My past experience and acquired knowledge would seemingly stand me in good stead for re-launching my career in writing, programming or teaching. Unfortunately, the restrictive rules imposed by the State, under which I am required to seek work, stop me from taking up the opportunities that exist.
I am a software developer, systems analyst and programmer. I worked in the computer industry for over 25 years. My experience extends from product design, development — through marketing and sales — all the way to installation, training and support for a wide range of applications. I have developed software products of my own. I have, since becoming unemployed, learned a new language called Java in which I have written many programs including some demonstration applets.
It would seem sensible therefore that I should re-establish myself as a programmer. I could then design and produce software products and provide a bespoke programming service. But there is something in the way preventing me.
I am also an experienced technical writer. Consequently, many people have suggested to me that I should turn to writing text books covering the many areas of knowledge I have in computing.
In their literature pack which was handed out at a seminar on neural networks the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) say that there are no books which explain neural networks to the layman: they are all so far written by young academics who launch straight into degree-level mathematics. It would be a great opportunity for me. But again there is something in the way preventing me.
When I suggested that I could start writing a book to Mrs Davies (an official at my Jobcentre) she told me that if I started writing books then my State welfare would be withdrawn. This is because when it is published a book provides royalties for its author. That is a form of income. Therefore, while he is writing the book the author is deemed to be gainfully employed. As a result I would have nothing to live on while I was writing my book. Writing books is for me therefore not a viable option.
On 4 October 1993 I received a copy of the National Welfare Benefits Handbook by the Child Poverty Action Group. On the subject called 'the 16-hour rule and qualifying for Income Support' an example is given by way of illustration.
The example given on page 12 is of a self-employed writer who has not yet sold a manuscript. The writer is deemed not to be excluded by the 16-hour rule even if he spends more than 16 hours a week writing but has no guarantee that he will receive any money for his manuscript when it is finished. This is resolved in Commissioners' Decision CIS 270/1991.
This seemingly contradicts what Mrs Davies told me. If so, I could possibly have written a book for publication by now. I would then by now have had an income from the royalties rather than from State welfare. However, the actual law as it is written in the law books is irrelevant. It has no force upon reality. Only the law as understood by officials who expedite it at the point of delivery has any bearing upon the realities of life for ordinary people.
People have suggested that with my large history of applications writing I could teach programming and software design techniques at college. For this I would need to get a City & Guilds 7307 teaching qualification.
Existing on State welfare I cannot afford the course fees or the travel cost to attend the course. The Jobcentre can offer no help with this. I telephoned the TEC (Training & Enterprise Council) and they said that they could not help either. The County Council would probably pay the course fees through a County Major Award but will not pay the travel cost to cover the 15 miles between my home and the college. I have since tried the TEC's Learning for Work and Open Learning schemes to help finance me to do the CG7307 teaching course. Both refused.
I later found that none of these bodies provides any financial help of this kind for people over the age of 50 anyway. It seems therefore that this door is well and truly shut also.