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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Institutions Of Shame By Holly Searle

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I had a well paid job.

I was great at it, that job, but then I lost it.

During the years that I held this position, I paid an awful lot of tax. So when I lost it, that job, through no fault of my own, I had no other alternative other than to seek the assistance of The Welfare State.

That all sounds very Orwellian doesn't it, The Welfare State.

Well, guess what, it is.

Being the primary carer of one child (Child Two), I have always prided myself on the fact that I was able to provide a good level of sustainability for both of my children throughout their formative years.

Nothing fancy, I might add. That is impossible if you are a single parent. But you know the sort of thing I mean, a home with warmth, food, running water and a regular supply of clean clothes. You know the basics that we all need and take for granted, and do not dwell too much upon, until they are at risk.

As there is a marked gap in their ages with Child One now being all grown-up and married, and Child Two still being young and impressionable enough too require the care and input of a nominated responsible adult (me).

I sought this assistance with no level of pride, but rather one of necessity, with I might add, a scarlet letter of shame emblazoned upon my chest.

And to be honest with you, I found it all very depressing.

And if, I had had another quick fix solution, I would have chosen that option over having to cohort and communicate with people who treated me like I was asking them if I could have their kidney, instead of this form of assistance while trying to find a new job.

It was at the at the best of times educational and at the worst of times testing.

And here is why.

When you claim benefits, you enter the Dark Side and your jobbing Jedi mindset is overcome with the enormity of it all, and the amount of separate agencies that you have to contact in order to gain the assistance that you are both entitled to and qualify for.

But this isn't sign posted or communicated to you as you flag about blindly in the dark, as your Lightsaber goes out.

No, you waste a lot of time calling government bodies on premium rate telephone numbers, repeating your situation again and again, until you actually get to speak to a human being (still part Jedi) who imparts the correct information to you that you are after.

It is an exhausting process.

Then once you have pinpointed all the correct departments, you then endure an interview at your local Job Centre Plus (distinctly Dark Side and non Jedi, and definitely run by Stormtroopers), where a lesser mortal who has lost the will to live or even try to show a modicum of interest in you, taps your details into a computer.

You are then informed that you will have to visit a private employment work program initiative, who the government have installed to assist you in finding work.

When you arrive there, you are assigned an advisor (more Boba Fett than Jedi in attitude).

They tell you that they are there to help you find a job. But they don't.

They put your name down to attend courses in their offices to give you pointers.

But they don't.

You attend these holding your tongue and nodding your head like one of those dogs on the parcel shelf in the back of a car (Boba Dog).

You know everything that they are telling you as you are a skilled employable adult, who just wants to find work rather than spend their day in a classroom sucking eggs.

Throughout all of these processes, you long for someone to rescue you (Yoda).

This doesn't happen as there are far too many lost budding Jedis in the work program.

Eventually you realise that the force is still strong within you and that you must, must, keep on believing that one day you will break free and rejoin the Rebel Alliance and eventually be part of The New Republic.

This only happens after you have submitted thousands of job applications and have attended countless interviews.

You also realise after meeting recruitment personnel, that the work program employees (those Fetts) are not assisting you at all on your journey into work.

You realise, as the Force gathers strength within you, that in fact you have been misinformed. And that all the positive feedback you have received or further assistance that you have gained, has been derived from those with a genuine knowledge of the job market (small droids with great recall), and that this isn't the same as the information you have been given from the work program employees.

In the end, as the Rebel Alliance battles on, you find a gap in a fence that allows you to slip from the Dark Side back into a more familiar world that you recognise.

You have escaped the Stormtroopers and can breath a sign of relief as your Lightsaber at last starts to glow.

You feel like you did before and you burn that scarlet letter and smile with pride.

I just hope that it lasts.

May the force be with you all.

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