Friday, 4 October 2013

Back At College

These are the views of the author and not those of Fixers 

I am currently in my forth week at Leeds Technology College where I have enrolled on a level two media course which will last a year. Deciding to go back into education was a choice made when I became disillusioned with the lack of support from my Work Programme advisors at Ingeus. This means the lengthy transition off unemployment benefits has passed and will be a distant memory for me when I get busy with my college assignments.

The building where I am studying media is great because it is very close to two top venues in Leeds: First Direct Arena and O2 Academy. Sometimes I wear my Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Tour t-shirt around college and it makes people ask if I went tothat gig at Leeds Arena because they want to know what the place looks like inside. I want to work in music because I would like to find an under the radar artist with the potential to be on par with my hero Bruce so I could promote them in order to make the world a better place.

My main goal is to find full time employment in a career where I will be happy and can contribute a lot to society. If I find this job before my current course finishes then great, but if that does not happen then I can always take the level three journalism course which will keep me at college for two more years. This means a minimum three year break from places like Ingeus which I don’t want to step foot in again if I can help it.

The advice I want to give to people with Asperger’s who are on the dole and have the same circumstances that I was in is get yourselves back to college. Until Work Programme providers can create jobs for the people they’re supposed to help into employment then they will continue to let down the unfortunate people under their so called professional guidance. With regret I can’t give this piece of advice to other people in different circumstances to me because it’s not my place to do so.

Currently I am enjoying life thanks to having great family and friends around me. Without them I probably would not have even considered going back into education and thrown the towel in years ago. I’m convinced that this is the turning point for me where things will turn out alright. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Greetings my name’s Damon Cooper, aged 22, I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I’m currently residing in my home city of Leeds.  The situation I’m dealing with at the moment is unemployment; the career that I’m seriously pursuing is in the creative industries.  Currently I’m still at the job centre every fortnight and on the verge of participating in the work programme which I’m finding very daunting indeed.  
Looking back at my years of long term unemployment it has being difficult for me to find a job because I’ve had no focus or guidance into employment.  My advisors at the job centre always told me to apply for as many jobs as possible and I might just get lucky.  Going by that logic I could buy a lottery ticket and I might become a millionaire if I choose the right numbers.  But very few of the long term unemployed get lucky in finding jobs the way the job centre wants you to find them.  It’s alright for them though because if you have over a million youths looking for a job then the probability is that some of them will find a job.  
For those that do manage to find a job this way, their story gets sensationalised as an example of why the system is the right way to go about things. Meanwhile the unlucky ones struggle on because no one wants to hear about failure.

Experiencing long term unemployment has at times left me struggling to deal with the realities of day to day life. At my lowest ebb I’ve vowed to never apply for jobs again because life is too short to be wasting time on organisations that aren’t the least bit interested in my plight to try and earn a living.  Above all I felt abandoned by a society that was leaving me to out to dry on the benefit trap lifestyle which isn’t something I ever expected to experience. School taught me a good work ethic and it was frustrating when I couldn’t channel that into anything constructive whilst looking for employment.  It’s not the working world our kids today need to be more prepared for, it’s the world of long term unemployment.

Way back in 2009 I was bluntly addressed by a disability mentor that I’d never attain experience in the creative industries because I didn’t have relevant university qualifications.  Since that hurtful encounter I’ve appeared on BBC Radio Leeds twice, had my podcast idea endorsed by a senior politician and BBC Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank has even seen my work.  In the past year I’ve found myself becoming more at ease, gradually working my way up into the of the creative industries which has allowed me to showcase my talent for writing.  Because of my focus and the guidance I’ve been getting, I hope I’m now on the verge of doing very well indeed.

Picture: Damon Cooper