We are going to continue on the topic of *not a single story. And today, we are addressing the problems of living in a rich country with a good welfare system.
If you’re sick long term, you get sick pay. If you’re pregnant, you get a year off after the baby is born. Can’t get a place for your child in a kindergarten? No problem. You get a support if your child stays at home. Having more kids? You get more money, because you get child support anyway. Need some aid like Braille displays, hearing aids, and a wheel chair? Just send in an application to the government. Need a free sex toy? Find the government application form online. Welcome to Norway!
No, that sex toy thing is real. I know you thought I was joking. So did I when I saw the application form for it as I was looking for an application form for a Victor Reader Stream, which, in case you don’t know, is a talking book and text book player which can record. Very handy for studying.
It all sounds great and it is. I certainly couldn’t afford a Braille display. And what about scree reader licenses? Unlimited secretarial support?So expensive! With regards to vibrators, I’d say they are in the affordable price range. So I don’t know what the government is playing at.
I’m grateful to live in a place where this type of support is available. But there is a flipside to living in this great welfare system. And it’s ugly.
I am due to finish my masters degree in November of this year. After that, the idea is that I’ll be working. I’m young, fit and have no excuse whatsoever not to work. I want to work! I was casually talking about this with another blind friend of mine. A girl who is doing her PHD and who has been through several rounds of getting a job. Like me, she is highly qualified and able to work.
“If I were you, I would apply to NAV for a placement,” she said. NAV being the state body responsible for all the good help Norwegians receive. The advice was well meant, but it made me reflect on the sorry attitude of this rich country I’m born in.
The idea of such a placement is that NAV gets you a job, hopefully in the field of your qualification, and pay for your salary. In my case, this could for instance mean that I got a job in a national newspaper or with the NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company. And instead of them paying my salary, they would be paid to have me working for them by NAV, who would also pay me.
You can choose to see this situation from many different angles. You could choose to see it as a positive way to prove yourself to a mainstream employer, who may, when your placement is over, employ you. Or a way to not be unemployed. But to me, the placement arrangement has more negative than positive aspects to it.
Firstly, I think it places the disabled person looking for work in a position of charity and gratitude. I’d be grateful to be taken on by a national newspaper, as would any self-respecting journalist, but being employed on the terms that it’s not really them employing me, but NAV placing me there is a different thing entirely.
Then, there is the proof aspect. I’ve written before about feeling that I, as a blind person, constantly need to prove myself to be as good and better than sighted journalists. If I was taken on as a placement employee, I would feel twice the pressure to prove myself so that the newspaper would take me off the placement and start paying me themselves, making me equal to the other employees. Journalism is a tough field where one constantly has to stay on top of the game to get the good jobs and gigs. And the added pressure would probably have me cracking at some point. It also doesn’t help that certain Norwegian editors have come out and said that disabled people can’t be journalists.
The placement arrangement could help change bad attitudes to disabled peoples by employers, but it’s easy for an employer not to take you seriously if they know you’re just there for a time and that you’re not even paid by them. Accepting a placement on those terms for me at least, would be equal to shitting on my professional reputation and qualification. Pardon my French.
I am not the only one sharing the above mentioned sentiments. I was discussing this with my fully sighted cousin yesterday who has been looking for a job for a long time. She finally found one, but it has taken her long, and she has not received the help needed by NAV in the form of job seekers allowance. She’s lived abroad for a few years and has worked. She’s even worked in Norway and paid taxes, but to no avail.
Acquiring the job she has now, was also not easy. Her employer wouldn’t employ her until she felt she could trust her because her previous employees had worked there for a short while, only to start claiming sick pay from NAV. They did not, according to this employer, seem sick.
I myself know people who are receiving sick pay and who’re not sick. I have also heard of people pretending to have lots of children to receive more money. And it has gone so far, that a term (å nave) translated as to NAV, has made it into the dictionary. This means to simply claim benefits for a time while enjoying life.
So there you have it. The welfare system that does help those in needs sometimes refuses to help others in need and fork out for some who doesn’t need help. The welfare system that give employers excuses not to employ disabled people who would be a great boost to the economy, and could as such, improve the welfare system so that the type of help needed, would be more widely available.
I for one, is adamant to try and make it a freelance writer and set up my own business. I want to keep my integrity as far as I can. Something I feel the Norwegian welfare system is not able to help me keep at present.
I do hope that one day, the system bwill be reformed so that those who have life long disabilities don’t have to prove every so often that they still have a missing legg (also a real example). That employment support, such as secretarial and assistive grants are being more focused on rather than placements for people who can and want to work and making it just that little harder for every Tom, Dick and Harry to claim to be sick without rigorous proof from a qualified doctor. But then, the doctors are writing out those sick notes, so perhaps they too need to be sanctioned if they can be proved to do favours for people who just need time off because they want it. I don’t know. And I’m not a politician for a reason.