Category Archives: Jobs and Employment

So the Tories have a majority, what do we do now?

 

**** Please note that I am safe now and am receiving help for some of the issues I mention in this blog. Thank you all for your concern ****

 

It just started raining in London, maybe this is god’s way of saying that the Tories winning a majority at yesterday’s general election was a bad thing, I hope so at least.

As someone who has an expensive, long term health condition, mental health problems and Autism, it would be a fair assessment to say that as a result of this, I am royally screwed. Now that the Conservatives have a clear majority and they don’t have the Liberal Democrats interfering to water down their policies, they can effectively do what they like. Welcome to a Britain where there is no support for people who are unemployed or disabled and they are just left to die, where there is no National Health Service and people can’t get help for their medical problems without paying huge sums of money to private companies, where we have destroyed all the oversight and protection given to us by the EU and European Court of Human Rights in exchange for strict controls on immigration and an end to freedom of movement within the European Union, where the rich are taxed at a knockdown rate to encourage the myth of a trickle down economy and keep big exploitive businesses in the UK. Welcome to a country where rich people have overwhelming power and don’t care about anyone but themselves.

The last five years have been bad, but there is no doubt it is going to get worse. Only hours after the result was declared, Jeremy Warner – assistant editor of the Telegraph is calling for an end to the NHS on the basis that it costs too much money (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/nhs/11590377/Do-we-want-better-health-care-or-do-we-want-to-keep-the-NHS.html). How will I live if I cannot get insulin for free to treat my diabetes? How will I cope without the excellent diabetes team at Barts and Homerton Hospitals to keep me going?

I am sure the next point to be brought up will be benefit ‘scroungers’ and how we are spending too much money on welfare – we didn’t kill enough people last time, so it’s time to go further with those cuts. The Guardian announced on Tuesday that they had seen a list of potential cuts to the welfare budget, including: ‘Making it harder for sick people to claim state aid when they are out of work by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility.’ (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/05/revealed-coalition-plans-to-slash-welfare-for-sick-poor-young-and-disabled) well, it’s already difficult enough as it is for me to claim ESA, I have in the past been able to work and ‘chickened out’ at the Work Capacity Assessment stage, but my mental health problems have become much worse lately and I can’t face dealing with recruiters or applying for jobs, I haven’t worked properly in six months, so that’s another thing that an employer or recruiter can hold against me when I try to apply –
Employer: “Explain why you haven’t worked in the last six months?”
Me: “Well, I was ill”
Employer “So that means you’re going to be ill again then and wasting my time not working?”
Me: “Well I can’t rule it out”
Employer “Next!”

I have spent the last Five months living very close to the breadline, I have had to borrow money for rent and it is very uncertain where I will find the balance of the next rent payment from. I have tried to get help from my local council and they are paying me the full amount of housing benefit that they are able to, but the dates do not line up with when I have to pay my rent and I will be short £500 at the end of May again, after borrowing £500 this week to top up what I had. I have built up another £3,000 of credit card debit which basically paid for day to day expenses whilst all the rest of my money went on trying to pay the rent and bills. That brings my total to £7,000, only 7 years after being made bankrupt because credit card companies and banks were pushing overdrafts and credit cards on me like they were candy. I have no savings, no pension, nothing much to show for my nearly 35 years on this planet.

In the past few weeks I have talked about getting out of London and going to live somewhere else that would be less expensive… This would be a start, but what point is there if I move only to discover that I am no-longer eligible to be helped, because I am deemed not to be sick enough. Yes, I can stand up, I can walk… but it’s hard to explain to people how it is, what’s going on in your head and why you feel so upset about what is going on… it’s even worse when you tell them that and they don’t believe you – because that is what is going to happen, people think that I am delusional, but I don’t think so, I think it’s pretty clear that if you can be in a coma and still be found fit for work, then really the rest of us are screwed (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ros-wynne-jones-sheila-hounded-death-5353202). This is only going to get worse as the Tories get their own way.

I cannot go on like this, I am tired, I am worn out, maybe once I could do a job – it is true that I do have a lot of skills and abilities with computers, but I need a break, I need help to find a job where my employer will understand my circumstances and help me to stay in work. I need stability and a roof over my head that isn’t going to be taken away by some rich foreign landlord when I can’t pay the rent. I need the certainty that I will have money to feed myself and my cats, and pay my bills.

I have tried to get help, every time I go to hospitals in a crisis situation they don’t listen – they say they will help but they don’t, I wait around to talk to them, but then they let me go. They don’t realise that someone who can sit there and describe their problems in a calm and matter of fact way is actually in a crisis, because this is not how people with mental health problems act. They don’t have enough training or understanding of Autism to realise this, they probably don’t really have enough time to listen to people properly.

I would like to say how grateful I am to various people in my life for their support and how sorry I am that I am letting them down and will no-longer be around.

I would like to thank:
Claire Wakefield – for talking to various local officials and trying to get them to listen to me and for trying to get someone to offer me a meaningful job.
Leneh Buckle – for her help in trying to make things better for me and find alternatives to my current situation.
Norman Corke – for always being around to listen and having a good laugh at what was going on.
Nancy Rowell – for helping me out financially – I am sorry I will not be able to pay back what I owe you.
Larry Arnold – for always keeping me entertained and informed with your take on what was going on, I hope you will be able to keep your allotment going.
Gina Muollo – despite being so far away you have always been a fried over 16 years.
Ian Molton & Lyndsey Barwell – for offering support an accommodation, even though it probably wouldn’t have worked out.
EB Algol – for many many chats over the past few years.

To my parents, sister and brother-in-law – I am sorry I have let you down, I wish you could really understand how I feel about things and how I can’t just snap out of this situation.

At home I have 2 cats: Dave and Arnie. They have food, water and a litter box. They have access to outside through a cat flap. Dave and Arnie are brothers from the same litter, I am sure that with me gone they will be sad enough, but it would be worse if they were split up. Arnie is very skittish and will run off and hide when other people are around, Dave is a bit more social but will still run. I suggest that whoever goes in to remove them and re-home them locks the cat flap so they can get in but can’t get out and then goes away and waits, once they are back indoors then it will be a lot easier to catch them. Please be gentle with my babies…
It’s nearly time to get on the bus, so I guess I’d better be going. To those of you who voted Tory, I hope you are fucking pleased with yourselves…

Attitudes

I suppose that all along I thought I was owed something or wanted something I couldn’t have, maybe that is just the way things are when your parents don’t have a great deal of money. Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, things were expensive. China wasn’t the huge superpower it is now and not everything was made there. This happened to be the times that I grew up in.

Most of my memories of childhood are probably about being told that I couldn’t have x or that I should save up to buy y. I suppose that was a good thing, trying to teach me the value of money or that I couldn’t have everything I wanted should have given me a good grounding. But I thought I knew better.

I was 12 when I heard on the news one day that a kid in America divorced his parents. Through Google I can now tell you that this child, Gregory Kingsley, was more or less the same age as me at the time and that basically his mother was an unemployed waitress with a history of drug abuse and promiscuity and his father had been out of the picture for some time. Kingsley befriended an attorney whom he met at the boy’s shelter he was staying up after his mother placed him and his brothers into the temporary care of the state because of her drug problem. George Russ, the attorney whom Kingsley had gotten to know empathised with Kingsley, having not had a great childhood himself and he and his wife agreed to adopt Gregory.

I picked up on this and decided I wanted to do the same, my parents were not unemployed promiscuous drug addicts or anything or that kind, the problem was mostly down to my idolisation of America and American life and the fact that I wanted things (mostly computer equipment) that my parents could not afford. At this point of my life, my parents and I were seeing a child psychiatrist who rather than pick up on the fact that I might be Autistic, chose not to label and told my parents and I that I had “normal teenage problems”.

Do normal teenagers write letters to social services and council chief executives trying to blackmail them into finding a new family in America? I also had an American maths teacher when I was 13/14, I wrote a letter pouring my heart out to him and asked him and his wife to adopt me.

The letter writing didn’t stop when I left school. At age 17, having been asked to leave the family home and ‘existing’ in a hostel for the homeless with virtually no money, I wrote another letter to the city authorities in Southampton, this time I didn’t want to go to America. I wanted to be self-sufficient, I wanted a swanky flat, laptop, car, driving lessons, etc…. of course this came to nothing again.

By age 18 I had a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and was living in a specialist college in Sunderland. Apart from getting to see the North East of England and meeting fellow people on the spectrum, it really didn’t help me. Having spent months living alone in hostels, I had my street cred. I had come face to face with drug addicts and people with serious mental health problems, but they wanted to treat me as if I was an insurance liability, I was not supposed to go off alone, even crossing the road was a big deal. I will admit I had fun some of the time, sneaking into university computer labs, using the Internet before most people really knew what it was (this was 1998); but the experience of living under one roof with such a mix of abilities, despite all being Autistic, we were not all the same.

I suppose I have always had plans for myself, who doesn’t? I was 19 when I first started working in IT and I liked it pretty well, so I decided I should keep going. However, none of the jobs I had really lasted much more than a year, either through my own doing or because the company had issues. I went to University for the first time aged 25, having given up at least 3 times on getting A-Levels or equivalent qualifications to get into University, I decided to take the route of a “Foundation Year” in which I would gain that level of knowledge prior to starting the first year of a degree. It took about 3 months before I got behind, couldn’t turn in my work on time and then became suicidal because my whole plan had shattered. I would never finish this course and I would never get my degree. I battled with this kind of depression many times over since then. I tried again to re-take the modules I had failed in the foundation course, I tried to do the foundation work for a different degree (electronics rather than computing) at a different university, but again got behind and dropped out.

I then moved to London at the age of 30. My first job in London and my first proper IT job for some time lasted 3 months. This has lead into a succession of situations where I have gotten jobs, for some reason given up or gotten fired, then had a huge breakdown where I became suicidal because my whole plan lay shattered again.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think counselling will work, in my head, I am doing everything right, it’s the other assholes who get in my way and mess it all up. I have tried CBT, it didn’t work. There is documented fact to show that CBT does not work for Autism and a single book about how you can possibly adapt it for Autism!

All I want is a normal life: a driver’s licence, a car, some kind of house that I actually own (I don’t care if this actually a shipping container that I transformed into a house). These are simple demands, I don’t want thousands of pounds worth of Mac computer equipment or a family in America any more.

So every time I start a new job I think to myself, yes, this is good, I will use this money to do the stuff I want to do. But somehow it all goes wrong, usually leaving me in debt of some kind.

So, can you see my frustration? Is my attitude so wrong? That I want things that nearly every other person has? These are the problems I can’t fix and the cause of my current depression.

In London, you need a lot of money to be rich

So, on 1st July I started working for the company I had been contracting for, directly. Its not a permanent, permanent job, I am on a short term contract until 31st December, they also gave me a pay raise, apparently I am now worth £33,333.00 per year, before tax.

However, this causes me something of a problem, because now I (apparently) have too much money to get Housing Benefit, which was paying about 70% of my £1035.00 rent when I was earning about £22,000. Then there is Tax Credits, I don’t know how I stand with this – I was getting about £400 per month, but because the calculations are so complicated, I have no idea if I am still eligible or not.

There is no way I want to spend half my salary on rent, living close to work and the centre of London is not worth that. But now I have a problem, not realising this was going to happen I have signed a new lease for 1 year from 30th July.

However, my problems are more immediate than that, I needed the housing benefit payment I am due next Monday in order to make ends meet after having to pay £1,300 in vet bills for my cat who wasn’t insured.

Yes, I know I am stupid, this is not about that. This is about the fact that just because I learn a fair amount, it really isn’t much when you live in the most expensive city in the UK. I don’t even live in a nice flat, I pay over £1,000 per month for a hole in the ground which leaks heat in winter and gets too hot in summer. All this because there is not enough social housing and Landlords can legally rip people off, because someone will willingly pay what they are asking, despite the condition of the flat/location.

So, I thought I had turned a corner in my life, that everything was getting better because I had managed to keep a job for 7 months, win an award for being “Employee of the Quarter” and generally be good at what I am doing. But it appears none of that matters, because my finances are going down the toilet again. It’s not like I can loan any money from a reasonable lender, have an overdraft or get a mortgage, because I am still suffering from being made bankrupt at 28.

Why do I bother when the world doesn’t want to unerstand Autism?!

I didn’t go into work today, I am so tired and drained from dealing with all the problems, because I have been the only person who gets results, everyone comes to me to get things done or things just get left and then when users complain I am kind enough to help.

Case in point – long standing systems/network admin doesn’t have the time to help a company we have contracted to move users onto a new system, so I send this email:

Well fine then, these users will never be migrated and we’ll be stuck with the windows 2000 servers forever.

I am sick of being some go between for every other agency or company we deal with in order to get things done when they don’t really care.

That’s why I didn’t come in today.

Now I am going to the seaside for a bit. Probably see you tomorrow.

Then I get this back off my boss:

Seth

 This isn’t acceptable behaviour. I can tolerate certain behaviour and I accept the different agencies and stakeholders have different priorities and motivations and this is causing stress for everyone.  Before you go throwing your toys out of the pram you need to communicate with either me or Trevor.  I am trying to run a team here under very difficult circumstances and you storming out or not bothering to come in does not help and is compounding the problem.  I do not expect to have this happen again, I have personally extended as much flexibility as I can now.  If you decide not to come in tomorrow please refer to the agency.  

As much as I am tempted to say screw you, I know those fucking tories would love me to go back to them asking for benefits and help. Right now I have no rights, because I am a contractor.

So you want to know why so few people with Autism/Aspergers aren’t in work? People don’t care. They don’t really want to help, they just want to make it look good for themselves that they have employed someone with a disability and then when things go bad, they fire them.

Fix the employment system and you will have more people with disabilities in meaningful work.

Why do I let them get to me?

Tories… well, specifically members of the current cabinet including Iain Duncan-Smith and David Cameron.

They didn’t need to do this, they didn’t need to cut back on benefits to the extent that people will be made destitute, homeless and left to suffer. They could have looked for other ways to raise revenue, get back some of the taxes owed to the nation, but they didn’t. For this reason they cannot be forgiven.

Yet, supposedly, I am well off. I have a job, I get Housing Benefit and Tax Credits to make up for the fact that although I am paid what seems like a reasonable wage, its not really enough to exist in London. But I feel that I am really just existing, in a cold basement which I have tried to insulate the best I can. Paying £50+ per month for gas. I can’t move because I am a contractor, my job isn’t secure and if a letting agency ran a credit check on me, they would be horrified with what they saw, because I was made bankrupt 5 years ago.

But its not me that I worry about, it’s my friends, the ones really living on the edge, having to deal with these changes to disability benefits. The prospect of more medicals and more paperwork, despite the fact that they will never get better.

Today I let them get to me, those Tories with blood on their hands. I didn’t go to work. I called in sick. I slept on and off, worrying about what would happen to me, that I would screw up yet another job. I know I need help, but I won’t get anything, because in my area the NHS aren’t interested in Mental Health unless you’re about to kill yourself or someone else. You can hardly blame them I suppose, so much crazy in London with so many people from different backgrounds all trying to live together in such a small space. Then you add to that all the cut backs that the NHS is making or will have to make, again thanks to those fifthly stinking Tories…

Tomorrow I will go to work, I will try to forget about it, but how long until it happens the next time. Until something happens at work and my boss just says “I’m sorry Seth, but I’m gonna have to let you go”? I really wish I could fix this.

I came off of Employment and Support Allowance because I found a job and I wanted to work, not because my disability is made up or not a problem. It is a problem, but I have skills that I want to use, I want to help people. I feared the Work Capacity Assessment because my disability is not obvious and Atos/DWP are not willing to make allowances for that. I feel like I have no choice now, I have to get on with this job, but this country is such a hard place to exist in right now, especially if you have a disability.

Am I really better off Working?

About a month ago, I started working. I am a contractor doing IT support for a Charity in Central London. This means I have had to give up claiming Employment & Support Allowance and (temporarily) Housing Benefit. I was paid on Thursday, after tax, NI and the cut the umbrella company takes out for providing their services, I am left with £1,196.58.

The day I started working I claimed Tax Credits, only they have decided I am in some way dishonest, so their compliance department have asked me for bills, bank statements, tenancy agreements, etc. I don’t know what the hope to find, its not like I have a few million stashed away *cough*…

This is a breakdown of what I was getting when I was claiming benefits and what I am getting now. Note that bills does not include Electricity (which I pay for on a key meter), Food or Travel.

Income from benefits:

Housing Benefit  £     960.00
ESA  £     516.80
DLA  £     289.60
Total  £  1,766.40
Minus Rent  £     741.40
Minus Bills  £     500.11

Income whilst working (without Tax Credits or Housing Benefit)

Wages after tax  £  1,196.58
DLA  £     289.60
Total  £  1,486.18
Minus Rent  £     451.18
Minus Bills  £     209.89

I don’t blame my local council for waiting until they have the evidence they require (2 months of payslips) before they will pay the housing benefit I am entitled to, after all they are just following the rules that the government set down. However, tax credits are a benefit specifically to help people get back into work, and here I am a month into my job and I have no money because they are wasting time and money investigating me when I have done nothing wrong.

Fortunately I am fairly happy at the moment and I have supportive family and freinds, so I will probably make ends meet, just. This will mean cheap shopping trips, sandwiches every day and no Starbucks…

The appointment with the death squads has arrived

I am kinda numb right now. On Saturday I got the letter I had been dreading since June. The date and time to go for a Work Capacity Assessment.

Letter from Atos with date for WCA

This is the test which the Government pays a French IT company £100m a year to administer and is known to be flawed. Thousands of people have already died waiting for the assessment or after being found fit for work. People who have terminal cancer, heart disease, even a man in a coma have been found fit for work.

This is the way I see it. Whilst I might be able to work, doesn’t mean that anyone actually wants to employ me. The biggest difficulty I have is that previous jobs have failed because I did not receive help from my employers which I am entitled to under the equality act. My last contract at the Olympic Games went south despite my attempts to ask for help, they citied that they could not be flexible with me because LOCOG was not being flexible with them.

Employment law in the UK is not sufficiently tough enough to guarantee employment for every disabled person who wants to work. Although it is technically illegal to use disability as a reason not to hire someone, they will find a way not to hire you. Even if you are up front and honest with them, getting the right help once you have a job is still difficult. So is it not surprising that I have worked 3 jobs since 2010, each one lasting no more than 3 months.

Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) and before it Incapacity Benefit have been my safety net when things have broken down, when I did not have the energy to go to work any longer, when I could not face the people I worked with. But now its all going to be taken away, because I am pretty sure that they will find me fit for work, possible not even eligible to ESA; despite me having a doctors note to the contrary.

What I really need is help, to make them realise that I am disabled, that I need help and that unless an employer is willing to help me out, then I cannot work.

If you or anyone you know is able to help, please let me know. You can leave a comment or email: seth@autismisanotherworld.com. I am also on twitter: @nerd8192

Do recruiters actually read my CV?

So today I got an email from a recruiter, about a job they are trying to fill:

Dear Seth,

My client based in Kent are looking for a 2nd/3rd Line Engineer for an initial 6 month contract based within the public sector paying up to £180 per day.

The successful candidate will be responsible for analysing complex and inter-linked IT system / NPfIT issues (e.g. hardware, networking, system etc.) and ensuring that they are resolved effectively.

You will be required to analyse and assess GP Practice staff IT requirements and ensure that hardware and software are appropriately configured.

The post holder will need to demonstrate specialist theoretical and practical knowledge and experience in the following areas:

· Windows NT/2000/2003/2008/2008R2 server;

· Microsoft Server virtualization

· Microsoft Windows (95/98/2000/XP/Vista/7 etc.);

· Microsoft Office products including Outlook and Exchange;

· Anti-Virus software;

· LAN’s, WAN’s, networking protocols, routers, bridges and switches.

· VOIP LAN management

· VOIP Server virtualization

Please send me you CV ASAP if you are available to interview immediately and start within a week.

With regards,

Great, eh? Someone wants to pay me £180/day to do all that cool stuff? [£180/day equates to more than £46,000/year] Well hold on just a second there, because if you haven’t ever been paid that much or ever done that level of job in IT, you can hardly expect to jump straight into that level of salary. Even if you do have some experience in all of those areas.

So really its not fair, its a bit like dangling a lolly-pop in front of a kid and then taking it away saying “come back when you’re 21”. I would like a job, but I would like to keep that job, so trying too hard and promising things I can’t do is probably just going to get me right back to where I am now, feeling depressed and miserable because I have no money and no prospects. I am good at what I do, but I can’t seem to convince anyone else about that…

Why should I leave London [just because I don’t have a job]?

So there has been a lot of talk recently about “social cleansing” due to caps on Housing Benefit, mostly for big families. However, my problem is much simpler than that: No landlord wants me *because* I am on Housing Benefit. Despite the fact of an almost guaranteed £240/week rent for the Inner East London area.

I moved to London 2 years ago, because I wanted to be where the jobs are. I didn’t have a job when I got here, but I was lucky in that I was moving with a house-mate who has a job and the agent was understanding. In that time, I have never not been able to pay the rent, often paying it before it was due.

London may be a crowded, noisy place, but it does have certain advantages to other places in the ‘provinces’ of the UK:

Better public transport: one of the few places where there are buses all night, every night connecting most parts of the city. Plus the tube, trains, etc…

Better healthcare: well this one is kinda arguable, but coming to London has meant that I could get an Insulin pump for my Diabetes, no NHS trusts in other areas that I lived where prepared to consider me for that. The Insulin pump has made all the difference and will probably save me from going blind and loosing toes. When I am depressed I often forget about my Diabetes and before the pump I often went days, sometimes weeks without injecting insulin. The pump is with me all the time, even if I forget to give myself insulin for a meal, its still giving me a small amount of insulin all the time.

More choice: London has more cinemas than anywhere else, more shops than anywhere else. Arguably (as long as you have money) you can never be bored. I have been subscribing to the Cineworld Unlimited scheme for over a year now and I am sure this has saved me money in that I can watch unlimited films for £14.99 a month. I also have the advantage of two different Cineworld cinemas to go to within in easy travelling distance from my house. When you have no friends nearby and often a need for escapism to take you aware from the madness in your head, the cinema is your friend…

I realise that I need to take some time to fix the parts of my brain that cause me issues in jobs, that mean I can’t stick jobs for very long and that when I loose a job I tend have some kind of catastrophic breakdown, often involving a suicide attempt; but as long as I am here there are jobs available in areas requiring skills that I have.

So why should I go back to some backwater with limited job prospects, one bus every 2hrs and nothing much to do of an evening…? Just because David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith say so? No I don’t think so…

First week at a new job

So for the first time since January I am working again. This is a bit tricky since I had become quite accustomed to not doing a great deal and sleeping late! So far the job is going OK, although because I work for such a big organisation who have taken on an awful lot of people for a certain event later this year, there is a lot of time sitting around not doing very much stuff and often sharing computers because there are more people than computers. I have realised, as I have many times that I do not cope well with boredom. It is difficult for me to “look busy”, as I am often too distracted by what other people might be doing or very poor at finding things to do other than chatting to people on facebook.

I have had one slip up so far, I didn’t go to work on Thursday. I suppose it was an impulsive moment, not enough sleep and not enough productive things to do at work the day prior had caused me to think too much about those less fortunate than myself and the government, and as usual, get annoyed and frustrated on their behalf. However, I did not harm myself and I did not run off to another country. I managed to email one of my bosses and found out in the process that he has a son with Aspergers.

Today was easier, the day was dominated by boxing up hardware that was on test in order to transport it to a live location. It didn’t take long, but at least I have a fair idea of what should be in which box now and the best ways to pack it up. All the hardware must be locked down with K-Locks, the most annoying things are these little eyelets which fit into a special hole on the back of the monitor and the system unit, in order for a steel cable to be threaded through and then looped around something immovable. Being very small (less than an inch square), its easy for them to get lost…

Hopefully next week I will get to go to said live venue and box this kit, set it up, etc.. it will be good to get out of the office for a bit.

The other part of today was scenario training… what should we do when x or y happens. The biggest issue was many people over-thinking the situation. You have two choices in this deployment if things go wrong – re-image the machine (akin to re-installing windows, but a lot faster) or replace the machine. I guess it makes things easier, but there is a part of me that says “I want to know why that broke” – I believe that person is probably stuck in the 1990’s-early 2000’s!

So now a weekend, a small change to sleep later, but not much of a chance as I have work to do for Open University courses due towards the end of May. Right now I am really really tired, so I shall be off to bed soon!