04 November 2010

Am I Missing Something?

From a BBC magazine article

Job-hunting IT worker Christian Romane, 53, lives in a bedsit in leafy Earl's Court, west London, with £125 a week in housing benefits
"At the moment I spend 40 hours a week looking for work, but if these changes go through that would stop.
To make up the shortfall in rent I'd have to cancel my broadband so it would be harder to search for jobs and keep up my IT skills. I have no other spare funds - as it is I get by on one meal a day right now.
I could move further out of London, but most of the work I'm looking for is in the city and the increased transport costs mean I'd be no better off.
I've lived here for 20 years, this is my home. It doesn't seem fair that I could be thrown out because of a political decision."

Now, I may be missing something vital about the policy, so feel free to weigh in - but the lowest cap is £290 for a flat

He's getting less than half that...why would it be cut? He's getting £6,500 a year to live in a bedsit

Maybe I am missing something obvious - but nowhere in that article does it point out why a person getting this modest amount would be hit - the only change mentioned is the cap, as always - as far as I'm aware he's well under it and shouldn't be affected, the BBC should explain the reason here


  1. Hi,

    I am finding this on a random search about 2 years later.

    I have a long answer which does not remotely fit in the 4096 characters limit, so I will spread it over several successive posts.

    Your question was 'Am I Missing Something?'
    The answer is: yes, very much so.

    Basically what happened was that I answered a BBC news article on their website, regarding unemployment, NOT housing.
    I was picked by them to be interviewed, and the interview was initially about unemployment and the governement intention at the time to cut JobSeeker allowance, with the Housing Benefit being a minor side issue of the interview due to the projects to also reduce this benefit.

    What came out was instead an article about housing with the major issue of Jobseeker allowance and job search totally removed, and what was left placed out of context, as well as a title totally made up by the journalist or editor.


  2. .../...

    The issue at the time was that the jobseeker allowance was already NOT covering the full costs of normal life: the requirement of serious job search required BOTH phone and Internet access.
    I do not have a cellphone, a landline is still cheaper; being reachable is a requirement.
    As for Internet access, a serious job search require several hours through the day, which is incompatible with the use of an Internet cafe or library, which would be impractical (for instance missing calls) AND more expensive on a monthly basis compared to an actual broadband connection (feel free to do the maths and verify if you do not believe me).

    My jobseeker contract specifically requires of me that Internet job search, but the costs of landline (or cellphone) and Internet access in any form have NEVER been integrated in the value of Jobseeker allowance.
    The real cost of food has also increased a LOT faster than the Jobseeker allowance.

    Living on jobseeker allowance under those conditions means drastic choices:
    What you would consider basic necessities become luxuries, because money is in finite and insufficient amount.
    The priorities are the absolute necessities: means of doing the jobsearch, replacement clothes and shoes (have to walk a lot whem you cannot afford public transports) whenever it becomes necessary, food, toilet paper, toiletries, and thats it.

    EVERYTHING ELSE is luxuries bought ONLY when obsolutely necessary; that includes amongst other washing clothes, haircuts, for example.

    The money is just NOT THERE to do it all.


  3. .../...

    With the proposed (at the time) governement plans to reduce an already insufficient jobseeker allowance, the ONLY thing left which could (and therefore would have to) go was phone and Internet access, therefore terminating any chance of serious job search, and at the same time breaking the terms of my jobseeker agreement (which becomes impossible to follow effectively).

    THIS is what the interview was mostly about.

    Housing Benefit came across when the journalist asked if I could make cuts there, and I explained why it was not possible, and that the situation would also become critical if Housing Benefit were to be reduced and I would have to make up a shortfall.

    Now, as for your answer to this that you did not understand the problem, you missed one point as well: I am living in a bedsit with shared facilities, which the Housing Benefit classifies as shared accomodation, NOT flat, and has much lower cap than a flat.

    I initially moved there (this is Earl's Court, NOT the luxury areas of RBKC) about 20 years ago, when that areas was very much NOT 'leafy' nor gentrified.

    I cannot AFFORD to relocate, that would require a cash flow which I simply do not have.


  4. .../...

    As for my chance of finding work ?
    I am now 55; the real life situation in jobsearch is that the vast majority of employers simply do NOT want to recruit anyone above roughly 40
    The Anti-ageism act has simply not been enforced, and I still frequently find job offers explicitely violating it, not to mention the multitude who do it indirectly.

    So, you will tell me: sue them.
    Well, I got news for you again: the previous governement effectively killed Legal Aid.
    What there is left (unless you are defender in a criminal case) is a system where you have to find a sollicitor willing to take a legal aid contract.
    A sollicitor who does that has to advance all legal fees until the matter is solved.
    In reality, very few sollictors appear to take legal aide cases, and those who do only accept it on very simple cut and dry situations, never on anything that might cause them any serious cash advances.

    I hope that reading this answer you will see why you did not understand this article and why you thought that the BBC had missed saying something.

  5. Thanks for your reply - I hope you'd agree that the fault is the BBC's and that I didn't 'understand' because, as you've shown, it was completely out of context (and I remember from the time that I couldn't find any details beyond vague cap figures, which was a BBC narrative in 2010/11)

    As for the rest, I agree with you - I was unemployed for a year myself, jobseeker's allowance is a joke, and I felt like a criminal claiming it, but we all know that most people on benefit are receiving it through other, more confusing, channels

    I wish you well in your job search, to be honest, and I thought this at the time, I think you need to look elsewhere than the IT industry, I work closely with IT staff and with the exception of no-nothing senior managers and 'leaders', it's a young man's game, the older employees that I see keep their heads down and get picked off for redundancy one by one, admittedly I know several who are inept, but there's definitely a stigma