23 May 2012

Has anyone seen my confidence?

I got 61% in my second TMA.
I am sorely disappointed and feel, quite simply, thick as shit. That's a 1% increase on my first TMA. One. Per. Cent. To break it down, I actually scored 5 marks higher in my essay, but lost them on the mini-essay and self reflection. HOW CAN YOU LOSE MARKS ON SELF REFLECTION??? Nobody can answer me this.

My confidence is pretty much gone. I know that part of the 'joy' of distance learning is writing how THEY want you to, and my writing style is waaaay too descriptive, I can't get myself into the right mindset to work on it. I keep wondering what the point is. I know it's a pass, I know it's not a bad pass, I KNOW I SOUND MELODRAMATIC.
But I feel like my marks are not reflecting my understanding of the course. I just don't know quite how to turn what I've learnt into something my tutor can give better marks to.

My next TMA is due in two weeks and I haven't started it yet (bearing in mind my last two were submitted long before the cut-off). I've done all the reading and tomorrow, I shall write an essay plan and I shall try and make it a PROPER essay plan instead of some bish-bash-bosh notes. I read on someone's blog that think of essays as a 'tree to hang their knowledge on' and this has slightly inspired me. I need to write in shorter sentences, make sure it makes sense and flows.

Then begins the project, of which I am nominated co-ordinator. I am actually looking forward to it at the moment, though God knows for how long! I will get my next TMA results when I'm on holiday...so I hope they're not shit or I'll be sad. Kinda gotta write the thing first...

At least I'm still getting 100% on the iCMAs!

9 May 2012

The Welfare State

Today, I went to the jobcentre plus for my Very First Interview.
And dear God, what a dispiriting place it is.
In my city, the jobcentre is on the corner of a busy intersection, and the building has turrets (presumably to give an air of gravitas). The building wastes it's time. Outside stand the great unwashed, smoking and otherwise passing the time until they have to go to an appointment, catch the bus, or wait for a lift. I cannot blame them for preferring to wait outside, smoking or not, as I've rarely been in a place with such a condemnatory atomosphere.

As regular readers know, I'm a single mum of two. I officially stopped work in January, and since then have claimed income support to live on. I don't like being out of work, but I'm unlikely to find a job I like with hours to suit my kids while they're so young. The choice seemed to be investing in my children, or investing in work, so I chose the kids and started a degree so when they're old enough for me to work, I can get a decent job.

Anyway, back to the jobcentre, with a lower case j. I dislike such typographical absurdities. There's something demeaning on being given handouts by an agency that doesn't even recognise it's own name as a proper noun.
I went to the wrong door at first, and somehow ended up in their offices, where I was patronisingly redirected by a man in a suit. Everything about his face, his manner and his tone said "You do not belong here".
Once I found the right door, I was faced by a busy reception, and one woman directing the human traffic, flanked by two G4S security people. Up the stairs I went to a room full of desks, and a line of phones along one wall. I passed a temping agency recruitment desk who brightly asked me if I was looking for work, and looked utterly baffled when I said no.

There was no privacy, but more security. One woman was crying into the phone because a cockup with her benefits had left her skint, another man was loudly abusing a staffmember because his own mistake meant he hadn't been able to feed his children. I was directed to a sofa to wait for my appointment, and could hear every word of the conversation happening at the desk a few feet in front of me. It was noisy, it was hot and it was uncomfortable in atmosphere. Claimants were either distressed or ill at ease, staff members forcing jollity to try and bridge the gap, security guards on the alert for anyone kicking off.

I was called to a desk, in the middle of the room, where my allocated job advisor (let's call her Helen) went through my personal details. My full name, phone numbers and address were broadcast for all to hear, not because Helen was indiscreet, but because of the design of the place. She explained the purpose of the interview and then asked about my previous job. It went something like this:
Helen: "It says here you worked in administration, can you tell me more?"
Me: "I worked for the NHS, doing data analysis"
Helen: "Oh...is that office management?"
Me: "No, clinical coding - you probably have people here that do something similar, gathering information and then writing reports on the statistics"
Helen: "Oh...boring then"

She meant to lighten the tone, but it wasn't the best start. Neither was it her fault that the computer system lacked a category to put data administration in, so I ended up being classed as 'office manager'. She then asked how long I'd worked there, and on being told 8 years, looked amazed.
We continued on to my current plans and I described my intention to gain a degree and then return to work at a higher level than I'd previously worked in. She asked if I needed to do a degree for such work, and I explained it varies vastly by organisation. She then asked what qualifications I had
Me: "GCSEs and AS levels"
Helen: "How many GCSEs? Have you got maths...?"
Me: "Eleven, A* to C"
Helen: "Oh"

She told me, at length, about her daughter who is currently struggling with her AS levels. I gave her the names and ages of my children, and she asked if I wanted to look at taking part time work. I said not at the moment, and she said fine, and I'd be recalled in six months for another interview. She told me how the benefits are different for single parents in work, and I pointed out that I know this as I was a single working parent for fifteen months.
She sent me on my way with a sheet about benefits for those getting back into work - essentially, some cash if you take a job of full time hours for more than five weeks.

I left feeling faintly depressed, even though I'm lucky enough to know that living on benefits will be a short term thing for us. I cannot imagine how people who have to go every month must feel, having to admit that once more, they have failed in the eyes of the government.
We are lucky to have a benefits system to catch us when bad luck befalls us, but must it be so designed to make us ashamed? It's not my fault I ended up a single parent, I didn't PLAN my life this way. Twenty months ago, I was married, well-educated, comfortable financially, owned my own home, was working, had a beautiful baby and another on the way. Now, I am allegedly among the dregs of society, living from government handouts and aware that everything around me conspires to keep me on the borders of society, with rehabilitation masked by bribery.

There must be a better way.

3 May 2012


Hello, I'm a single mother of two preschool children. Feel free to cast aspersions on my character: everyone else does.

Here are some of the assumptions people make about me (and have voiced, I'm not being insanely paranoid here)

1. The boys have different fathers.
2. The boys have no contact with their father/me and their father loathe each other entirely
3. I am thick
4. I cannot cope/am depressed
5. I have always been unemployed
6. I am in debt

The first one is common - most people assume my boyfriend is the father of my youngest, as we've been together for quite a while. However, I was four and a half months pregnant when we started dating. This shouldn't annoy me as much as it does.

The second is also very common. People tend to think me and my ex have a dreadfully acrimonious relationship, and when they realise that we do not (well, mostly), they seem disappointed. With this goes the assumption that he doesn't see the boys. He does. It's all good in the ex-contact-department.

I'm not thick. End of.

I told the boys' playgroup that I'm single and they offered me lots of 'emotional support'. Equally, every time I see a health visitor or GP, they ask probing questions about my mental health. Now, I do understand why, because I've had postnatal depression in the past, and reactive depression when I was pregnant with my littleun, but being a single mother does not always equate to depression. I have bad days, but by and large, life is nice. My problem is more one of inescapable stressful children, but that's hardly unique to singledom.
I worked from the age of 18 until I was 37 weeks pregnant with my baby (aged almost 26), and didn't become legally unemployed until my maternity leave ran out. I paid tax the entire time and, were it not for the burden of caring for the boys singlehanded, would dearly love to go back to work. Instead, I'm doing a degree. Being a stay-at-home-mother has never appealed to me and I don't like it much, truth be told.
I'm not in debt, I manage my money rather too well and I dislike the insinuation (made by landlords, chiefly) that being on benefits equates to being rubbish with money.

So, stigmatic rage over, I shall continue working through this unit on poverty and social exclusion and then go and vote. Yeah!