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Staying positive and being resilient – my journey from prison to normality

Having a little bit of time on my hands, I just wanted to share my experiences of being out in the real world.

It’s been eight months since my release from prison after serving four years of an eight year sentence for conspiracy to defraud. From the outset, I have maintained my innocence and stated that trust and stupidity are the only crimes that I’ve been guilty of.

The first eight months out of prison has been strange to say the least. I was fortunate enough to have been directed to the Langley House Trust who provided me with accommodation upon release and the prospect of a cardboard box under the arches was finally put to rest. I cannot thank them enough for their kindness and support.

Next it was off to the job centre. I think it was clear to the advisor straight away that I had health issues but I was happy to go along to the job centre every week, use their computers and pursue every job application that was appropriate. My advisor suggested that I should go onto Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which I did but I continued to remind the job centre that I was actively seeking work and they acknowledged that being on ESA would simply allow me time to ensure that my job search could be more precisely tailored to my health needs – for example there would be no attempt to send me off to do heavy lifting in a warehouse.

Strangely, I’ve recently been asked to attend an assessment with the ESA people to determine my fitness for work despite my telling them that I am fit for work and am actively seeking employment. My only reason for going onto ESA was because I was advised to do so by the job centre advisor – I’m starting to think that the different departments at the DWP don’t speak to each other.

I’ve continued my search for work and although I’m based in Northamptonshire, I’ve extended my search area to London and Kent. I have adopted the ‘don’t tell until you need to’ approach to disclosure. If a prospective employer doesn’t ask, then you don’t have to disclose but I’m pretty sure that if I’m offered a job I will tell – I’ve got a written disclosure all prepared which will help if an employer asks me to disclose in writing or in person.

So far, I’ve had no opportunity to disclose my record because quite frankly, the job market is not as buoyant as I would have hoped and I have now reached the ghastly age of 60. I believe that so far I have suffered from age discrimination rather than any other type of discrimination but obviously it’s impossible to say for sure.

As we progress day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of our goals and objectives. I’ve run the gauntlet of emotions from being fed-up, tired and dejected and at the point of giving up. I know it takes time and energy to find a job but sometimes it just seems so pointless.

I’ve now found a flat closer to my family and friends and will be moving into my own self-contained accommodation for the first time in five years. I’m looking forward to that and it’s a boost to my confidence at the right time. Seeing more of my family and friends will make the wait for a job easier; I’ll also be in a new location and can search with a fresh head on my shoulders.

The thing is, we all need a pick-me-up once in a while. The so-called justice system and the DWP think that people are robots and that facing rejection day after day has no effect on the will to continue – how wrong they are. Constant daily, weekly and monthly failure to progress has a huge impact on our resilience.

When you’re getting to the end of your rope, talk to someone you trust. Don’t give up, don’t let go of your dreams and don’t them ‘them’ get you down.

Good luck everybody.

By Francis (name changed to protect identity)


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