I have always worked full-time up until I had my son at age 32. I was made homeless when he was barely eight months old when my marriage broke down as a result of domestic abuse. We spent a year living in a women’s refuge before being allocated a three bed flat in an undesirable area.
My ex-husband changed the locks so I was unable to access any of my white goods or furniture from our previous home. The only belongings I received were the ones he chose to return to me. I had to run up debts in order to furnish our new home, which was literally an empty shell in need of total redecoration, carpets, furniture etc. He fought me for two years through the courts to gain overnight access to my son. He ended up paying the minimum of child support through the Child Support Agency.
I spent just over a year on income support while I got us back on our feet before returning to work part-time when my son was just two years old.
The introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ forced me to uproot us once again, timed with my son’s school application; I chose to move back to the town we had left in order to get him in to my preferred choice of school. There wasn’t any social housing available so I was forced to rent privately at a cost of £595 a month. The local housing allowance for a two bed property is nowhere near that. I get between £65 and £72 a week depending on whether I work 18 or 21 hours a week.
My son is now six and in year two of primary school. I have to pay for after school and holiday clubs for him while I’m at work so the extra childcare the government is going to introduce is not relevant and will not make me better off.
I am totally reliant on the tax credits that I currently receive. I get more in tax credits than I currently earn in a month, but I am still struggling to keep up with the bills. I live off credit cards, and have also had to purchase a replacement car on finance in order to get to work after my last one got beyond repair.
I am not extravagant; I shop in Aldi, Primark and other low budget stores. My son grows at an alarming rate and regularly needs new clothes and shoes. I literally have to think about every single penny I spend and constantly worry about being able to make more money to ensure we have a roof over our heads, a home that is warm and not damp, and clothes on our backs and food on the table.
I am in the final year of an Open University degree and eventually plan on returning to work full-time, but I am also aware that for every extra £1 I earn I will lose money from my housing benefit and tax credits, but have the increased cost of additional childcare. It seems that the only way out of poverty for single parents is finding a partner to share the burden, which seems ridiculous!
I have already written to my MP when the cuts were first announced to implore him to work on our behalf, but just received a standard reply about the living wage and free childcare places, which don’t apply to me.
If the cuts go ahead, I won’t be able to maintain my current outgoings. If I have the car re-possessed, I won’t be able to get to work so I’ll lose my job, end up back on income support with the council paying my rent. Or possibly homeless again. I’ve already gone back on the social housing register to bid for properties that rarely come up in this town, but in the hope I might be able to find more affordable rent. I don’t want to end up in an area that is anti-social and unsafe for my son. I may sound like a snob, but its circumstances beyond our control that have led me to hit rock bottom. I for one, am desperately trying to claw my way up again and raise my son as best as I can.
If I could have one wish it would be for my MP to spend a day in the life of one of us! Hard working people like me will never be able to improve our situation without support, which I thought was the whole purpose of the welfare state…