This Virtual World we live in.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to understand how much control we hand over to others, often within even knowing that we are doing it.

My first lesson came when a friend came to me, a man that three years ago, had a great job a great salary, he prided himself on having savings, his system of always having enough money in his current account to cover at least six months living expenses, he knew he was lucky, but worked hard for it. Twenty two months ago, within three a week both he and his wife lost their jobs, therefore both their company cars etc. his saving meant that the safety net which he had paid into, the benefits system was not available to him, he lived off his savings, and they reduced to nothing, he knew he had to reduce his overheads, put his home on the market, no takers meant he had to service the mortgage to provide the roof over his three children’s heads, From being the Marketing Manager, he recently got a job at a firm that distributes clothes for M & S his job is repacking returns although it is a night shift, it is via agency so gets minimum wage. Speaking to him, he said the toughest two parts was losing documents, letters and photographs of his Children, and getting a county court judgement, then a charging order on his home.

I wondered how this could happen, and please read on, it is frighteningly simple. First of all, it signed upto a secure online cloud service, his data would be saved on servers in different parts of the world, for a fee of just £36 per quarter, it was nothing when he was working, but when the choice was to bounce the DD and feed the children or pay it, he fed his children, he choose the latter, they blocked access to his account added an admin fee of £25 and gave hime 28 days to pay, it couldn’t do it, a further 28 days and they closed it completely. So let this be a lesson, with the Cloud, Please make sure you have local copies.

The second part of his story is that eight weeks before suddenly being made unemployed he joined a gym £36 per month, four months after being made unemployed he tried to cancel, the firm said no, he cancelled the DD. The firm issued demand after demand for the sum of the remaining 7 months, adding £14 per letter to his account, then debt collector started calling, adding £55 a time, the bill was now over £700, The county court issued a Judgement in favour of the gym, of course, he could not pay the now £1100 bill after court & solicitors costs, so the firm that acquired the debt from the Gym, has now managed to secure it with a charging order on his home. I asked him why he did not just ask me for the money, and he just said, pride gets in the way, the Government tell you that because you are not working you are a scrounger, that there is work out there, and you begin to doubt if you are trying hard enough, doing enough. 

The second lesson, far less important some might think but it is about trust, so many of us use Social Media, Facebook, Twitter etc, as well as many others, we allow these organisation access to us, we set our privacy settings to such as we feel comfortable, so why is it when they “update” or change their terms etc, they are not forced to meet the minimum requirements we have set. If we don’t want an application posting on our timeline today, we do not want them doing it tomorrow because they have changed something their end. If they want to change fine, let us know, trust us like we trust them, let us decide, do not assume on our behalf.

The vast majority of people are good decent people, so often harding working is added to those words, but being out of work does not mean that you are not good, that you are not decent.

I see first hand poverty, be it child, food or fuel it is all related, the cut-backs in funding for the Citizens Advice Bureaus http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/  @CitizensAdvice who do superb work, and whose people across the country work tirelessly and so professionally is making it worse, people have fewer options, if you get a letter taking you to court in 14 days but can’t get a CAB appointment for 20 days then it is no help. 

So we live in a virtual world, a world where we can communicate with anyone, yet more people are lonely, and people are still too proud to ask a friend for help. Let’s not forget the real world, and those living in it.

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CSL – John Kirby

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