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.
I hate the minimum income floor. The council are now using our minimum income floor to calculate whether we qualify for a council tax reduction. Which means they are now charging us £200 a month because they’ve taken it away. We don’t have an extra £200 a month!
I am feeling really happy about this break, because I often enjoy having to do the school run (lol).
But, on a more serious note, both me and my son are looking forward to just having a bit of a rest from the daily routine of school, and having to be fairly regimented (e. g, having to be at school on time, everyday for fear of being fined by the local authority for none attendance) - that pressure is off- at least for the next 6 weeks.
In other words, we feel free, and very much welcome it, although I know that this freedom is not without it's negative side - that being the cost of keeping my son entertained over the next few weeks.
I tend to get around this by looking for free and cheap things to do with my son over the summer period.
Our local town is in a political battle of blame over buses. Our town has one bus provider, Arriva, and they're saying they'll cut buses to essential places (including no longer servicing the bus stop by the mental health hospital) by early July cos local council won't give them enough in subsidies (shockingly it's mostly the routes that service the elderly and disabled that are getting cuts, the ones full of concessionary bus fares). Local council has gone public saying the bus service is using cutting routes to hold council to ransom with most vunerable users cos they want more money that every other bus service in the outta area has happily accepted. While they fit for tad on who's the blame and will council pay more or will arrica cut these essential services. And I'm sitting here, trying to figure out how I'm meant to get to therapy without the bus, taxis are £10.50 one way to mental health hospital, I can't afford a two way trip once a week. Let alone all the other groups and services I attend to help manage my mental and physical health.
I applied for a concessionary bus pass, in April, still not heard from them.
It seems like such a small problem to most, but it isn't to those of who trapped and restricted by these service cuts left right an center.
I hope either arriva back down and keep the services, or council pays then to keep it. I'll be angry at arriva for the latter, council tax is already so high as it is and it's not like we have any other choice there are no other bus services except arriva in out town.
Oh but don't forget while all this goes one people get blamed for using their cars and clogging up the roads, gov and drs and who knows who else say "use the bus, ditch the car, save the planet" and that's pointless with no buses to use, or when those buses can use the vunerablity of elderly and disabled service users to bully the council into paying them more. If they do get paid more they'd still up their costs and not pay their drivers enough. Greedy fits.
So at the moment, I'm on housing benefit or they paid pretty good with the credit, but I'm having constant problems with my landlord. They are constantly on my case because the health and benefit system is paid slightly. I think it's a month in arrears and council don't like that getting told letters of I owe money even though a week after they sent me a letter the rents were being paid up. It's the benefit system in regards to University Credit, sending the payments to the local authority. The local authorities don't always seem to match up in my case, which is a bit of a pain.
The is no financial help from my council, get articles about help other councils are giving people and can read a report on how much the council have been given for support but as it is up to them how they spend it, people in need obviously aren’t a concern.
The Scottish Government, provided all 32 Scottish Councils with a Cost Of Living fund at end of 2022.
I saw via social media that other Scottish Councils were dispensing £150 gift cards to low income households who meet the criteria of being in receipt of housing benefit. There was anger from both those who received, as the card could only be used in certain retail outlets and cafes, not budget supermarkets; and others who claimed their taxes paid for "wasters and drug abusers" to get another entitlement.
Nothing was mentioned in social media or Internet searches of Aberdeenshire Council having this fund.
I contacted all local councillors, of which one replied (SNP). Yes the council had the fund, which the councillor claims she was unaware of until I contacted her. She said she would look into how it was to be dispensed. It took 3 months and 2 delays for the council to post out 12,000 gift cards with the value of £100 to low income households.
The shops that accepted the card were mostly tourist gift shops, although a budget chemist and small supermarket in the area accepted it.
The next issue was, these shops, could not yet accept the gift cards due to the council had not connected the online payment program yet.
This caused stress and embarrassment to many who filled their trolley with groceries and had to put them back on shelves.
No councillor can justify why every other council dispensed £150 per household whilst they dispensed £100. 12,000 x £50 = £600,000.
Where has the rest of the fund gone to?
This is the same Conservative led council that cannot account for £5.2 million spending to the auditors.
The same Conservative led council who the local community are asking how a promised £1.4 million extension and refurbishment of a leisure centre, tuned into a £300,000 disabled toilet in the run down leisure centre with damp growing on the walls from the swimming pool in it.
Facing homelessness and no set date which means I can't even plan. Adult social services rendered me for housing support services, they're going to help me find and maintain a tenancy. Agencies see my mental health diagnosis and think I'm high risk or need high intensity support and I really don't. My CPN has my back but I hate that others control my life, where I live, when I can live independently or not, it's unfair and really drags one down. Mental health services are so poorly funded and so poorly understood that service users in high need are left without and those who function well but need occasion support, such as myself, are vilified.
But my PIP got me membership to local leisure centre so now, so long as I can afford bus fare, I can go swimming whenever I want and have started some low intensity fitness classes. Went to first one today, I was so nervous, had a panic attack, but everyone was so friendly and kind I stuck it out. People seem to understand mental health far better than professionals do. It's weird.
I meant to answer last week's big question, how do I find joy with limit income. I've extremely lucky, like super lucky. Because I have social services I'm able to access discounts not available to everyone, so I can go to the threatre occasionally (our towns local threatre is heavily subsidised and offered additional discounts for vulnerable families which opens so many wonderful experiences), our local leasure center is also heavily subsidised, meaning my PIP now covers a membership for swimming and fitness classes, including dancing and other low intensity activities. Which I access when I can afford the buses, the £2 bus cap has helped alot this year. I'm also lucky that our town has various free or low cost charity arts n crafts groups, lots of churches put on free events and the council put on almost monthly (or weekly in the warmer months) events for the community (definitely happy with how my council taxes are being used here) more directly taylored support, such as mind, is harder to access but so much around town that I don't feel like I'm lacking. Our town was built on Victorian Quaker values and it shows, the parks are gorgeous and the town is thriving even with businesses struggling. It helps alot to feel like you live in a thriving area even if it's got struggles, but it's a comfort that every struggling area within this council has its own community centre that gets not enough but better than you'd expect for the hardships funding for its community. These things bring me joy, taking part in the community, trying new things, seeing things from other cultural perspectives. like our town not only accepts LGBT families but celebrates them, minorities are rarer, it's a very white area, however the council still do events for different cultures, it's a lot of fun living here. and I'm extremely fortunate .Plus all the resources I need are here, mental health services are the best in this country, social services are easier to access and get at sign posting. but my favourite thing that brings me so much joy and costs nothing, the free courses on offer for adults in the town, when I am finally well enough to work again I'll already have a folder full of certificates to help give me an edge while also socialising and learning more about myself and my skills. so my town and what the council here do with the taxes bring me joy while I may struggle, it helps to know there is help somewhere in town if I need it.
This month my local MP is doing a webinar and I have sent a statement for the team to read on my behalf.
I am hoping that due to being a member of his constituency it hits home more about the use and need of Foodbanks.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was handed a flyer yesterday at my local library about a local church that will start doing a weekly 'pop up shop' to help locals during this cost of living crisis.
At the Pop up shop you will be able to purchase a mixture of 12 items (food and toiletry items) for £5.
I circulated this flyer far and wide to my friends and family through my social media networks, because I know that they too will greatly welcome and benefit from the news about this 'Pop up shop', enormously- as will I.
The snow has caused chaos to commuters overnight.
Wind blowing snow off fields onto roads and many accidents including a bus.
Some schools have opened but children waited on the school bus that never arrived.
Farmers have brought their tractors out to clear roads as the council failed to provide enough grit.
Wishing I stayed in bed.
Carers monthly meeting cancelled.
Aberdeen City Council secured funding for low income families to provide a £125 gift card and £20 extra winter payment on top of school clothing grant as its a cost of living crisis.
Aberdeenshire have offered nothing.
Wrote to local MPs and councillors, I await their response.