Well. That went well. Further to my last diary entry about renewing my child benefit & tax credit claims online because my now 18 year old is staying in full time education, I didn't receive my child tax credit payment last Friday. I was expecting £180 - but received nothing. I was expecting to be able to pay my bills, but left floundering. I tried to access my Tax account online but was unable to. So I've just spent 50 minutes in total - most of that on hold to apprise HMRC of my situation. In order to do that I had to top up my phone. Oh! The irony! Turns out that my claim for Child Benefit had been updated, but the info somehow hadn't gone through for the Child Tax Credit department, even though it asks you if you want to inform them at the same time. Technology can be the bane of a benefit claimant's life. One mistake can upend your bank account & it takes up to 14 working days to put it right. Meanwhile, you're left adrift until the money comes through. Of course any arrears will be paid, but when you are in need, it feels like an eternity. It's a good job my 18 year old has received his PIP today - I'll have to borrow from him until it's all sorted. I shouldn't have to, but that's what you're reduced to. And you feel a constant failure as a parent as it's not my son's responsibility to keep us afloat.
As far as expense is concerned, the new school year has always filled me with dread. My daughter is now in 6th form studying for her A levels so does not need to wear a school uniform, but she does have to wear smart casual clothes and shoes which still have to be paid for out of my legacy benefit payment.
On top of this, there is a need for students to buy and supply their own books which can be expensive. I am also very concerned that living on an extremely low income, not being able to afford to feed ourselves properly and the fact that my daughter also acts as an unpaid carer for me, is having a serious effect on her studies at school, which seems to be taking its toll on her at present.
On top of this she also has a lump on her knee which causes a lot of pain and discomfort which we are waiting for a hospital appointment for in order to have it removed, which is also affecting her studies and means she will need time off school to recover. So, basically, going back to school in September is not something we are looking forward to as the whole situation we find ourselves in is having a detrimental effect on her ability to have the best possible chance in life she can get.
I feel indifferent to the new school year.
I was invited to a transition meeting along with other parents to go through what would happen in the new school year. Which included information about trips and when they would be. I found that helpful as I know when to need extra money by, so it gives me time to save.
My daughter has decided she wants to go on packed lunches rather than school meals as she wasn’t keen on them, so that’s going to be an extra cost too but I’d rather make sure she eats than not.
But, I’m excited for all the new things she will learn this year.
I started a new, better paid, job in early June so I'm looking forward to learning new things and refreshing old skills / training / theories as well as treating our son more. I miss my old colleagues, though, and working in FE.
The future petrifies me.
I used to plan for things such as if my rent went up, school holidays, birthdays, children changing schools, if my car broke, mots and much more but right now I freeze. Its heart breaking not being able to plan and having to live hand to mouth day to day.
Just recently I got a nail in my tyre on the school run, I have no expendable income and I had to beg and plead with family members to help me. After food and bills I have nothing spare to save for such incidents and that is the difference between independence and being stuck with no transport and 3 children in 3 different educational settings
We budget for these school costs in the month the events are happening (we've always lived month to month anyway as we've been paying rent for over 23 years and have worked in public services for most of the last 22 years - Education or local gov sectors), so e.g. this month we paid for a new school tie for Sept as he's going into year 4, school dinners & breakfast club, ice lolly at school picnic (this was only 50p, as the school is one-form entry and caters for a lot of pupils with ALN) and a school trip & coach to a Zoo Park, which was £14. We also pay for After School Club each month and claim some back via universal credit. Using July or August pay I will get school uniform...this & After School Club are the most expensive additional school costs, but employers want people to work from 8:30am til 5pm or 6pm and primary school hours are 9am-3:30pm so we have to pay for wrap around care until employers are more flexible or schools offer after school activities / supervised homework sessions until 5pm or 6pm for free which requires a massive investment / re-think by our Government.
I just wanted to log that the divide here I'd increasing.
It can be seen just in comparing two schools.
One school in a mix area of social diversity where 50% or more are on pupil premium where one mile away another school has two out of 30 children on pupil premium.
This also reflects on the leaning opportunities for children, where more affluence areas, children are able to go on more school trips and experience a wider learning environment compared to other schools in less affluence areas or mixed ones.
Before we were on Universal Credit I always planned to home school our children when they turned five. Even when my husband was made redundant and we started UC, I hoped his business would have grown enough for us to be off UC. However, Covid happened, and my husbands business struggled.
Theres is no room to home-school on universal credit. Both parents have to work or be looking for work once the youngest turns 3. In fact my work coach had me preparing for work and pushed me to send my youngest to nursery when he was just 2 years old.
I would have loved to home school. I’m still sad that we haven’t and we can’t. That parenting choice has been denied for me.
Universal Basic Income: sounds like lazy thinking but really, you want people to work and be productive and get shit done, give them enough money that they can go "hmm, nice and relaxed, took time to care for my needs. Now I'm kinda bored, I know I'll go see what jobs are available, I get get myself treats with the extra cash and help the economy and help my community".
Real access to support - more funding to mental health services and social care services and charities that support families. Free breakfast clubs and after school clubs. Childcare support and/or legal protections in work for parents who need to be more flexible around school holidays. And free education for life, that means primary through to university through to additional learning or career changing in adulthood. The workplace would be far more productive this way and fewer barriers to entry.
Oh and seriously, ban 0-hour contracts, if you can't afford to properly employ workers with the proper legal protections and duties then don't have workers, it's not that hard. End exploitation.
For people who are receiving a form of benefit to be possibly sent letters/emails regarding what help is out there. Also to show support in helping with education or help with confidence and anxiety.
To show that it’s possible to work around other commitments people may have.
We need to not count student loans as income for people on benefits. People should be allowed to go to university full time.
Universal Basic Income.
A higher personal allowance before needing to pay tax, so that lower paid jobs and part time employment are still financially beneficial to be in.
Quality childcare provision attached to more workplaces matching employees working hours.
A shift in focus from businesses being solely profit driven to being quality and service lead.
Creating the opportunities for new, properly funded jobs in the environmental sector.
Life long learning opportunities for all, in work or not.
Employers (and customers) who are more understanding and accepting of working alongside people with serious mental illness.
A 4 day working week.
End the hostile environment at job centres.
Trial periods of work so that employer and employee can leave without financial penalty.
A minimum wage of £15 per hour.