“I was told I couldn’t work while I was living in the hostel, if I did my benefits would stop. I just want to get a job and be normal again.”
A number of people spoke of being let go from their work as they were on temporary contracts or working for cash in hand and therefore had no right to the government’s furlough scheme. Many also spoke of the desire to work again but there were multiple barriers preventing them from doing this, with some people being told not to work as this will have an impact on benefits that can be claimed for housing.
“I was only on a five month contract, I was due to get a permanent one but then corona happened and now they’re shut…I’ve contacted 60 companies in the last 5 months, nobody answers. They all say sorry we don’t need staff. There are no jobs. Before Coronavirus I had to say no to people, they were always calling me about jobs.”
“I used to be a recovery worker, I was even on the board of a recovery unit. I’ve had loads of jobs, got loads of skills, used to have loads of responsibilities. I could easily work again, but it’s catch 22 as no tenancy no job, no job not tenancy.”
COVID itself has acted as the biggest barrier with the number of jobs available dramatically reduced due to businesses having to shut or reduce their staff teams. The lack of internet access to search and apply for jobs was also highlighted as well as the lack of funds to purchase suitable interview clothing or work attire if they were to get work.
“I can get jobs, but I need access to the internet and clothes for work. I can’t get internet access anymore and I need that to even ask the JobCentre for help. If I had a CSCS card I could work in construction.”
Even though many people did want to work the cost of living is too high to make it worthwhile leaving people wondering what the incentive is to work compared to remaining on benefits.
“I spoke to my boss and asked if I could have redundancy, they won’t give me it…If I wasn’t working it would be easier as benefit could pay and I could get a place, because I’m on payroll I have to pay so it’s harder to get somewhere. I wish they would do this, to me it’s more important to have a place than a job. Once I have a place I can get a job in the future.”
“I’ve got to think about things like travel and council tax to know whether it’s worth going back to work…I calculated I would have needed to earn at least £30,000 to live comfortably, there is no incentive to go back to work it’s ridiculous how much you get charged for things.”
The negative impact that not being able to work on people’s mental wellbeing was evident with the lack of options causing stress and fear over ending up back living on the streets.
“If I can’t get a job, I will have no money which is not good, I don’t want to be back on the streets…I liked when I was in the hotel before because I had the internet, I could send emails for jobs.”