The Pandemic, Unemployment and Kickstart Scheme – A Personal Account
I’m sure when businesses think of bringing new vibrant staff to their team, they think of someone that has just finished studying and eager to get into the world of work. Ideally, they had some kind of experience in their studies, or maybe even did an internship in between studying and employed. Driven young people, nonetheless.
So, I think it’s safe to assume that, from at least a business point of view, when we think of that new employee, we don’t think of someone who’s been sat at home for a year on “the dole” doing nothing.
Well guess what? That’s exactly what has happened this last year. Hundreds of thousands of freshly graduated young adults and many of those that had just got their foot in the door of jr. roles have been stuck inside for nearly over a year because 2020 was the year that just kept on giving.
18 months ago, I wouldn’t have thought that at the end of 2020 I would be living in Staffordshire in my Grandad’s spare room, two stone heavier. In fact, I would have laughed at you and told you you’re mad.
So, what was I doing 18 months ago? Well before the world turned upside down as we know it, I was living my best life in West London, living with two of my best friends and had a solid plan to pursue the career of my dreams.
I had just left my role in a well-known newsroom to be a freelance videographer in the events industry. I had 8 fairly big music events already booked and ready to go during the duration of spring and summer and in the meantime, I managed to secure a bar job because although I had saved enough to set up my own freelance business, I was 23 and I wasn’t made of money! I needed a bit of expendable income.
March 20202 came a long and the rest is history. Festivals and other music events were being cancelled left right and centre. I held out though, I still had hope that the events industry was going to make a comeback at the end of summer… but furlough pay on minimal wage bar staff money wasn’t a lot. £600 a month to be exact, and with my savings account shrinking rapidly and my rent seeming suddenly impossible to pay, my landlord advised me to look into Universal Credit.
As a 24-year-old, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m amazing with money. Have I made financial mistakes? Sure! But luckily, I’ve always been in a position where I could pay bills comfortably without help. Asking the government for help seemed wrong to me, something I had never even thought of and something I’m sure millions of others had never seen as a viable option until last year.
By the end of April, I became more desperate and Universal Credit helped enormously. It meant I could reside in London that little bit longer, to wait out the storm of the pandemic and get back on my feet.
July came and my pub reopened. Suddenly, I missed furlough. The rule of 6 was impossible to police and being on my feet 16 hours a day was exhausting. Universal Credit dwindled and to make rent I found myself working 60-hour weeks. It got to October and the light I saw at the end of the tunnel was fading and I couldn’t live how I was living any longer. Second and Third lock downs were looming, and I knew that furlough AND even the bit of help Universal Credit gave me would make seeing out the winter and paying my London bills absolutely impossible.
For the first time since I was 18, I had to move back home.
My goodness was I bored. For 4 months I was existing, not living. Waking up at mid-day became my new normal because there was nothing to get up for. I had no freedom living with my family – I felt locked down in the height of a lockdown! If I woke up early, it meant there was just more nothingness to waste. My hobbies bored me, and it was far too cold and dark to enjoy a walk like in lockdown 1. I tried applying for jobs but there was nothing local. The only thing I could seem to do in my area was care work, something I did all through University. As rewarding as that job was, because I had to move back in with elderly relatives, they were unsure about me doing that kind of work in the midst of a pandemic and so I didn’t want to put their health at risk.
February of this year arrived, and I had a few calls with Universal Credit who made arrangements to set me up with a job coach. I won’t lie, I was pretty mortified. I’ve never had to have help finding work before, and if I’m totally honest I thought they would just send me applications to ANYWHERE that had vacancies, not look at my degree or my previous experience.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. My work coach was absolutely lovely and was committed to helping me find something that was relevant to me and my background. Suddenly I was rather ashamed of my snobbery towards asking for help. She sent over a few different job vacancies near me where there was a role to be a Digital Assistant for The Inspirational Learning Group.
I looked into the company and I was excited to find out all the opportunities and challenges they create for young people in education. Although I am no longer in education, there enthusiasm to help younger generations find a voice in the working world resonated with me after such a rocky year.
I was invited for an interview where I was delighted to find out I was a successful candidate and I have just thoroughly enjoyed and completed my second month.
I was brought on here as part of the Governments Kickstart scheme – if I’m totally honest it wasn’t even something, I was aware of until I was part of it.
The idea really is that small businesses can take on new staff free of charge as the government pay us our wages. It offers businesses the chance to get back up and running with the increase and demand of workload as the world reopens, as well as giving young people the opportunity to get back on their feet and start using their skill sets again.
For the first time in months, I’m happy and optimistic about my future. I have a reason to get up in the morning and I have routine and structure to my day, something my mind and body has been craving for the last year. Whether The Inspirational Learning Group decides to keep me on full time or not, I no longer have a gap in my C.V and my time here will be more valued experience as a steppingstone to the rest of my future.
I was unsure when I first applied because of it only being 25 hours a week, but actually, I’m really thankful for that. After a lockdown and months of furlough, being thrown into a full time 40 hour working week might have been a bit much. I feel like I’m slowly becoming part of society again and through the Kickstart scheme, The Inspirational Learning Group have given me and thousands of other young adults in a similar position the opportunity to show the world that we’re not just looking for a handout, because we’re driven and ready for opportunity.