He got heavy with me because I hadn’t contacted a number and spoken to a woman who is supposed to get people into call centres. 

With many other things on my mind, I had put it further down the list of things to do. He was quite abrupt about this, telling me that I wasn’t looking hard enough for work. I said that I am meeting my job application targets, yet again.

That’s still not good enough, it seems. I let him know that I had more important personal things to do and that I was prioritising them although not ignoring my commitments to job hunting.

I told him that my main concern at the moment was preparing to say farewell to my daughter and her family. To ascertain his understanding, I asked him if he had kids, he told me he hadn’t.

Since then, I did call the call centre woman. I told her that I was basically ordered to call her by my work coach. I told her I had absolutely no experience of call centres. She asked me what my work background was and on hearing my skills and experiences she agreed that the call centre life was probably not for me. 

She noted my name and said she would mark up that I called. I will wait and see what my work coach says at my next signing on.

6 December 2017

My work coach asked how I was, I told him that today was the ‘last supper’ with my family.

He said that he would discuss my job search at our next meeting. I told him that I had phoned the call centre woman as advised and that there were not really any call centre jobs that suited my skills. 

He then suggested that I should try places like Poundland and The Range, where I could get work experience. My look of incredulity was masked by my hand and a glance at my feet.

I spent a wonderful dinner with my small family that night, the last of the Stirlings, as it were, in a local restaurant. I managed to hold my emotions together as we chatted and laughed.

17 November 2017

Today was the day I had been dreading for quite a while. My family fly out to Australia. I held it together at the airport but had a right good bubble when I got home.

20 December 2017

Today was my signing day. It was pretty straightforward as my work coach knew I had been through an emotional time at the weekend. I don’t have to sign on for another four weeks which pleases me somewhat.

Seasons Greetings to all readers, if you are alone during the festivities, you are not alone.

9 January 2018

The festivities are over. I spent Boxing Day with family, New Year physically alone but, with modern technology, spent online with family in Australia and with a friend in Canada and down south.

The new year brought me news which conjured mixed feelings. A very great friend in Canada passed away. Her and her husband put me up for three months when I went there 11 years ago to look for work. She is sadly missed but I have great memories, we had the pleasure of singing on some songs together on a CD. 

With opposite feelings, the man who attacked and nearly killed me 16 years ago was reported dead. Karma!

I decided to take part in Dry January, not for a charity but for my own good. My internet costs are going up. I need it to stay in touch and to apply for jobs.

However, there is no rise in Jobseeker’s Allowance to cover the increase.

17 January 2018

Signing on day after four weeks since my last visit. It was cold and snowy and the walk to the jobcentre was slightly treacherous going downhill to the Broo. 

I was ready for a heavy-duty questioning session but I only got a quick sign in and out again. I was surprised. What will 2018 bring? A new DWP minister does not bode well.

My jobcentre closes in four weeks’ time. I still have not received any written statement advising me of the closure.

Pictures courtesy of Jimmy Stirling

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