This girl is in her early twenties. She’s got a good brain, has gone to a good university, got a not desperately good degree, but bearable, and has finally, after years of disastrous relationships, found a good boyfriend.
Then she has to move away to a different university in a different town to do a course that she doesn’t really want to, but she thinks it will lead to much better employment chances than she currently has.
And while she’s living away from the town and university and boy that she loves, his eyes wander and he dumps her. Nevertheless, she arranges to transfer back to finish the second year of her course, which is teacher training, and that is when it all starts to go horribly wrong.
She doesn’t like teacher training. She hates teaching. It’s not so much the children as the systems – she feels squashed and constricted, and her face doesn’t fit anywhere she goes. She starts to struggle with the course. She’s drinking a little too much each night, not really sleeping enough, burning the candle at both ends.
Her work starts to slide. Comments are made by the tutors on her course. She’s started to get twitchy and constricted and eventually she goes to see a doctor. He prescribes anxiety and depression, and refers her to a counsellor.
This is a turning point. She puts a hold on her course, not least because it’s now obvious to everyone that she’s not coping with it, and concentrates on falling apart in the grand style. When the LEA find out that she’s come off her course though, they stop her grant (which dates this story nicely – it’s in the 90s) and suddenly she doesn’t have rent money, or food money, or anything.
The counsellor steps in. He talks to the doctor, who is shocked that she hadn’t realised that she could be on benefits. He signs her off sick, removing a huge swathe of anxiety and she starts to get benefits that pay for rent and food.
This isn’t entirely straightforward. Someone from a benefits office visits at home, and queries as to whether she is really single as there is a double bed in her (furnished) rented bedroom. It’s an unpleasant experience, being questioned in this manner, but somehow it is worked out, and with less pressure on finances, the whole merry go round of doctors and counsellors, medication and time can work their magic and eventually, the girl can develop her skills, work out who she is and what she wants and find employment other than teaching.
She never does complete that teacher training course.
Without benefits I don’t know what I would have done. Become homeless I suppose. I certainly wouldn’t have had the environment I needed to heal from the state I’d gotten myself into. The system worked – it paid for me while I got better, and then I had years and years paying into it before I left employment to raise children. The welfare system is important. It was important then, it’s important now. I’m worried about what is happening to it, and I hope that this post and the others in the carnival it’s linked to go some way to raise awareness as to what is going on around us, before it is too late.