In 2008, I had just been made redundant. I had been working full time for years and the recession hadn't yet truly exploded.
In truth, I waited a fortnight before signing on. I was so confident that I'd just walk into another job, that I awarded myself a little holiday. As I underwent my initial interview, it was with smiling anticipation. I had a letter in my pocket inviting me for a job interview. I was sure that I'd get it.
I told this to the new claim interviewer. He read the letter and duly made a note of the date and time. I was off to a roaring start!
Then the documentation came through. I was to sign on at precisely the exact time and date as my job interview. There was surely some mistake. I called the Job Centre. No, that was my signing time and I had to be there.
After going through a series of managers, I finally negotiated being able to attend an hour early. No sooner than that. I arrived in my interview outfit, desperately nervous about what was to follow, once I'd got the Job Centre signing out of the way.
I was made to wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually my prompting got me in front of the desk, where I was told off for my impatience. The job interview was now half an hour away, in a different town. I was asked to tell the Job Centre everything about it.
The official asked if I really thought I was suitable for that particular employment.
I did get to the job interview on time, but with only minutes to spare. I was hot, flustered and my nerves were in shreds. I did not get the job.
I thought it an anomaly, just something messed up in the system, until I was offered another job later down the line. I could be a First Aid Tutor - a job which I really wanted - but only if I had a PTLLS qualification. It could be done in a week or two. I had three weeks to get it.
As I was signing on next day, I asked if there would be funding for getting the qualification. If not, I'd pay for it myself out of my redundancy money. I was assured that there would be, but I needed to attend another interview for it.
I did achieve the funding and arrived for the course. But it wasn't PTLLS. It was a work program tailored towards the illiterate and innumerate. I was told that I had to complete thirteen weeks of it before I could go on my PTLLS course.
By now, I'd missed the deadline to attend the intensive course paid for by myself. I contacted my erstwhile employer and he regretfully informed me that he could not hold the job open that long.
Beside me in the class was a man who could have had a job, if he'd just taken a day long forklift truck driving examination. He was also here and his job had also gone. Nor were we alone. A dozen people sat in that room, in precisely the same position as us.
We all took the view that if we just saw this program through, we'd never be here again. We would have those qualifications.
But eleven weeks in, the announcement was made. The coffers were empty. None of us were going to get onto our chosen courses. Sorry.
Yet everyone there could have already been working. If the Job Centre adjudicators had been honest at the onset, or had acted quickly with the bespoke courses, not one of us would now have been drawing benefits.
"It's their jobs though, innit?" One man commented to me. "If they let us all get jobs, then what's keeping them in employment?" It felt like a fair assessment to me.