A FATHER of three has spoken out about what life is really like living on the dole after being made redundant from his job of 15 years.
And it comes at a time when the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that between July 2011 and June 2012 there were more than 12,000 unemployed people living in the East Riding, of which more than 8,500 were men.
Michael Wood, 45, enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle bringing home £692 a week from his job as an electronics engineer and head of a research and development department at an internet firm in Bridlington.
But two years ago Michael turned up to work one morning to find the doors locked after the company suddenly folded, leaving him with no wages or redundancy package.
Since then Michael, who was the sole bread winner, has racked up around £7,500 worth of debt as he struggled to adapt to supporting his wife Maggie and three children while taking home £112 a week on the dole.
And despite trying everything he has had no luck finding a new job and says he is running out of options.
“I did 15 years at 12 hours a day, six days a week and then bang, nothing. For the first couple of weeks I thought it was great, no-one moaning at me, no-one ordering me about, no-one screaming about deadlines, then it hit me. All at once I went from being somebody to a complete nobody.
“Going from employment to being unemployed and humiliated in the dole office is a big undertaking for any person to take on board,” Michael said.
And now his message to the public is to think before judging someone when they say they are on the dole.
“Please, when you hear about people on the dole, do try to think that there may be someone who is actually willing to work mingled in with all those numbers and that person may have a family to support, and the money they are ‘given’ may actually go towards their survival and not just towards cigarettes, drugs and booze,” he added.
Michael regularly visits the Job Centre to be asked the same questions about what he is doing to try and secure work.
He checks the Free Press jobs pages every week, has contacted ex-work colleagues and signed up to several job search websites which he checks regularly but to no avail.
Initially he applied for every job going within a reasonable travelling distance but says there is nothing out there at the moment that he is qualified for.
“I have run out of options and ideas,” he said.
Since being made redundant Michael has had two seasonal jobs, lasting four months at a time, as well as a part-time job for 16 hours a week over two months.
For all the jobs he has applied for, and most he has interviewed for, Michael has been told he is over qualified for the position.
“You have no idea how this makes people feel, especially as I have no formal qualifications nor schooling,” he said.
Life on the dole has completely changed Michael’s perspective on every day life. “You lose things without even knowing you had them in the first place,” he said.
“I never realised how much frozen food we never ate, you go from fresh produce, meat, vegetables, fruit and brand name bread to supermarket own brands and 47p own brand bread without even realising it.”
One of the biggest changes has been switching from paying quarterly utility bills to using token meters, hoping the latest top up will last the next couple of days.
“Sitting there waiting for the lights to go out and the TV to die is not a pleasant feeling,” he said.
“One of the hardest things I have had to deal with is the debt, credit cards, overdrafts, telephone bills, utilities and a whole host of other people calling on me to sort it all out before they hand my case over to a debt recovery firm,” he added.
And Christmas will be a particularly tough time for Michael and his family. “The really hard part about this is hiding it all from the kids.
“I have always managed in the past to give birthday and Christmas presents as well as tuck shop money for school but now I cannot give anything.
“I used to love my kids birthdays and the excitement before Christmas, now it all fills me with dread.”