What have the coalition done for you?
In May 2010 the coalition put themselves in power. How do we measure the impact? I don’t think we can, collectively, but I can speak of my own situation, and what I feel. I don’t reside with any of the sides right now, and I’m unclear on what to do in the next election. I’m hoping this becomes clearer as I air my views and hopefully gain some perspective. I doubt it somehow.
A week after they came to power we got an email at work telling us we were on a consultation closure list. I worked in a busy county court, dealing with some 800 divorces a year, thousands of claims, repossessions, children act matters, and daily injunctions. It was never quiet and our town was and still is continuing to grow. I loved my job. The money was a pittance, I was often open to abuse (I hope you die of cancer was a common one), there was rarely any chance of promotion, but I enjoyed it, I loved helping people, people who were more often than not the people who the rest of us forget. WE never forgot them, we were not allowed. We fought, we fought hard, the local solicitors, our judges in all the courts across the county fought, put forward very valid arguments regarding the possible impact but the decision was made. We were given our closure date. April Fools Day 2011.
We had to make decisions. Redundancy or redeployment. We had little advice or support, things were rushed through, and I (with hindsight) made the wrong decision. In March 2011 I was redeployed to London.
I became seriously ill around the same time, and in June that year I was signed off work for six months. Do I blame the coalition for this? No, I can’t. But they were culpable. It was the perfect storm. Whilst I was stood in London having a breakdown with folk passing me by, crying and vomiting in the street, I never felt so far away from home. I knew that if I was in my own town I would have got help, my colleagues would have noticed my decline, they would have supported me. In the old days if someone was off for a long period of time we had a Welfare Officer who would intervene with help, support, guidance.
I got ATOS. My new colleagues and managers only kept in touch for sicknote updates. Atos phoned me fortnightly, pushing me with pathetic advice and threats. In December 2011 I resigned. So I missed out on an attractive redundancy, my 25 year service carriage clock, and a leaving party. Am I bitter? With hindsight, yes. I was in no position to make the decision I made, I felt ill-advised, and then felt hung out to dry, after 21 years of helping people I felt now it was my turn nobody cared.
I did get better though, I received counselling, and threw myself into restarting my career. I got lucky and in March 2012 after three months of signing on, I was working nights stacking shelves in Tesco’s. Tough work, but I’m now aware of how adaptable I am, and I will do anything to keep my families heads above water. Then I was offered a job (temporary ongoing) at a local company working days. I’m still doing this but it will come to an end, so I am again applying for jobs. My only problem is the stigma attached to ex civil servants, I’ve been told by a recruiter that it will often be binned before it is even read, and I now believe this. So I’m stuck in a job with no security, no pay rises, no future, and I could be dropped with no notice. I can hear the righty’s saying “welcome to the real world”, well, I spent 21 years living in, and helping the real world so save the patronisation and find another spin. But, at least I have a job.
So, how do we measure the impact? What of the woman being persistently battered by her partner, controlling her money, is she able to get £20 to take a return bus journey across the county to get an injunction, or is she spending what little she has feeding her children and buying nappies? What of the father who’s ex-wife is planning to escape abroad because she is denying him access? Will he reach a court before she reaches an airport? I don’t know, there is no way of measuring this.
In the 21 years I worked in the courts we had one case that resulted in death, the father had enough of not being able to see his children and went home from work and stabbed the mother of his children. One case.
In 2012 three women have been killed by their partners/ex partners in domestic violence related incidents in Harlow. We can’t ask them if they were hindered in seeking remedy through the courts because they are dead.