7 Sep 2012

‘I don’t want to go back to benefits’

C4 Class of 2012: Unemployed for years, Kealy has struggled to find a job that pays for the basics and childcare for two children. But running a pop-up shop for a day could be a new beginning.

Before the last four years, I had been working since I was 14: as an extra in a film, at McDonald’s, at the Disney Store and at American Apparel. I also did an internship at a charity for a few months to build up my experience. At the time I loved working at McDonalds – I was making my own money.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed lots of friends being made redundant and losing their jobs. The current situation is really difficult. When I had just one kid I would look for jobs that matched my benefits. Then I got pregnant again. It’s much harder to find a job that covers bills and childcare when you have two children.

When I’m job-hunting I look on the internet, but I only apply to something if I think it’s perfect for me and if I have a chance to be honest. A lot of the jobs that I want, even if I have experience, I don’t have the qualifications. It’s so hard to find one that I’m qualified for – and one that has flexible hours that I need because of my kids.

I would like to see subsidised childcare. I’m sure there’s been initiatives in other countries that give parents a lower rate of childcare. That really helps parents get back to work, and that puts money back into the economy. I know they do tax credits, but really and truly it’s not enough.

Read more: Channel 4 investigates how to create jobs for the Class of 2012 with a live panel debate.

I was recruited as a Battlefront campaigner in April. My mentor, James Caan (Dragon’s Den judge) set me a mission to run a pop-up shop from scratch. I was given £150 for everything. Most of that was spent on bow-ties – I managed to wangle the loan of the space for free we made packaging for our products from pizza and take-away boxes. The T-shirts were from Katie (unemployed volunteer) and Lamar (another volunteer) also contributed some of the stock. In the end I made a profit of just under 50 per cent. Not bad for a first timer.

It’s been crazy organising it all, but it’s been amazing. It’s great that I’m setting a good example to my kids. I want them to see me being proactive and working. I don’t want to go back to benefits.

Obviously my dream job would be travelling the world as a musician. I got a Btech in music at College. But I would also like to be in fashion, setting up a chain of clothes shops. It’s ambitious but it can be done.

Battlefront is Channel 4’s award-winning youth campaigning series. Read more about Kealy on her blog and follow this link to support the campaign.