With no work for the immediate future, I had to motivate myself enough to find out what benefits I was entitled to. I was so low in mood, the last things I really wanted to do was have to explain that I’d just lost my job and what did I need to do to claim. However, I quickly learnt that the sooner you register your claim, the sooner you can receive benefits.
Filing out forms that question every area of your life takes you mentally back into a self-reflective journey which is not comfortable. Then you have to provide documentation to evidence how destitute you are. You need to do this to survive.
The first time I entered the Dole Office, I have a sense of extreme personal embarrassment. Others walk in and out nonplussed. I wait to be called over to the desk to see a job advisor. I tell them all I’m doing to find work. They seemed impressed and tell me I’m doing everything I can.
I get offered an interview. I’m apprehensive about the interview because although I answered the ‘have you any convictions?’ application question in the negative, the post is subject to a satisfactory Criminal Bureau Records.
The interview goes well. At the end of the interview I declare that I have a caution for events surrounding the break-up of my marriage. The interviewers don’t ask me to expand on this. Two days later I’m offered the job subject to the necessary paperwork.
In the meantime I wait. I still have to sign on the dole on a fortnight. An agency also offers me work but there’s a cost implication for me – I have to pay for training prior to working any shifts for them.
The following week I receive a letter from the agency explaining that my application has been unsuccessful because of an unsatisfactory reference. I telephone them to ask about the reference. Apparently, my last employers stated that I didn’t finish my period of probation and that was, in the eyes of the agency, unsatisfactory.
The next day, I receive a letter from the organisation that had made me a job offer inviting me to a meeting. I sense the worst. I go to the meeting and learn that the job offer is being withdrawn. They explain that they had checked with my previous employers and learnt the nature of my caution. They felt that the way I had disclosed it at interview was misleading and therefore they were withdrawing their job offer.
I tried to explain the context in which the caution was received, but their minds were already made up. I know what I did was wrong, I’m paying the price but what happened was a result of my state of mind being completely distorted by years of domestic abuse. No one seems to be hearing that, it’s as if they don’t believe that I could be a victim of spousal abuse.
Where do I go next?