Northern Ireland

'The days of saving and spending are over'

Patrick fears impending cuts will have a double impact on him
Image caption Patrick fears impending cuts will have a double impact on him

Patrick Taggart is 55 and has been unemployed for two and a half years.

After 35 years working as a nurse, he was made redundant from the Ulster Hospital in March 2008 and has been unable to find another job since.

Despite losing his job, Patrick felt that his service of three and a half decades meant he would get a job straight away.

Patrick Taggart worked for the health service for more than three and a half decades.

When he lost his job, he felt that he would get a job straight away.

'Redundant'

The intervening period has changed his attitude dramatically. Whereas once his skills seemed indispensable, now he feels redundant in more ways than one.

"If I was being honest, I would have to say that I don't really believe that I will ever work as a nurse again.

"When I started, there were quite a few jobs around in the health service and not that many people who were qualified to take them.

"Now it is the opposite. There are only a handful of jobs and a lot of people going for every single one of them."

Patrick was a particularly unlucky victim of the recession. While many of those who have lost their jobs have somehow struggled to keep a roof over their head, Patrick was unable to hold on to his home.

He was forced to throw himself at the mercy of his local Housing Association and considers it fortunate to find himself in accomodation which he describes as simple but comfortable.

'Double impact'

While the past years have been traumatic, Patrick was looking forward to a relatively stable short-term future.

Even if the days when he was able to spend and save at the same time are gone, at least he knew that he had a guaranteed income to meet his everyday needs.

Now, the talk of cuts have got him worried again, fearing that he will face a "double impact".

On the one hand, shutting off his route back to work through a public sector recrutiment freeze, while on the other, potentially reducing the social protection on which he is dependent.

"I think benefits are going to get absolutely hammered. From what I have heard the chancellor saying so far, then if you are sick, you had better start watching your back."

Patrick's fears are mixed with anger about the source of the current problems.

"If the government had not squandered a lot of the money it had, then we would not be in this position now.

"Now that we are there, we should be getting back every penny from the banks.

"The bankers are going on, earning big bonuses, while ordinary people are struggling to pay the bills."

And for Patrick, it is a struggle enough without worrying about whether his welfare money will be reduced.

"I can honestly say that it is tight enough as it is. Any less, and the only thing I will be looking forward to is the breadline."