Geeks Vs Loneliness: getting help whilst unemployed

A few ways to get help and support if you're looking for work...

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we try and offer help, thoughts, support and a dose of just giving a shit for those of us going through difficult times at the moment. No miracle cures are ever promised, but hopefully over the course of this series, you find something of some use to you.

This week, we’re handing over to the mighty Craig Thomas, who wants a chat about unemployment…

Unemployment is hard work. Seriously. The idea of having all the time in the world is something of which most of us dream. However, coupled with a very limited income, it quickly becomes like a perpetual bank holiday weekend, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, even if you want to.

Then there’s the social stigma and emotional pressure that emanates, intentionally or not, from every angle (friends, family, Job Centre, but most of all, yourself), not to mention the isolation and loneliness that can result. All of which gets worse as time goes on, making finding a job feel ever more daunting and impossible.

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So, it is important to take care of yourself, and allow yourself a little break now and again. Whilst the below isn’t a magic pill to fix everything, hopefully some of the tips and concessions below will help to reduce the pressure during this time.

Yes, this can be a double-edge sword. Yes, cheap things are generally better, but not necessarily of much use if you have no money to begin with. Still, these are some things you might want to take advantage of, if you can, whether long-term unemployed or having just left your job.

It’s worth noting that pretty much everywhere you go to claim a concession will require some form of proof of eligibility. Each place will have different requirements, and it is recommended to check ahead of time. For most places a combination of ID, proof of address and some from documentation (such as a letter) showing the claiming of unemployment benefit will be sufficient.

Eye Tests

This is one you might already know about, but is worth mentioning just in case.

There are a number of reasons you may be eligible for a free (read: NHS-funded) eye test, and claiming some form unemployment benefit is one of them (as with all these things check your eligibility beforehand).

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If you’re put off by the idea of needing to fork out for a new pair of glasses, don’t worry as there is no obligation to purchase after such a test.

However, you are also likely to be eligible for an NHS optical voucher for glasses (but, as always, ask to make sure). This can used to cover the entire or partial cost of a new pair of glasses, although it may vary depending on which optician you visit.

There’s also no obligation to get your glasses and eye test on the same day, or even in the same store. So it might be worthwhile shopping around for the best deal. They can often be used with existing deals. So in some places you can use the voucher along with a two-for-one deal and get a second pair, or even a pair of prescription sunglasses for free!

Doctor’s Prescriptions

Whilst a visit to the doctor is free, unless you are fortunate to live in Scotland or Wales prescriptions from the doctor come at a charge. So the temptation can be to ignore those medical conditions until it is impossible to do so.

However, again, if you are unemployed you can avoid this charge and get a free NHS prescription. So there’s no need to let financial limitations prevent you from getting medical assistance.

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This is particularly important if your unemployment (long or short term) are causing you emotional or mental health issues, which may be making your situation worse.

Gym Memberships

Keeping healthy and active is a good idea in general, and particularly important to keep in mind if you spend most of your time with nowhere to go.

Whilst it can be expensive to join a gym, it is always worth checking the website to see if they have an unemployed concession. Whilst this is not always the case with private gyms (though some of the “no frills” gyms offer a low monthly charge anyway), your local leisure centre likely offers a discounted rate.

The precise discount, and facilities available, will vary, but it can be considerably cheaper.

There will also be further discounts depending on your payment plan. For example, setting up a no-contract direct debit is often the cheaper than paying cash, and a long-term contract is usually cheaper again. Though of course make sure you are able to commit to future payments if you are signing up to a long-term contract.

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Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card

This is the Job Centre’s best keep secret. So secret in fact, a lot of their staff aren’t even aware of it. I’ve asked for one and been met with blank stares, and also been told they have been discontinued, despite having used one to get there.

So you might need to be a bit persistent (but, of course, polite) when requesting this from the Job Centre. It will also likely require you to go for another appointment to get it sorted.

It is also worth nothing that you must have been unemployed for three months to become eligible for a pass.

But is it worth it. Believe.

Whilst you will need two passport photos (my local post office has a booth that charge £4 for four photos), this will provide you with approximately half-price travel on most public transport, both buses and trains. For those living in London, it can also be added to your Oyster Card for discounted fairs.

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Whilst it isn’t eligible for long-distance coaches and the such, it can save you a lot of money and make going somewhere less burdensome, both for appointments, interviews, and travelling in general.

I must admit I’ve had some issues on buses with these, as the drivers aren’t 100% sure what ticket to issue (on Stagecoach it is called a “Back On Board” and only comes in a single, not return), but this has reduced the more I use it.

Some more information can be found here: is not unique to the unemployed, but it is always worth espousing the benefits of the local library. Not just a place for free access to computers and the internet, they also store books! Loads of them. Which you can borrow. For free!I kid, but this is a brilliant resource, and something well worth taking advantage of. If you need guidance on how to write a CV, there’s a book for that. If you want to learn simple, cheap meals, there’s a book for that. And if they don’t have it, simply put in a request at the front desk and the lovely people of the library will try their best to get you a copy (sometimes borrowing from outside the local area, or buying a brand new copy outright). There may occasionally be a deposit, but you get that back when you return the book.Other ConcessionsWhilst the above can be helpful stress relievers for those on a limited income, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Many cinemas (particularly local ones) offer unemployed concessions, as do numerous attractions, exhibitions, theatres, even some football clubs.Of course, even with such concessions it can be expensive to go, but if you do find you want to go somewhere or do something (whether it is listed here or not) a bit of research can save you a significant amount of money.As I said at the beginning this is not some kind of magical solution to all your issues (unemployment is more than just a lack of job and money), but hopefully this can help you get out and about a little more, which can make life a little easier whilst looking for that job.Thanks, as always, for reading.