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Opinion: Yes, I'm unemployed but that doesn't make me lazy or incompetent

Somebody told me the other day, quite abruptly, that ‘there are plenty of jobs out there’. Well, I beg to differ.

Adam Brennan

IT’S A JOB-SEEKER’S life!

I am a 34-year-old job-seeker. I did not choose to be a job-seeker, I most certainly did not wake up one morning and decide ‘I am no longer going to work, I am going to just spend my days looking for work’. No, I found myself on the dole because my business went under and it was, and continues to be, a soul destroying experience.

Somebody told me the other day, quite abruptly, that ‘there are plenty of jobs out there’. They informed me that a local hotel was looking for a cleaner. On the basis of this one job vacancy they had decided that all job seekers are lazy. I told them that I truly hoped that they did not find themselves in my situation in the future, as they might come to realise their own ignorance.

Being a job-seeker in Ireland

At first it was OK. I got to spend more time with the kids, childcare costs were reduced, I made dinner for the missus every day, all in all it wasn’t too bad. For a while. As time passed though, the novelty quickly wore off. I was putting on weight, felt trapped in my own home, the kids were driving me mad and I was broke. The bills pile up quickly and it was not long before the house became a pressure cooker, the mention of money in those situations causes untold stress.

To top it off, the lady in the local dole office was a tyrant. To give an example, one day I was three minutes late for signing on because my son was sick and I had to collect him from school. I arrived at the counter looking very subdued and tried to explain myself, but it was to no avail. She sent me to the back of the queue, child in hand, and told me I would have to wait until everybody else had signed, I was there for 45 mins.

Eventually a small break came along in the way of a place on a Community Employment scheme, 19.5 hours’ work for a further €20 a week, but it got me out of the house. There was a little travel involved and the kids had to go back to being minded for a few hours a week, which obliterated the €20 and then some, but it was a welcome change. I spent a year on the scheme and in that time achieved a Fetac Level 4 in Horticultural Tools and Equipment (in keeping with my placement, not my future) and Safepass.

As the placement was coming to an end, I truly feared going back ‘on the dole’ and having to face the ‘tyrant’ again, with no prospects of employment I was frantically seeking alternatives. After much searching and many applications, I was offered a placement on JobBridge. I was delighted, this was going to be it now, I would get in there, work hard and get a job! Right?

Trying to better myself

Three days into my placement I was told that there would be no opportunity for employment at the end of my placement, they wanted to make that clear as the last intern left in tears and they did not want to go through that again. The following nine months were quite possibly the worst of my life. I was marginalised, to put it lightly. The job was monotonous and uninspiring and I honestly gained no skills. To top it all off, my income had been cut significantly when changing from one scheme to the other, and it was 15 miles further from home. How they managed that I do not know, but ‘them’s the breaks’ as they say.

During this time I had taken up a degree. There was no funding available and it had to come from the household budget, but I was committed to gaining something from this mess. The course is through e-learning so I was in a position to remain on JobBridge. I also completed Fetac Level 6 Train the Trainer and am currently partaking in a payroll course.

I have seven weeks left on the payroll course, and six months left on my degree course and after that I do not know what I am going to do. Every day I scroll through the job sites but increasingly all that is available are CE scheme and JobBridge placements. I estimate I have applied for 50 actual jobs so far this year and have attended three interviews.

Accused of being lazy

I do not drink, I do not smoke, and neither does my wife. We have never had a holiday outside of Ireland aside from our honeymoon. I pay my debts from the business slowly through MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service). We live in rented accommodation and we are not entitled to any rent allowance. We get by, but only just.

When I am done with my training, I will have achieved a Fetac levels 4,5,6,7 – all in less than two years. I have published papers which have been used to support motions in the Dail, I have written proposals which seek to support those worst off in society. I have developed initiatives which have benefitted people both locally and nationally. Yet I am accused of being lazy, because I cannot find work.

Somehow that just doesn’t seem fair.

Adam Brennan is an unemployed community activist. In early 2014 he founded Flood Relief Ireland, an organisation which provided aid and relief to victims of flooding in Limerick. Adam has published several documents including the ‘Gateway report’ which supported the motion for the scrapping of the Gateway scheme, and most recently the PEDAL proposal which seeks to provide a new model for the training of job seekers.

Read: What can be done to help Ireland’s “unacceptable” rate of jobless households?

Read: EU employment is struggling, with Ireland below average

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Adam Brennan

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