I feel like I’m in a crisis.
I have just completed a five month work placement as a therapy assistant, and am trying hard to get back into work. I have been a single parent since 2012 to my son who is now nine years old, and we live in London. I’ve been getting interviews for jobs, but this is really difficult as a single parent because I can’t easily find affordable and available childcare. I’m really not happy on benefits, I want to work, but at the benefit office they just tell me to find any job. I don’t just want any job; I know what I want to do and just taking any job is often unsustainable. I’m from Pakistan and I worked there as a physiotherapist, but I’ve had a gap for ten years and now this means that I have to start over again as an assistant. There really isn’t any support for single parents. In fact, there is little to no flexible support from employers.
At the moment, I’m working as an outreach volunteer, and I am a Gingerbread peer group coordinator. I don’t want to ever bring my son to the benefits office with me, I feel very ashamed. After I walk him to school, I’m at home constantly thinking about what’s next – like providing food for him. After school I pick him up but when we’re both at home I’m just looking for interviews. Evenings seem very short of time, it’s really just dinner, study and sleep. I feel depressed. My son asks why I’m not playing with him but I just want him to go to bed so that I can think about jobs. There doesn’t seem to be much enjoyment because of my situation. It’s scary all the time.
I receive Jobseeker’s Allowance and child tax credits. Money is very tight and my financial situation is very stressful. People think benefits just go on the essential bills like electricity, but for me this is food. And then I have to think about bills that are due. At the end of the month I am lacking about £20-50. So then I get pulled into debt. I have to borrow money from friends. I’m embarrassed about this, it really does affect relationships. I can’t save money, and now my son is getting older he needs things that mean I have to spend more money. For example he needed new shoes for PE at school. I felt so bad. He didn’t want to go to school because his shoes had holes in them. Bringing up a child on benefits hurts me. I am trying to get a job but people don’t understand the struggle faced by single parents.
Travel passes are too expensive for me, so I sometimes get the bus but then walk back to save £1.50. I was on a monthly tariff for my electricity bill, but this was becoming too expensive so my provider said that I would need to switch to a prepayment meter. If I don’t have money, I don’t have electricity in my house. I’ve asked for my water bill to be switched to a meter because we don’t actually use that much but they told me that they cannot do this because I live on the top floor. I had previously taken a loan out from a payday lender – this was a big mistake – but when you have no other support it looks great and they give you so much support at first through the application process. The loan started off as £200 but by the end I was paying £400 back. I had another loan too which dragged me into debt because I took out £400 and again by the end I was paying £1000 back. I can’t get a credit card, because I’m still paying off the credit card used by my ex-partner, so my credit score is bad.
I’m always getting letters about owing money. I’m scared to open them so just throw them in the bin because I need to focus on finding a job at the moment.