On Monday morning I was both excited and proud to be able to attend an in person meeting with my local MP accompanied by a team member from CPAG. This was a continuing part of the London lobby day earlier this year.
We took along with us a copy of the zine booklet and some other information about the Changing Realities programme, along with some local child poverty statistics for the area I live in provided by CPAG. In my mind he showed a good interest in the situation that families face.
He also has clear thoughts on what the Liberal Democrats would like to help change, for example, Free School Meals for all school age children and an end to the child benefit cap.
There were also longer term changes that he would like to push for including social tarifs for utility bills. I hope that with all of our efforts being involved in Changing Realities can help bring around change for families living on a low income. Every single MP or member of this government should be looking at the work we are all doing together to help bring about this change without delay. So hopefully all is not yet lost.
The dates for the next cost of living payments have been announced for those most in need. But as usual I am stuck in a position that leaves me with no help at all this winter. Claiming Legacy benefits which I receive as a single person despite having a school age child to support, I am not able to claim tax credits or income related benefits, so apart from child benefit we have to struggle with the little we do get that was also not increased in line with other benefits in April. The government needs to look at the situation urgently and make changes. My daughter and I will be forced to survive through winter without the use of heating or lighting and very little warm healthy food. I don't want charity and handouts I just want to be treated like a human being in a safe and fair society.
Certainly not, while the price of some things has gone back down a bit in price such as gas, electricity and fuel, there are still millions of families like mine that are going to have no choice but to leave the heating turned off this winter and stay cold in our own homes due to the cost. I am unable to afford to cook food on a daily basis, often having to eat cold meals instead that do not require the use of gas or electricity. In the shops the price of some foods has also come down slightly such as fruit and vegetables but again the cost of fresh fruit is still far too high to enable us to afford the recommended amount, also I am sure most people have noticed that apart from price increases in a lot of supermarket prices there has also been a reduction in the amount / size of package simply meaning another increase.
I also feel this has a larger effect on those receiving Legacy benefits that did not get any increase along with other benefits earlier in the year and also missed out on most cost of living payments. My situation on Legacy benefits means myself and my daughter are living on the same amount as we we were five years ago apart from the small increase in child benefit, with no help from my previous partner this is all we have to survive on. So simply, NO the cost of living crisis is not over and is yet a long way off. I am starting to lose hope that anything will change for low income families no matter what government is in place within my lifetime. Whenever there is a price increase in utility bills, internet connection, food or anything else it means I have to make more and more cutbacks in other areas to stay afloat.
It is not a case of if and when things will change, it is NOW that changes must be made in order for a fairer society where we can all have a reasonable standard of living, bring up our families to have the best possible start in life that is achievable and be in a situation to lift themselves out of a life of poverty.
The cost of living crisis is far from over. Just because the media portrays what it wants to does not mean it's true. The cost of petrol is going up to more than what it was at the peak. Gas and electric hasn't come down. No bills have come down. Everything's going up. My mobile phone bill, they went up 10%. That's not come down. Nothing's come down. Food shopping hasn't come down. Nothing. We're just having to survive any way we can. It's definitely not getting any better, if not worse. Nothing's changed.
It's been announced that King Charles is to receive an extra £40 millions pounds next year, how can this be justified when there are families unable to afford healthy food and school uniforms. We are struggling to keep ourselves safe and warm, but the government still will not increase child benefit or raise the level of benefits for the most vulnerable people in society. Things need to change so we can all have a decent standard of living.
This weeks Big question was a wake up call for me as I had completely forgotten the school holidays where fast approaching. This has always been a very difficult time since I became a single parent. Normally when my daughter is at school I turn everything off except the fridge and internet in order to keep the bills down, I eat very little, very basic food that does not require cooking and have not had a hot drink for months. (EXCEPT ON THE LOBBY DAY)
There are obviously additional costs for food etc. when my now 17 year old daughter is home from school but unfortunately during her secondry school years I have been unable to send her on school trips or activities due to the cost, she has sometimes got round this by offering to help out at after school netball club, etc so there is no charge for her to go. I did let her go to the end of year prom last year what was extremely stressful and caused a lot of anxiety as I had not realised what costs would be involved. Thanks to another participant when I mentioned this in one of the Zoom meetings I was told that some local theatre companys often hire out costume dresses at a reasonable cost. I will have to wait until the end of summer to let you know how this year goes as with the rising cost of living I simply do not have any additional money to make even the smallest of changes this summer except skip a few more meals for myself and cut down in other areas as much as possible. I fear there maybe worse yet to come.
Back to reality! I have just had a wonderful 2 days with researchers and participants of the project in London for the lobby day. I didn't have a care in the world and felt I was truly among friends. It really did not feel that I was meeting people for the first time. When I returned home, it seemed to come to a sudden end, bills on the doormat, a lack of food in the fridge and no milk for a nice cup of tea. I am so grateful to be able to be a part of this magnificent project, when I look back now I feel joining this project was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Never before have I sat in a lovely cafe as an adult making zines, it looked a bit like the corner of a nursery with a table full of paper scraps, glue sticks, scissors and pens, but not a child in sight. How wonderful this felt and gave inspiration. The project has helped me build my confidence, realise that I am not the only single parent that is facing these types of problems, worries and difficulties, also it has had a huge effect on the lives of my daughter and myself both mentally and physically. Keep up the good work all in fighting for change. I look forward to working with you all in the future and hopefully meeting you all again soon.
I recently received my PIP review form through the post, and all of the feelings of dread, fear and anxiety that I encountered when I first applied for it, came flooding back, because the process is often far too rigorous, and stressful for many disabled people because it is often followed by health assessments that don't often go in the applicants favour, that they end up having to go through a lengthy appeals process following them.
I'm sure that for the majority of people receiving PIP, their lives depend on it (as does mine) and the thought of possibly having their payments stopped or disrupted (even if it is temporary, due to the PIP review process) could cause a lot of people a great deal of anxiety and distress.
Furthermore, I can't quite understand why those of us with a lifelong inherited disability (for example, a disease such as Sickle-Cell/Trait) and receives PIP, has to have their application for it reviewed every 3 years, when it is clearly evident that their condition, is never going to change or improve, not only because it is genetic, but also because conditions such as these gets worse, and not better over time., and so therefore, I believe that their PIP payments should just continue throughout the duration of a person with these conditions lifetime. They shouldn't have to go through further stressful health assessments by the DWP in order to prove that they are still ill in order for their payments to continue - a Doctors note with evidence of the persons medication continuity should suffice in my opinion.
In sum, I think that alongside the Universal Credit system, the PIP application/review process and system also needs to change too.
Adequate income, very interesting question.
Income is a changing need depending on what the household is doing /lifestyles etc.
I was on a very stable income £2000 a month , on this I managed to feel stable, secure ( able to save a little) we had a good balanced diet , one holiday abroad each year with several trips around the UK.
This was my adequate income because I could provide things like clubs, subscriptions, lessons etc for my children. We enjoyed going out for leisure, meals, cinemas etc. we spent within our limits and had little money worries.
So I suppose having a regular adequate income could provide what I have mentioned for a household.
Unfortunately I lost my income and survived on very little ( £600 per month for two years )
I did not want to face humiliation from benefit system and was too sick to work.
I spent time on my recovery to get a suitable dignified job that I am happy in and now have a salary.
The change in my income brought on a whole set of new issues which I had to deal with at the same time trying to heal myself . This in itself took a humongous amount of willpower , determination and resilience. Big Hurdles...still not living on an adequate income. I feel this will take some time for me to reach.
I think £1600 would be amazing amount of money to supplement my income on top of my salary this would really change my life.
This question of the week is very interesting, but also very difficult to answer. An immediate thought might be great, but when you think about it more it seems to be riddled with problems and far too many to write about here. There are to many different types of family and household groups to consider for one, near where I live there is a small terraced house where there is a large family of 8 or more working adults living together, Where as I am a single parent on Legacy benefits, not even able to receive free school meals for my daughter.
Or put in another way there are so many geographical differences in the cost of living, so I don’t believe it could really level out society that much. There are different costs involved with living in a city center or in the countryside.
Other things to consider would be…
How open to fraud would this be,
Initial cost to the country & where would the money be recovered from,
Number of qualifying adults in a household,
Would other help remain, for people with disabilities ect. War injury payments, pensions, PIP, funeral payments. This list could go on…
Medical health costs, NHS dentist, medical exemption certificates, infant milk,
What about the homeless ? What about refugees that are unable to obtain public money?.
On the face of it it would seem to be a good idea but it would not change the fact that we are all living in an unfair society that has very little chance of changing.
There are many people in this country that simply would not even notice if they were given 1600 pounds a month. Also there are many families / households in this country that do not get that amount, Including housing costs, new style ESA, water help ect. I am one of these people despite living with and supporting my daughter who is still in full time education and will one day hopefully be able to make her own way out of the life she has been up in despite it being her fault in any way.
As for the actual question I just remembered I was answering. I simply don't know, it has been too many years since myself and my daughter led any sort of meaningful life.
Specifically with the DWP, I personally dread the process of a change in circumstances no matter whether positive or otherwise. It's always a time of uncertainty, worrying how it will impact our finances. Also there's always the possibility any changes in my health will trigger another assessment which would be a real inconvenience to us. I worry it would be like starting all over again from scratch or it could take months to complete as I believe they are so far behind with claims.
Likewise the local authority has to be notified of changes in status or circumstances. I particularly feel the phrasing they both use to get their message across implies threat or significant consequences for not doing so urgently. i.e. "You must tell us immediately"....
Last year we moved house so I anticipated a bumpy ride in respect of my details needing to be verified or changes in payments. It's like throwing stone on a pond some create ripples some can turn to waves or some even turn into a tsunami depending on how dramatic the changes are.
I do remember feeling as though the DWP didn't believe me when they needed to ask for further documents to prove I was living here. How a tenancy agreement wasn't good enough proof, I just can't imagine, but they wanted more information and when you've only just moved house you're not necessarily going to have that to hand. It took time to change utility bills or update my bank account with the new address which especially in the days of paperless bills can take time to process. I mean it was enough of a mess switching energy companies, in order to have gas and electric supplies set up with my preferred supplier. Then internet and water utilities, never mind satisfying the DWP further than I had already tried to.
Not as though we can predict our futures, however, I personally prefer to avoid changes in circumstances at all costs.