Parenting

I earn £1,568 a month but rely on benefits – they’re not enough


My life is an endless struggle that often keeps me awake at night (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

I work full-time, in finance. I earn more than minimum wageI should be able to live comfortably within my means.

But the harsh truth is, a full-time wage is no longer enough to meet my current living expenses. 

My gas and electric bills have already tripled since the pandemic and are due to go up again. My rent has gone up, and I’ve received notice that my council tax, broadband, mobile and water bills are all increasing their fees too. I am also paying off a car loan that I took out years ago.

This is my life. An endless, uphill struggle that often keeps me awake at night.

I began facing financial difficulties around 18 months ago. I had no savings to speak of as I’d used all of them while on furlough in 2020, and I was only working part-time. 

And when the price of gas and electricity, not to mention general living costs, all went through the roof, I’d had to tighten my belt.

Desperate, I phoned the Universal Credit team to look into training courses to help me advance in work. They put me through to the Jobcentre, who told me the only course they offered was a basic level maths course – less than what I got at GCSE.

And though I was informed Jobcentres in other areas did management courses I was told it was something unavailable to me. ‘Why can’t every council offer the same?’ I thought. It was baffling.

Then eight months ago, I accepted a full-time job with amazing potential for advancement. l thought it would end my financial difficulties but transitioning to full-time work has only put me further into a financial deficit.

One of my major outgoings became childcare. It has to be paid a month in advance but when I asked the team at Universal Credit for an advance, I learned I was not eligible – because I worked.

Despite working and paying taxes, I’ve been rejected from so many properties when looking for a house to rent

I ended up paying for two months of childcare for my son, six, before getting my first full-time wage. In order to do this, I had to stop paying my priority bills and I have been playing catch up ever since.

Fuel is another big cost. For the first three months of my job I had to travel every day for training; I figured if I could just about manage that and could then transfer to hybrid working to cut costs. I’ve done exactly that, but I’m now in arrears from not being able to pay bills while I prioritised getting to work.

As I earn around £1,568 per month after tax, I am classed as a ‘low-income, single person household’, which means I still have to be topped up by Universal Credit. I receive £300 per month and £24 per week in Child Benefit.

But there is a huge stigma around receiving benefits. So despite working and paying taxes, I’ve been rejected from so many properties when looking for a house to rent and all because I get Universal Credit. 

Then, when I first started working full-time, the Jobcentre kept making appointments for me to attend – it was humiliating having to ask for a day off to go.

Luckily, my current employers were really good about it and they allowed me the time off but I was only ever there for a grand total of 30 seconds. All they wanted to know was why my previous wage was lower – something I had already written in my digital journal.

Yet if I didn’t go to talk to them in person, I was threatened with having my Universal Credit stopped.

I’m doing everything I can, but I feel trapped in an endless cycle I can’t see ending anytime soon

If that’s not enough, you are also penalised by Universal Credit for working. I’d already discovered that you cannot get any advances/loans in emergencies when you work as you’re deemed not to be struggling. But I was.

After all this, I would still feel too embarrassed to go into my office and admit the truth to my colleagues and boss.

I have done everything in my power to try and better my situation. I’ve also been simply waiting for things to get better, but they don’t.

I’m a single parent doing everything I can, but I feel trapped in an endless cycle I can’t see ending anytime soon.

On days I work from home, I stay cold because I cannot afford to put the heating on and only do it when my child is in the house. I am forever juggling and setting up payment plans and am left with barely anything with which to brave the supermarkets – I often rely on credit cards for the food shop, which just isn’t sustainable.

I end up sitting crying in frustration because I feel nothing I do is ever good enough. 

And then, Changing Realities came into my life.



Changing Realities

Roxy takes part in the Changing Realities project, working with over 100 parents and carers across the UK and the University of York to document life on a low-income and push for change.

I discovered the research project through my son’s school who sent out a letter with information about it at a time when I was actively looking for support. I learned that Changing Realities facilitate monthly meetings where I could speak to other people in my situation and it’s been amazing.

I used to feel so alone in my struggles, but it helps to know you’re not the only one. 

Now all we need is real, long-term change and with a general election this year, I’d like to see some steps being taken.

Personally, I’d love to see universal free school meals provided for all children, whether parents are working or not, and a change to Universal Credit: childcare funding should be paid directly to the childcare provider, leaving parents to simply pay the remainder.

If these two measures were in place, life would be so much easier for parents like me. It would not only provide peace of mind to know that we could afford childcare (particularly in the summer holidays when in the past my only option has been to stop paying bills), but that we could at least guarantee our children one hot meal a day.

Otherwise, my only hope is a number of promotions in my job to earn more.

I want to work and I want personal development. But no one should be struggling the way I seem to be at the moment – there has to be an end to this.

Roxy’s story was originally published in March 2024

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.


MORE : Are you more likely to be successful if you’re born on this specific date?


MORE : Could the UK learn from the world’s happiest country when it comes to work-life balance?


MORE : I’m stepping out of my comfort zone before Paris 2024 – my final Olympics





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.