I’m a single parent based in Gateshead and have two children: Alex, who’s twenty, and Max, who’s ten. We live in a two bedroom council property which is really overcrowded but we’ll be moving to a private property in December, which should give us a bit more space. I’m worried that the rent will be a bit tight, but it will all come down to the Universal Credit we receive.
After Max goes to school, the routine for the day depends on how I’m feeling as I have Bipolar. Currently, I’m taking a short course called Society Matters and volunteer as a receptionist for a few hours a day at the Citizens Advice Bureau, which has been a good experience for me. I’ll also be taking part in a wellbeing project with Mind next year.
From the £1,000 a month we receive through Universal Credit, £400 of that is spent on housing costs. I’ve had to use foodbanks in the past but things are a bit better now. At the moment, I’m okay but in general, money isn’t very good; it’s spent very quickly on essential things like food for the children. My mum is a great source of support for us, and sometimes I have to borrow money from my family to make it through the month.
My energy runs on a meter, and it’s very expensive. I feel like I’m constantly topping up my card. I have a free bus pass, but it’s a lot of hassle to constantly have to travel to the local shop to top-up, and to make sure that I have enough cash. I think there’s an app, but I have the most basic mobile phone that doesn’t let me install apps. I’d prefer to switch providers, but it’s impossible when you live in a council property. This might be something I can do when I move into a private house.
Because of my credit score, I’ve had to buy household items through BrightHouse. I pay £8 a fortnight for a TV which costs £1,000 – but they’ll be getting over £3,000 back. It’s frustrating – I’ve paid all of this money and it’s going nowhere. I’ve also had to use a Pay-As-You-Go carpet service that I found through Facebook. I don’t like these services at all. They’re rip-off merchants. I’d like them to not add interest and extra money on – to be honest, I’d like them to be shut down as you get a poor service and poor experience, but I also don’t know what I’d do without them.
I’ve used lenders like Provident and Morses Club. I once took an emergency loan from a doorstep lender when I was having a ‘high day’: I needed money desperately, but in the end, they ended the agreement and left me alone as mental health complaints are covered in their terms and conditions.