|Face 4 of 29 Faces & sketch 7 of 75|
*Disclaimer - rant coming up.
When I finished my full time 9-5 office job to move over to Scotland, the idea was that I would be able to spend my time really trying to make a proper go of being an artist. I'm already registered self-employed so that I can sell my work on-line and take commissions etc. although if I were to live off my earnings I think this artist may have starved in her garret some time ago! So, I was going to look for a part time job just to get me some pin money and get me out of the house. Then I could spend the rest of the time volunteering at the animal shelter and painting.
Anyway, my mum pointed out that I needed to sign on for Jobseekers Allowance in order to keep my National Insurance stamps up for when I get my state pension in my 60s (if such a thing still exists at that point in time and if by then they haven't put the retirement age up to 85!). So, I made a fresh claim while I was staying with my parents over Christmas.
Now, those of you in the UK who've seen the news from Northern Ireland over the last while will be familiar with flag-gate - the nonsense of riots because Northern Ireland had essentially come in line with the rest of the UK in only flying the union flag over Belfast City Hall on designated days as opposed to every day (I used to walk past it every day and couldn't have told you if it was flying if my life depended on it). So, what with the whole 'united' part of the United Kingdom, I could possibly be forgiven for thinking that by signing on in Northern Ireland, I could just continue with that claim when I moved to Scotland, what with both countries being part of said United Kingdom. Wrong. I had to sign off before we came to Scotland and then sign on again when I got here.
Now, it turns out that the closest Benefits Office to me is in Wick, a 90 minute round trip. So, I made a fresh claim over the phone and then dutifully drove to Wick for an interview about my audacity at wanting to claim contribution-based Jobseekers Allowance. Just to be clear - contribution-based means that I am only claiming money from the pot that I have contributed to all my working life for just such an eventuality as I now find myself in.
I explained to the lady at the Benefits Office that I am registered self-employed. Turns out this isn't enough to mean I don't need to look for other work. I explained that I want to make a real go of my art and that I am happy to look for a part time job so that I still have time to paint. This isn't really enough either apparently as I need to be working full time. I also have to be willing to drive an hour and a half to get to work every day. And an hour and a half back. I explained that I am going to be volunteering at the animal rehoming centre and am hoping a potential job might come out of that. That isn't enough either. I have to list 9 things a week detailing what I'm doing to look for work. 9!! This is a tiny backwater with limited employment opportunities and there weren't even 9 jobs in total in the local paper last week!
Because the Benefits Office is so far from my house, I can sign by post each fortnight as long as I list those pesky 9 things that I've been doing (I've now applied for 3 full time office jobs that I don't want just to get them to leave me alone). They phoned me today to say I hadn't listed enough things in the form I posted last week. I explained that all the job websites list the same few jobs. She says I still need to list each website I look at. I explained that as they haven't yet even given me any benefits because they keep sending me ever more forms to complete, I can't afford to buy two weekly papers that list the exact same jobs. She conceded I could just buy one of them. I swear I don't understand how the long term unemployed in the UK who've made a career out of being on benefits can get away with it. I've said I'm looking for a part time job and I am. But still they're hounding me when all I want is to be left alone to paint! This certainly gives new meaning to the phrase 'Tortured Artist'!!
Anyway, sorry for the rant, I'm just finding it very frustrating and wish I could just tell them to stick their benefits. Here's Face 4 of 29 Faces and Day 7 of the 75 Day Sketch Challenge.