Why It’s Time To Start Social Distancing.

budget, essentials, finance, life, lifestyle, lockdown, news, question, socialdistancing, UK, Uncategorized

Over the last week, life in London has been pretty much thrown into turmoil. We are living in unprecedented times and there seems to be a lot of confusion as to where we go next. Whilst I don’t have all the answers, I have made the conscious decision to take part in social distancing and here’s why you should too…

Social distancing requires as many people as possible to put measures in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19. By avoiding pubs, clubs and social gatherings, we are helping to delay the spread of the outbreak.

I have seen many young, fit and healthy people on social media in the last couple of days continue to defy government advice. I find it ironic that we are so quick to criticise our government when they fail to speak out on climate change and other large social issues but refuse to make positive changes for the masses during a global pandemic…

We are not doing this for ourselves but for the good of those who are likely to require medical intervention. We all know how much pressure the NHS has been under in recent years and in order for those who need help to receive it, we need to control the rate of transmission.

Social distancing is not something that we all have the option to actively partake in. But if we do, why shouldn’t we at the very least give it a go? For the sake of missing a few weeks of normality, we can choose to stay at home and protect our nations most vulnerable people. It’s about your parents, grandparents, family who suffer with chronic conditions or friends with asthma.

This isn’t about buying into mass hysteria. The shops will remain open. Having a twenty pack of toilet roll isn’t going to save your grandma when her lungs give in!

If you have the option to work from home, consider this a luxury. There are many of us for whom this isn’t an option. We face financial difficulties, job losses and an anxious wait to see what the Government will be able to offer us. By all means support small businesses but do it in a safe way, consider buying vouchers or ordering online where possible.

I think at this time, it is most important to acknowledge those who continue to provide services for us all whilst dealing with the same mental and emotional pressures. Emergency service workers, small business owners, retail and care workers, delivery drivers and postmen, bin men and every other industry worker who is continually showing up for us all.

The biggest thing I have noticed in the last few days is how each one of us is facing our own struggle or financial dismay as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Whatever career we have or place we reside, these are uncertain times and it is ever more important that we make decisions for the good of each other. We will come out the other side of this. By acting now through social distancing, we can slow down rates of infection and speed up the time that this pandemic will take from our lives.

Here is a link to the latest government updates for those in need of employment guidance.

If you’re struggling with your mental health or just need a bit of extra support, this page from Mind Charity is full of useful information.

 

 

 

The Truth About Universal Credit

blog, budget, finance, life, lifestyle, london, reflection, Uncategorized

Having spent several years working in retail management, last year I found myself at a crossroads. Wanting to move back to London from Bristol, I accepted a role in a Surrey based branch. Without going into loads of detail, three months in I had reached my limits. I knew I had to quit, but with nothing lined up, I was taking a risk.

Sometimes, for your own mental wellbeing you have to take a step back and re evaluate. Our jobs play such a massive part in our lives, that it’s important to acknowledge the overwhelming impact they can have on us. Taking all things into account, I fully stand by my decision to leave. I could barely make it through a day there, let alone another few months! So what was next?

I began applying for jobs having no clue of what it was I actually wanted to do or be. This meant my search was vast and unfocused. **We’ll skip past the 3 month internship as that’s a story in itself!!** I plan on writing a post on job hunting in the next week or so if that’s of interest to you. At the end of my internship, I was left back where I started except this time I had no savings to fall back on. I will say that I am lucky to have a supportive family with whom I lived during this time. I can only imagine the struggle for those without a network to rely on. So, it was off to the job centre!

Now the main reason I was keen to write this post is this, I realise now how completely naive I was to the system. I still am in many ways, but this was for sure an eye opening experience. I can’t refer back to Jobseekers Allowance as I never received this so I’ll only be talking you through my time on Universal Credit.

After signing up online, I received confirmation of my first appointment time which was roughly one week after originally expressing an interest. For reference, this was in a Yorkshire location, I’m not sure what the wait time would be like in other parts of the UK.

**I know this post is a lot longer than my usual, but i think it’s important to cover all bases and provide a bit of context for you so bare with!**

Walking into the job centre, I felt totally out of my comfort zone. I took a seat and made eye contact with the security guard, a sight I was taken a back by. It was a few minutes before I could fully process the fact that this centre would have a need for a full time security person but let’s be real, when the work they’re doing involves peoples ability to live, you can see why things might get heated at times. I sat down and waited to be called. As I looked around I listened in on a man being told he’d need his account details in order to access his Universal Credit. This confused me. He told the woman it was written in his other notebook, one which he’d left at home. It was also clear that this man was under the influence of drugs. I mention this with no judgement of him but of the system. How can they expect a man who writes things down by hand and is not communicating coherently to login to a website regularly, searching for work and completing the accompanying forms? It felt sad to watch him leave, knowing he’d potentially be missing out on a payment simply because of a reliance on technology.

Meeting with my work coach Sam gave me the boost that I needed to really get back into job hunting. It’s so easy to lose ambition after the umpteenth application form. We talked a little about my CV, previous experience and future wants. I was then sent away with some helpful tips and the instruction to return once weekly until I had found myself a job. Sam made it clear that this was about getting me back into work as oppose to finding my dream job. I really respected this outlook and took his advice on board. One thing I was suprised by was the lack of pressure, I’d gone in thinking I’d be told to apply for a set amount of roles per day, report back on outcomes and take anything that was offered. This was not the case.

In my opinion there are two trains of thought to this that most people will fall into. Firstly, it’s a trusting approach which works well for someone like myself who was genuinely trying to get back into employment quickly. The work coach is providing positive reinforcement and a brighter outlook to job hunting. On the other hand, if you are to look at the wider, much debated issue of unemployment in our country, you could see why this might cause upset. Essentially, I realised right away that, had I wanted to, I could’ve very easily spent the next few months, maybe even years playing the system. One 15 minute session per week and a handful of second rate job applications is all it would take to keep the money coming in. I understand now why for some, it’s a more viable option to stay on benefits than it is to take on a minimum wage role. Not only do you get payments, there is potential for help with rent, medical care and transport amongst other things.

For me, I think that the ‘Nanny State’ debate is far more complex than just job seeking. It’s a deep rooted issue that comes from years of ill treatment, class divisons and government cuts. If we really want to solve it, we have to provide equal opportunities to every citizen from birth. If that means giving a little extra help to those with less, surely¬† that’s what we should all be willing to do? I was lucky enough to find a job pretty quickly after signing on and now view my taxes in a different way. I’m more than happy to pay these as a working member of society and yes, there are those who cheat the system but I think it’s more important to give the benefit of the doubt to the system in order to ensure that those who do need support have access to it.

I realise that this is probably a little more sensitive of a conversation than my usual content, but it’s important for me to not shy away from life events and if my experience can somehow influence or help others, I’m more than happy to share it. I also think it’s important to share this because there seems to be a stigma attached to being on benefits, so much so in fact that they’ve been renamed ‘Universal Credit’. As someone who has been to university, worked in various roles and never dreamt I would’ve ended up in a job centre, it is perhaps okay to admit that we all go through ups and downs in life and sometimes we need a little extra help to get us back on our feet.

Like always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and views @sophieaiken.

Sophie

Sophie