We value everyone's opinions and views at Skills.

These are the views some of the individuals in our group:

In fourteen months I have moved six times

Written by The Skills Network on .

In fourteen months I have moved six times. 

I was seven months in the refuge. The worst thing was the case worker. I was dependent on her. She used to ask me questions like: “Where are you going? Where are you coming from?’” In the morning, when the children were asleep she used to knock on the door like a jailer. If I said the children were sleeping she would say: “This is not the time for the children to sleep.’” Cleaning the house was a shared job: they would pick on you and say: “Look she hasn’t cleaned properly..’”

They stretched out my stay because there was no one else who wanted that room and they got £220 a week for my room, and they could save money by not putting the heating on. 

Then the Council moved me to Harrow - to be far from my husband. I had no help to move my two children and could not afford a cab. My daughter’s first birthday we spent sitting in the Harrow Council offices all day. Then I was given emergency accommodation for that evening - one small bedroom with three beds in a big house. No space to walk between the beds. But I thought ‘at least I am out of the refuge’. But everything like the grocery shop was a long way away. I had to walk a long way for my daughter’s milk. After one month I received a call from the caretaker from the Lodge at 11 pm at night and I was told ‘Tomorrow morning you must go to the Council and speak to them’ So I was there at ten o’ clock in the morning. They told me ‘Sign these papers and you have to move today. ‘

‘How can I move today?’ I said. ‘You only have two hours,’ they said.

‘At least give me till evening’ I said.

They said: “Talk to the caretaker.” When I came back to the Lodge the caretaker said, “You must leave in one hour because another family is coming.” I said: “the council said I have till this evening”

He said: “The Council did not contact us. If you want to stay till evening the council must write to us because this family was sent to us by the Council.” They were at my room’s door saying, “You must move in one hour.’

When I asked the Council for help to move they said: ‘You are only three people you should have only three suitcases’. I had my bedding, my kitchen things...... spoons, plates I cannot just throw these things away..

I was crying. Because like all normal days I was preparing to cook - clothes were out for the wash, things were in the freezer...... everything was in a mess. From morning till night my children and I ate nothing, we kept packing, packing. My kind neighbour said, “ I will help you.... leave all your things in my room.” I threw all the things into her room.... when I came back she helped me to take the things to the other place. 

It was me and my 11 year old son who did all the shifting and pulling...

The next place was also emergency accommodation. A guest house. Again I had one room: but everywhere was better than the refuge. And the people were all right because we all had our own room and our own life. We were there exactly six weeks. It is a rule you cannot be in emergency accommodation for more than six weeks.

Next time they called me at five o’ clock in the evening. “You have to move by ten in the morning.” My son had to go to school. Again we tried and tried to be ready by ten. “You have to leave, ten o’ clock means ten o’ clock,” they said. But the cleaners were helpful they said, “We will close our eyes.” And they were also shocked. 

At that time I was not feeling well nor was my daughter.

By one o’ clock I moved, I left a few things in the fridge, they said “That’s fine”.... I just took milk and cooked food.

This place was a big hostel, it used to be an old hospital they turned it into a lodge and I got one room on the first floor at the end of the corridor. It was very dirty, the basins were so dirty and there were crisps under the mattress and blood stains on the mattresses and the toilets were a long way away. My son has a problem of bowel incontinence. I had to leave my daughter in the room on her own when I accompanied my son. I was being picked up ‘against health and safety on child’ for this. And the toilets were extremely dirty.

My daughter burned her hand on the kettle, we had to keep it in the room because things got stolen from the kitchen. 

That place was so far away just to get to the main road you needed a bus.

We were there five months. Then they called me again: ‘There is a place if you want to go there. This is the only place we can offer. They said, “If you do not accept this you will be off the Homeless List because you will count as ‘deliberately homeless.’” 

So I quickly said, “ Yes” because at least we were getting our own toilet and kitchen. 

Then finally, when I got this place it was Ramadan and I was fasting and I had to move during fasting. They said, “You can take your time and do your shifting and take two or three days.” But when I went to the Lodge they said, “You have to move now because they are sending more people.” 

I had a fear that if I said I cannot move now they would take away this place. But still i took a stand because it was Ramadan and I said i cannot do this in a day. Not even a day, they were saying, by this afternoon. Then the taxi driver came and he said, “You have to pay me more if I have to wait”. I was arguing all ways. 

Finally I moved to this place. After two days they gave me a bed and dining table. And now we are there. But it is insecure tenancy, anytime they can move us again.

Media Training

Written by The Skills Network on .

Media training, isn’t that what celebrities, actors and people of the moment need? To protect them from journalists who want their pound of flesh.  Low income women from Brixton (who are not climbing out of austerity).  Not your usual participants.  At best we are ‘Mums on Benefits.’ At worst ‘lazy, benefit scrounging scum.’ We have no spokesperson.

Five sessions to get the lowdown on The Media.  We are nervous of being misquoted, negative exposure and being trapped in our own stories. I can see my personal follow up story. Poor woman speaks eloquently is also into nude selfies, practices witchcraft and is found to be a benefits cheat to boot…

Most of the above is untrue.

Media training turned out to be informative, practical and at times out of my comfort zone.  Seeing myself in a practice interview I look decidedly odd, twitchy and lopsided.  We learned how to formulate our messages.  How to deliver in print, radio, TV and on social media. Different journalists came in to discuss their working lives.  

Women on the margins do have something to say about the impact of social policy decisions on our daily lives.  Low income women are not homogenous, we are complex, real people. We have the right to question those who govern us at the very least.

The media does influence public opinion.  I finished the course feeling more confident, and empowered. Rather than hiding, feeling powerless and shamed.  Knowledge is power, which can be used to tell our stories to illustrate hidden truths in our lives.

by Sandra Jacobs

Job Centre Blues

Written by The Skills Network on .

Jobcentre Bluesby Hazel Emmons

‘Go to the job centre!’ the government say
‘We will get you a job right away!
Doesn’t matter what you can do
We will make sure, you get through!’
What a load of crap
Bullshit and lies
Hopeful that the people
Have closed eyes
Closed ears
Closed minds
Of course no brain
They won’t realise
What the system has to gain


Cheap labour
Low wages
Working people
From all ages

Can’t let them progress, never become wealthy
For the rich
That just isn’t healthy
Need to keep them
Where they belong
Plodding on

Tell all the masses about the workless scum
Tell all the masses about the benefit bum
Got to set them against each other
Father son daughter mother

After all
We are the United Kingdom
Free speech for all

But never your freedom.


In The System

Written by The Skills Network on .

’The Job Centre puts everyone in the same group - but they have different circumstances... 

For Level  3  child care - I need to work 150 hours for free,  as soon as I do this I’m qualified. But if I do more than 15 volunteer hours a week they cut off my money so then what do I live on?

I do 2 hours a week admin for Skills Network - that’s 12 pounds an hour, 24 pounds a day. 

My Job Seekers’ allowance is £60 a week. But  I’m not allowed to earn - so they deduct  £19 for each day at Skills. So I make £5 per day.

If I do 15 hours a week for free I still get 60 quid a week. So I have to be in the system for longer though I don’t want to be in the system. 

I’ve been going to the Job Centre for 4 years. I have no qualification. 

I stopped for 3 months to do a cleaning job. I earned £600 - £700 per month but I had to pay travel and a fiver for each of my children to stay on after school. I stopped because they wanted more hours and I couldn’t.

But I have to look for work, I’m looking for part-time, because I want to carry on with Skills Network, I want to work one day a week at Skills. And do  unpaid creche work there.

I have to go to the Work Programme,  they have these meetings about finding work, you get a text message sent to you at 5 pm saying ‘‘you have to turn up the next day at whatever time, or we will tell the Job Centre you haven’t shown up.’’

I’m supposed to apply for 20 jobs a week.

Me, personally, I can’t do interviews.... I’m frightened.. since I have started CDG [Careers Development Group -a  careers services based in Brixton] I said I needed mock interviews. If I have to do a presentation  I get bellyache and diarrhoea. Pisses me off, if I have told them why I struggle, why don’t they help?

I can understand why they want people working but sometimes they just have to look at the different circumstances. I’ve said:  ‘Find me a job in a shop,  stacking shelves, cleaning the floor... So long as I can drop my children at school... 9.30 start - if it ends at 5 I’ll manage.’’

But never let go of your goal.  I want to have my own creche.

I’ve done the cleaning, done the housekeeping.  I have a yellow card. I wanted a green appointment card, he’s telling me ‘‘watch my attitude’’ And the security guard. Sometimes you’ve just had enough of these people. I’m in the system, you just have to do what they say.

Skills Network creche will run till May. My goal is: finish my 100 hours.  By September I want to have my Level 3 qualification.  In a year I want to see myself working for myself. I don’t think they want people with ambitions. Because they are stuck there all day doing this job they don’t want anyone else to have it better.

I saw this one job last night, wish I had the qualification. A support worker between families and prisoners. The money wasn’t great but I know how the prison system works, it’s  so corrupted, there’s no support for women who have kids...

My kids’ dad was got for drink driving,  you don’t know what to say to the kids, all the emotion and distress. I was rushed into hospital Monday...  I had reflux, really I was in so much pain, they just called the ambulance, it was  caused by stress and anxiety.  

I said, ‘I haven’t got time to be in this hospital bed, I  need to get home to go to my kids.’  It’s the first time I  got taken into hospital, I  haven’t got time to be sick.

My kids are T---- 12, D---- 10 and J---- 8.

I had T____ at the age of 15, I  found it hard, there was no one who understood me,  I was under age and people look at you, weird, like....... is a kid having a kid?

I don’t think I did a bad job. People are very judgmental. I would like to run something to teach young mums ‘not all services are like that’.

I’ve got white hairs but its what you feel like inside.’’ 


Feminist in the Babyroom

Written by The Skills Network on .

“I love working with children.”  That’s a good answer to the question why do you want to work with children?  Isn’t it?  I don’t think so.   It says something but it means nothing.  Enjoying the company all day of children is essential.  Loving children but not wanting to be with them all the time is something many mothers experience

Women (it is still largely) who work with young children are hugely important .  Kind, caring, engaging early years practitioners do have an influence and power.  The power to effect change.  It’s a tough one, what to do?  Work towards positive change for the good of the next generation?  Or eat hobnobs whilst watching the X factor.  Girls need to understand as a group, women are powerful – yet we have our differences.  Diversity is good.  I’m going to say a nasty word  - ‘politics’ – yes to make a change you will need to actually do something – put down that hob nob and join the union.  We sometimes forget too easily – rights can be taken away.    It’s less than a hundred years since women have been able to vote in the UK.

I’ll finish with that old chestnut:  I’m not a feminist, but...

‘’You are the parent, you know what’s best...’’ (the professional mantra…)

Written by The Skills Network on .


If I’m the parent who knows and understands my child with the best intentions that love can guarantee, let me care for my child, find the best school for him, give him what he needs. 

Yes, I need help to do this - is there a caring society to help me? 

Help me by finding the professionals who will support his progress.

Help me by giving me information, methods and techniques.

Help me by demonstrating acceptance, understanding and compassion

Help me by actually caring about his future.

Do not make me beg or fight for everything my child needs. Even though I will beg and fight - ferociously. 

So much is changing with vague detail of what the end result will be: each council making its own rules. Do you know our fear, the ones who have seen shifts and changes in policy only unveiling another fight, another hoop to jump through? The fear, will we achieve our goal, the best for our child? 

Autistic children bring to family life an element you could not fathom or imagine

My fear is for the unknowing family of the undiagnosed child, ignorant of the child’s condition, without information, without specialist help, how will he progress? 

Be careful: autism in a family can overwhelm you, isolate you, dominate every fibre of your existence

Does society care? Do you share my love for him even though he is of no use to you? 

Do you see his worth or do you see him as a bad investment?

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