The benefits of the Real world
Posted by Oli on Friday 29th August, 2008
This week we have been rudely invaded by the real world. After 10 months of existing in a perfect little post-transplant bubble, the time has come to look at things that people out in the big wide beyond have to spend time looking at.
With K off to uni in 3 weeks and counting, she is, naturally, going to have to give up work. The full-time commitment of the course, coupled with the 3-hour daily commute is going to sap every last bit of energy she has, making weekends a time for rest and recovery and not for the usual kind of student money-making that normally earns the bookworms a crust.
So it falls on me to start winning the bread for the house hold. It’s a very strange position to be in, seeing as I haven’t been in paid employment since I left Northampton Theatres in April 2005, nearly three-and-a-half years ago.
One thing I’ve learned from friend-of-the-blog Emily is that returning straight into a ful-time job post-transplant is a bit of a no-no. Although I now have more energy than I think I’ve ever had in my life (barring, maybe, my early years), that doesn’t automatically equate to being able to put up with the stamina required for a full-time job and the stresses and strains that go along with that.
Instead, I’m going to be looking for something smaller and more part-time, but then I hit the thorny issue of benefits.
At the moment, I’m still covered by incapacity benefits because I’ve been under doctor’s orders not to work. The idea of incap is that in order to help you return to work, you are allowed to do a certain number of hours of paid work per week without incurring penalties on your benefits. The trouble with incap is that once you pass the 16-hours-per-week threshold, you lose everything – there is no middle ground.
And it’s not just the incap that you lose. Incap comes tied in with an entitlement to various other benefits including Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, which basically means my rent and council tax are paid for me as my income isn’t high enough to cover them.
So, all-in-all, the loss of benefit will cost us in the region of £800 per month. That’s an enormous gap to try to cover between working 16 hours per week on benefits and finding the rest of the money once you cross that line. In effect, it means that you are forced to jump rom 16 hours per-week all the way up to a full-time 30-40 hour week with no middle ground and no safety net, beyond returning to incapacity benefit.
It sounds easy enough to try out full-time work and use the Incap as a fall-back option if you can’t cope, but that’s forgetting the psychological impact of going back to “illness”. Everyone I know post-transplant has faught an incredible battle to get themselves back on their feat and rebuild new lives in the wake of a truly life-changing blessing. What all that effort means, however, is that none of us want to return to the perception of “illness” that dogged us for years both before and initially post-transplant.
So the search for so-called “gainful” employment begins. Where am I going to end up, who knows? As long as it pays the bills, I have to be happy with it, but I would much rather have an opportunity to do the things I want to do with writing, filmmaking and educating than have to sit in a call-centre 37-hours a week. Hopefully, the 16 hours I need to start off with will enable me to carry on with my personal projects and find a way to make them pay.
Watch this space!