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No qualifications, no experience - where do I start?

(18 Posts)
SingingSilver Tue 28-May-13 21:26:59

I worked right up until the day before I was induced with DS, but I haven't worked since - and he's 16 now. I am going to have to return to the world of employment soon and I'm terrified!

Ex-DH and I agreed that I would be a SAHM until DS started primary school. But he left us shortly after DS started school, and also went to great lengths to protect his money. DS and I moved into a council house and I claimed Income Support, etc. He has never supported our DS.

I had no support system as my parents had both passed away, I wasn't close (either emotionally or geographically) to my siblings and had lost contact with my friends. I was having a lot of issues with DS and felt very isolated. I did attempt to start an OU course but they insisted tutorial meetings were mandatory, and my son suffered a lot with separation anxiety. I went to two tutorials and both times had to come home because he was vomiting and screaming for me. Ex-DH met a new partner who had never been able to have children, and they tried to obtain sole custody of DS, claiming I was unfit. After DS was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Tourettes they lost interest in him altogether but the whole episode left me depressed and anxious for a long time. DS was always so demanding that I've been totally single ever since ex-DH left.

DS has had very patchy school attendance and there was never really a time where I felt 'OK I can look for a part-time job now.' I was always on standby ready to go up to the school at a moments notice. This year, his final school year, has been the best. Now we're organising what he will do after the summer and it looks like - crossed fingers - I may be finally ready to go back to work, at 38.

But I have no qualifications except for two A Levels. The jobs I had were in waitressing, customer service, shop assistant work. I loved travelling so I used to have jobs I could drop at a moments notice. It was just before I found I was pregnant that I decided to get serious about a career (I wanted to train to be a dermatologist).

I feel completely lost. There are things I would like to do, but I have no money for training and I'm afraid of the future debt involved in things like OU courses. I'm pretty sure I could get supermarket checkout work, but could we live on that income? I don't even care about pursuing a career I would enjoy, it's more about finding out what I could do, or learn to do, to give us a decent income to live on. DS may be financially dependent on me for decades!

Rockchick1984 Wed 29-May-13 00:18:58

Have a look on the OU's financial assistance pages - as you presumably only have benefits coming in you should be able to do a qualification at a greatly reduced cost - potentially even at no cost. Speak to the job centre, they should offer free courses in basic IT, numeracy etc - even if you don't have any issues with things like this its worth getting the certificate for them so you have some sort of recent qualification.

With an OU degree, the student finance has changed fairly recently. You only have to start to repay tuition fee loans once you are earning over £25k per year. If you never earn over this, you never repay it, so it's not as difficult to repay them as it used to be, and once you are earning at that level it is automatically deducted from your wages so you don't need to stress about repaying it.

Do you receive carer's allowance for your DS? I think you can work up to 16 hours a week while claiming that. Is your DS still in full time education? If so you can claim working tax credits and child tax credits if you work 16 or more hours per week. If he has left education you need to work 30 hours per week to claim working tax credits. Have a play with a few different scenarios here and see what would put you in the best situation financially.

Even with some qualifications you are likely to need recent work experience to get a decent job, so my personal advice would be to get any free qualifications you feel would benefit you, get an entry level job, then do an OU degree so that you can get a better job in a few years. I know it is tough, but you have clearly dealt with a heck of a lot over the last 16 years, 12 months down the line and you will be looking back wondering why you were so scared smile

SingingSilver Wed 29-May-13 11:02:08

Thanks for your adviceand information Rockchick smile

I rang the OU this morning but now courses have to be paid for in full, unless the student has a diagnosed disability. A four year undergrad course would cost £20,000 for a student based in England, and I'm frightened of having that much debt hanging over my head. I did read that it wouldn't need to be paid back until future earnings were high enough, but what if they suddenly changed the rules? It seems to happen a fair bit these days!

It's a good idea to go back to the Jobcentre and ask about free courses. I had a work-focused interview about a year ago but the only advice I was given was to maintain the status quo - my DS on DLA, and me recieving CA. He said it was the best situation to be in and that I shouldn't 'rock the boat'. But I'll try again.

My DS will have a three day a week work placement at a company that specialises in helping autistic people train for vocational careers. I suppose that means child benefit will be stopped which is unfortunate as I will have to pay £45 a week to get him there and back. His DLA claim runs out in October too which is a worry. If he doesn't qualify for PIP and we lose that money and CA and CB I don't think I'd be able to afford his placement anymore. So that's my main motivation for needing to start work!

Salbertina Wed 29-May-13 12:23:41

You know i expected to read you had no GCSEs from your title!!
Slight confidence issue? Aiming a little low???
It would be worth getting degree debt if it only way to get you into a career you want?? Or careers with bursaries- check out nhs.

Salbertina Wed 29-May-13 12:27:50

I think with your direct and lengthy SN experience you would be VERY employable now in some council roles- support worker, specialist advisor etc and could work your wY up say in social work by studying p/t. Could well be they'd sponsor you after you'd proved yourself. Just a thought.

Thingymajigs Wed 29-May-13 12:38:26

You have a great opportunity to re-invent yourself here.
I am in a very similar situation as I expected to go back to work once ds1 was at school but a diagnosis of ASD and a few other things soon put a stop to that idea. My dcs are now 13 and 10 and I'm ready to get back to work. I was offered a degree course in sociology and I'm so glad I didn't saddle myself with that debt but if you are pretty sure that the degree would be a good investment then grab it with both hands.
Looking for work after a long break is very scary, I agree. Could you do as I have and look for voluntary work within an area that interests you? It is a lot less scary as there's usually no interview or pressure. I took a couple of voluntary jobs and one has suggested there will be a paid position opening up soon so some voluntary work can lead to a wage but the experience and references are pretty useful anyway.
Good luck!

SingingSilver Wed 29-May-13 14:52:40

I suppose I view life as pre-DS and post-DS. Post-DS I have no qualifications or work experience (except for the online Gutenberg library project which I doubt has any real life value). One of my A Levels is also useless now - it's a B grade in Italian language. I couldn't even have a basic conversation in Italian now, I haven't spoken it since I took my exams 20 years ago.

I actually really like the idea of working with people with special needs in a council job. Would it be a case of watching council recruitment websites for no-qualification jobs when they come up?

Salbertina Wed 29-May-13 15:24:49

Singing, so what? Guess most of us on here hold pre-dc qualifications... A -level shows a certain level of attainment, of intellectual application, of POTENTIAL! I have a French A level, as old as yours but no interviewer has ever tested me on it! It just ticks the educ level box at (much) higher than GCSE. Think you must convey this much more positively on any application form. Ditto experience- you don't have "no experience", you have extensive SN experience as well as woh experience from pre-dc

Council websites should show local jobs, also local paper.

SingingSilver Wed 29-May-13 17:21:16

Thank you smile

I'll start looking for courses through Jobcentre and voluntary work. Also driving lessons finally, while I can still afford them. I'll get onto those quickly before I lose my nerve again.

Salbertina Wed 29-May-13 18:42:02

Good for you smile

Thingymajigs Wed 29-May-13 19:52:23

Go for it! I never thought I'd pass my test due to anxiety but I passed on my second attempt aged 29 and my mum passed hers too not long afterwards aged 48.
Good luck!

Confused40 Fri 31-May-13 11:20:05

I would encourage you to look at university courses. I've just finished my second uni course as a mature student and absolutely loved it. You can work part-time whilst studying and this I think will give you a huge confidence boost.

Its not too late to apply through UCAS and you can get help with funding too.

This organisation gives advice on funding for courses.

If you already have A Levels you can apply as a mature student without qualifications. Life experience is counted and will really help you. I'm excited for you and really wish you well on your journey. I loved being at uni so much, made lots of friends, was around like minded people studying a subject I felt passionately about, and my social life was real fun too.

There will be lots of mature students, so please dont worry you'll be a minority.x

SingingSilver Sun 02-Jun-13 12:22:50

Thank you smile I didn't realise I had so many options open to me! I'm going to have to have a good think about what I'd like to do. Thank you for the grant link!

NaturalBlondeYeahRight Sun 02-Jun-13 12:29:41

We are the same age OP, retirement ages being what they are there is potential for another thirty year career here.....
Go for it, start with volunteering- it will boost your confidence.

SingingSilver Tue 04-Jun-13 16:31:11

I didn't think about it like that NaturalBlonde but you're right!

I have arranged to do some voluntary work at a charity shop in the summer holidays smile Haven't booked driving lessons yet, because I want to save up to book a block of 10 but I have made an opticians appointment which is a necessary part of the process! And I bought an online Microsoft Office course from Groupon to teach me about spreadsheets, etc. So little steps, but I'm more optimistic, thanks for all your advice and encouragement!

nomdesw2 Mon 01-Jul-13 04:33:00

You should be able to get 55hrs of free BSM lessons from the Family Fund (google them) if you act fast.....

SavoyCabbage Mon 01-Jul-13 05:01:50

You are only 38. And this is your time.

Buddy80 Wed 03-Jul-13 21:03:50

Hi, if you are looking to do a cheaper degree, have you thought of distance learning? That is the University of London, but there are also other universities who provide distance learning degrees.

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