Having settled back in Stanhope in a familiar and comfortable role in the Community Hub, it became apparent that attention needed paying to the gap between personal income and expenditure.
Whilst the Hub (as the Community Partnership and Community Transport seem to be commonly known in the Dale) is financially sound, thanks mostly to the contract work with the Ambulance Service, and the Wheels to Meals project has funds until November and an invitation for further support after that, the social entrepreneur role is really more “volunteer” than entrepreneur, so while the community energy project simmers, and the book lingers, some action was required to stave off the likely deficit in a month or two.
A colleague on the Wheels to Meals project introduced the possibility of a wonderful public subsidy for impecunious householders,called Housing Benefit. Unlike the out of work subsidies, there is no requirement to seek jobs, which would make the voluntary and project development work tricky.
Housing Benefit is administered by the Council, whereas the unemployment benefit is in the tender care of the national government, through the Department of Work and Pensions. Feedback from folks engaged with this Department suggests they are very keen to reduce the number of customers they have on the books. There are obvious reasons for this, of course, since long term unemployment can be very debilitating and benefit dependency an even worse form of contemporary slavery than paid but unrewarding work. Personal experience of this system is limited to a couple of brief encounters, before the heat was really on and they provided an insight into the role and the relationship with the role player on the other side of the desk as well as a welcome respite from wage slavery during a rather dark period following divorce and relocation.
The Council hearabouts is basically sympathetic to support for the impecunious, being an old fashioned Labour administration, with its power base still tied up with the coal miningindustry which dominated Durham for along time before its decimation 30 years ago.
The council officer was very well trained, and put me at ease, referring frequently to “entitlement” as he completed the application. Imagine my delight when he revealed that, all being well, what with the Housing Benefit and Council Tax reduction, an extra £400 a month was available, which added to the occupational pension will keep the show on the road (or more accurately, off the road) until the State Pension begins in November or other income arrives from seeds planted or who knows what.
So, how does this new role of Benefit Dependent feel?
It feels very good to be free of the slight anxiety which crept in as a spur to action and enables the continued attention to the important things in life!
And I am very grateful.