As I sit here typing this I am angry, punch the wall angry, smack the next idiot that gets in my face angry. Angry at the DWP, angry at myself for being a fool and forgetting that the DWP and its front the Jobcentre exists only to punish the poor, to force people of benefits to massage the figures and to force Tory cruelty on millions of people.
I am angry because I asked a question and now I am having to defend my right to unemployment payment, because I have a hobby, because of what I do in my free time, because of what I am doing now.
BECAUSE I WRITE.
I have a lot of contact with the poor, the unemployed and the disadvantaged because I meet them every week, sometimes I can help them, sometimes I’m just one of them. But according to the Tories and the Lib Dems I am apparently some sort of criminal; I am one of those that the Coalition government considers to be enemies of the state. I am currently unemployed.
Yes, I admit it, I am between jobs, I am one of those people you read about when IDS or Cameron or one of the others is out there blaming benefit claiming scum for the deficit.
To give you some background, I write. Science fiction, Chthonian horror, the mostly political blog you are reading right now. I contribute stories to a free e-magazine called Far Horizons. I am also a Gamer, table top, online etc. I join in debates and discussions for new systems and existing systems about the rules, the backgrounds, campaigns, the sort of thing that any ardent gamer does.
I also know a few people in the United States who run a small publishing company called Terra Sol games, they publish a Science Friction universe for a game called Traveller. Over the years we have debated and chatted about a wide variety of Sci Fi subjects, I have looked at what they are producing and added my opinion, conversations I have had with them have shaped what they have published.
Friends chatting about a shared hobby in their own time.
Over a year ago the main writer at Terra Sol suddenly died and the company stopped, now they are restarting and they contacted me to see if I would like to do some paid writing for them, I had been helping them for years and now they were offering me a small amount of money for writing and proof reading and looking at the background and cannon.
A chance to make a little money from my hobby, love to.
Then I made a stupid mistake. I was honest. I was a bloody idiot.
I went in to sign on this morning and I asked how it would work if I earned a little money from writing, it’s probably no more than a few hundred dollars a year and because its writing will only come when the work is done so it will probably be irregular payments.
So I asked the people who I though could help answer that question. Because I don’t want to cheat the system, I am no thief. I am not looking to steal or lie. I was looking to be honest and open. I asked the jobcentre.
I AM A BLOODY IDIOT !
I explained that I was perhaps looking at some income at irregular intervals and how would I need to report it or organise it. In return I was asked what the money was for, I explained it was for writing for them and they would pay for the work done. They asked and I stupidly told them, I had known them for years and helped them out, now they wanted to pay me a bit.
They told me it sounded like I was self employed.
I said no, it was people I know, I was writing science fiction, I wasn't paid, it was in my own time, it didn't interfere with my job seekers commitments, it was my own time. For the Americans, for the online magazine, it was all done for free in my own time. I write stuff and let friends read it, for free, in my own time.
They checked with a supervisor who said it sounded like I had a job; it wasn't with a charity so it wasn't allowed.
NOW I HAVE TO FILL IN A TEN PAGE FORM AND APPEAL TO THE JOBCENTRE IN ORDER TO KEEP MY BENEFITS BECAUSE IN MY OWN TIME I WRITE STUFF WHICH I GIVE TO FRIENDS.
I have not made a penny doing this, not a single penny, in fact it costs me a little to do it, but it’s like a hobby, I joke about madness but if I didn't write I would go crazy. It’s a hobby, it’s my own time, ten or twenty hours a week in MY OWN TIME. It does not in any way prevent me from looking for a job, I fully comply with all the requirements of my job seekers contract. I write in my own time.
I have a form in front of me, I have to fill it in to explain how I’m self employed or a company director or a framer or fisherman, that’s the form I’m looking at. The woman at the jobcentre suggested I write a cover letter to explain what it is that I do IN MY OWN TIME AND FOR NO PAY so I can keep my jobseekers benefit rather than finding myself listed as self employed or some other category and having the little I get stopped.
This isn't a friend of a friend story or any second hand story. This was me, this was how I spent this morning, I am looking at the form right now. And I’m angry. At myself for being a fool, for dropping my guard and relaxing my paranoia for a few minutes and making the mistake that the DWP are there to help me.
So now I have to fill in this form and write a covering letter, I have to return it and they will send it off somewhere where some faceless pen pusher in an office will decide whether or not what I do in MY OWN FREE TIME can be used to justify stopping my unemployment benefits!
What happens if they find this blog, if someone reads what I write about the Tories and about IDS and what I think of them. If I’m having to defend the fact that I write as a hobby what happens when they find out that I write blog posts which are highly critical of the coalition government and its policies. How paranoid do I have to be now?
I’m going for another coffee, I’m going to be drinking a lot of coffee today, and snarling, and swearing and probably punching the walls.
I am now stuck with the uncertainty, it could be weeks before I get an answer and if they decide to piss on me from a great height appealing will take months during which I would be unemployed and without benefits.
Because I asked a question and honestly volunteered information.
Why Do People Hate and Fear the DWP?
Because They Bloody Well Deserve to be Feared and Hated.