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'My Jobseeker's Allowance was cut to €40 a week - I can’t afford to go to interviews'

I don’t want a free ride. I want the Department of Social Protection to assist me.

I’M A 23-YEAR-OLD media production graduate. I’ve spent four years in third-level education, and have spent nine months working under the JobBridge scheme, working for €5 an hour.

I’m from a small rural town, with little to no employment opportunities. There aren’t any jobs in retail or the service industry, never mind in the media industry. On a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment of €100 a week, I had a tiny sense of comfort in the knowledge that I could use my payment to travel for job interviews.

I can’t afford to look for a job

Now, my payment has been assessed against my parents’ incomes, and I have been reduced to a payment of €40 a week. How can I possibly afford to get a job?

Getting a job costs money. There are the travel expenses, which can range from €40 to €70 a train ticket. There’s the right clothes you need to wear to present yourself as a professional.

Getting a job isn’t easy. So many of us have studied for years to find ourselves unemployed wearing the cap and gown.

I’m not some entitled millennial

I know what some of you are thinking… that I’m a spoilt, entitled millennial who should just “get a job” and “suck it up”. At least this has been the general response that I get when I tell people my problems.

Since graduating in 2015, all I was able to get was a JobBridge scheme. At 23 years of age, that’s 30-40 hours a week of work for a measly €150 a week. I thought that after four years of study, and nine months of free labour, I’d finally get a proper job. But I’m still waiting for that job to come my way.

JobBridge has its upsides

shutterstock_465850373 Shutterstock / SanchaiRat Shutterstock / SanchaiRat / SanchaiRat

I will admit that my Jobbridge internship was hugely beneficial to me. Mainly, it greatly increased my confidence in the workplace. I now feel confident in my abilities and talents.

The company I was with did want to keep me on as a staff member afterwards, but unfortunately they are publicly funded and they had already met their staff quota. The funding simply just isn’t there for an additional staff member. Half of the staff members at present are on Community Employment placements.

I did get a few interviews after my internship, and my media experience was looked on favourably. It was clear that I was more appealing to employers now than I had been as a fresh graduate.

No experience equals no job offer

However, I have been unsuccessful so far. When I’ve asked for feedback from employers, the main problem has been that I don’t have “enough” adequate experience.

Before you make assumptions, note that until my “dream job” presents itself, I am more than happy to work in retail. The problem is that very few retail employers even entertain my application knowing that I’ve attended college for media production.

They tell me that they want someone who can commit long-term and they believe that having studied at third-level, I won’t commit to them. So, I turn back to media, IT, and marketing but my application is unsuccessful because I don’t have adequate experience.

At this point, I as an Irish citizen should be able to turn to social welfare to help support me during my time of unemployment. But, as a 23-year-old, that option is unavailable. We as under 25 year olds are only entitled to €100 a week Jobseekers Allowance, regardless of if we are living independently or not. That number dwindles even further when you live with your employed parents.

I’m sure the reasoning behind this is they want us young graduates to emigrate. I am more than happy to do so. But, to emigrate, I need money. And to get money, I need a job. To get a job, I need experience. To get experience, I need a job. Without a job, I need a bank loan, which I can only get with an income. And so the vicious circle continues…

Nowhere to turn

I want to make something clear here. I’m not looking for handouts. I would work anywhere, and this is evident through my job applications. But it feels like I’m getting nowhere.

I know some of you are probably thinking that I shouldn’t expect money for doing nothing. And you’re absolutely right. I shouldn’t. No-one should. But many people do. Which is why we’re in the predicament we’re in.

In the Celtic Tiger days, countless people lived on Jobseekers Allowance unquestioned and weren’t that fussed about getting a job. When the country crashed, young people took the fall.

Increased college fees, year after year, reduced social welfare payments, little to no employment opportunities. With nowhere to turn, hundreds of us emigrated, and left behind the country that failed us so terribly.

With Brexit, working in the UK is soon going to become much harder for Irish people. I myself frequently apply to jobs in the UK, and receive almost instant rejection emails when I fully meet the criteria. I have a hunch that British employers are weary of taking on Irish people due to Brexit.

Instead of cutting the longterm unemployed, they cut me

If I were 3 years older, I would be classed as an independent. I would receive €188 a week unquestioned, even if I were living with my parents. This is the main issue.

Anyone living with their parents should be deducted by their parents’ incomes, regardless of age. Age should never have been a deciding factor.

When I think of the amount of people I know personally, who are older than me and have been unemployed for years, I wonder why they aren’t being questioned about why they have medical cards, rent allowance, back to education allowance, Christmas bonuses etc.

I realise that they have all of that and I don’t because the State doesn’t want the future generations to live off the State too. So instead of cutting them, they cut me.

I’m not looking for a free ride

I don’t want a free ride. I want the Department of Social Protection to assist me as an Irish adult in my time of need. I feel this should be an entitlement of all Irish unemployed citizens. Not just a select few.

As I’ve been cut, how can I attend job interviews? I am sickened, and heartbroken, at the price we as young people are paying.

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

Ireland has the highest rate of young people receiving benefits across 35 countries>

Irish jobs: Unemployment is down again but we shouldn’t be complacent>

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