I have been a single parent to my eight year old daughter since she was born; we live just outside of Birmingham, in Worcestershire.
I currently work part-time as a social worker. I used to work full-time until September, but now I work three days per week. I had to drop down to part-time because I needed to take care of my daughter due to her additional needs. This means that I have taken a pay cut from £28,000 per year to £18,000 per year. I currently receive Universal credit and child benefits. I took six months off work to be with my daughter. For three months I was paid a full salary, and for the other three months I was only paid half of my salary, so I had to apply for Universal Credit. It has helped a little bit. The process could be a little quicker, but I haven’t really experienced any problems with it so far.
I don’t have the money to buy things outright, primarily because I am unable to save money. I’ve had to buy my fridge freezer from ‘Very’, which means that I do have to pay interest on this. I can’t afford to pay my car insurance outright, so I pay for this on a monthly basis (which works out more expensive). Likewise, I finance my car because I didn’t have the money to buy one and I needed a car for work. Before I moved to be closer to work, I used to travel sixty miles a day for work, which also meant that my daughter had longer days.
I previously had to take out a pay day loan when I had a car accident, and my excess was £400, which I could not afford. I asked family for help, but they too were unable to afford it, so I had to go to a payday lender. I am still paying it off now, and I pay what I can afford.
Our energy provider often estimates our energy costs based on a family of four – which is ridiculous as it’s just me and my daughter. We’re hardly ever home, apart from in the evening. I’ve managed to negotiate the costs with them sometimes but this can prove quite difficult. Some energy companies do offer a hardship fund scheme, but they fail to advertise this properly and widely.