It will bring serious and multiple issues if benefit rates don't increase next April. We have already been rationing since early 2022. We are still no better off for doing so.
Every household bill has increased beyond a reasonable rate, not just energy bills.
I was forced to replace my vehicle this summer. Paying for it, insuring and taxing it has taken a bigger dent out of my bank balance than anyone on a low income would like.
The money in my bank account is literally the only source of money I have to my name, no pension to think about, no savings to speak of.
This wasn't the way I ever imagined I would be living my life at my age, trying to raise a family single handedly all these years has been incredibly difficult on every level.
It's a depressing prospect. I'm not sure how much more of this cost of living crisis we can take. It's embarrassing to ask for charity, we aren't in debt yet, but that could change overnight at this rate.
I already have an empty fridge freezer. I can't face buying a trolly full of food that will end up going off and in the bin because I forgot to freeze it or our appetites change over the course of the week, or I'm unwell and can't manage to cook or eat anything.
I live with the dread of the landlord selling up or increasing our rent. It's a constant worry.
Nobody can be certain whether there will be funding to help with winter fuel costs, I'm already disgusted by the mould growth on our belongings since we moved here 18 months ago, because the house is difficult to heat aside from rationing the heating bills. I can see us still trying to claw our way out of the shortage in our budget after Christmas.
As it currently is, I've never felt so skint as this, in years.
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.
My son is due to go on a 5 day residential next week. His dad whom i am separated from has paid for it all and everything needed for the trip as I simply cannot afford anything additional at this time. With this I have been shamed and ridiculed that I can't provide these things for my children. It's heart breaking that as his mum I simply cannot help right now.
On top of this we have the cost of new high school uniform which is supposed to be affordable but with everything needing to be logos it's definitely not affordable. I have no clue what I'm going to do with 3 kids.
Then there are end of year discos, sports days, non uniform days, the expectation of thank you cards and gifts for teachers. Its enough to make you ill with worry.
I have no clue how I'm going to get through this next month other than not eating what we normally do and walking as many places as I can to cut costs on fuel and bills
I used to get excited about end of year and the summer holidays which meant lots of time together, trips, fun and laughs.
If I am going to be very honest I now find this time of the year really stressful and this impacts my mental health.
I feel embarrassed receiving trip letters/costs, feel awful having say to my son we cant afford. Sometimes I try to make sure he can go and do without something that I was going to buy.
The summer holidays are mostly spent indoors due to having little money to plan days out or activities .
The added stress of watching my children staying in bed or on PS games is not good at all. I would love to be able to afford short breaks or day trips in the UK. but the cost of holidays in UK is alarmingly expensive.
So July and August can get pretty depressing for me.
What would be an adequate monthly income? I guess that would depend on your definition of adequate? I'd like to not dread the school holidays wondering how I'm going to entertain and feed my child day in, day out for weeks on end. Avoiding the other mums at school drop off and pick up as I dread the question, 'What are your plans for the summer? They share news of trips to Disney land, all-inclusive luxury foreign trips or resort hopping cruises.
Living in an affluent area of a city where my child is one of a handful described as 'pupil premium' i.e. coming from a low-income family. I feel a constant sense of shame of the secret I hide. The real reason I turn down birthday invitations isn't because we have a hectic social life but the fact that I can't afford to cough up for birthday gifts week after week. The panic that my child subsequently expects to be able to invite his whole year group to a magician, bubble artist, face-painter, inflatable, disco frenzy with a bespoke, professionally made cake and eye watering party bags for all guests plus siblings! What's the cost to not burst that bubble?
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.
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.
Now I come to think about, it my local council have done very little to support us at all.
For instance, last year, I was notified of a council tax rebate I was eligible to claim back of £150, however that's all I am aware of receiving support for also applying for it was a tad confusing.
As I've said previously, we suffered a non fault eviction, more unusual in manner to the normal procedures that take place in these circumstances. As such I applied for a discretionary housing award to help with additional costs incurred from moving & deposits etc as well as due to the extra rent we were having to fork out for. Although I was turned down for this because we weren't actually in debt. Nothing in place to stop frugal people from going into debt. Maybe if I weren't so terrified of owing money to anyone, we'd be in that situation ourselves.
I do know plenty of places applied & received funding to operate warm hubs but I wasn't happy or entirely able to access any of them.
Also on a similar note, the free food hampers that were distributed by my son's school up until last year, all switched. They started offering a food bank instead. I felt too degraded to go collect any items. Besides it was food items we really weren't keen on having more of. Always the same stuff, tinned hot dogs, jars of sauces, tinned potatoes, etc. So embarrassing to collect it, I've not bothered trying it out.
I have had mixed experiences with DWP.
My worst experience was signing on and my daughter who was 6 at the time was very poorly. I had nobody to help with childcare as she was absent from school.
I called the job centre to explain the situation but they insisted if I did not sign on and comply with them, I would have my benefit sanctioned. It was hard work, carrying a 6 year old from the bus stop to the job centre. My daughter was running a temperature and drowsy. She cried throughout the time of interview / signing on. She sat on my knee and I felt stressed.
The woman working for the job centre had no compassion. It was not a place to take a child. There were aggressive customers and the security guard asked personal questions of my situation and why I hadn't got a sitter for my daughter. It's surreal as if having a child didn't matter and it was expected that I had parents to help out, and I had to explain they both passed away. I felt as if I was judged and I was embarrassed to be signing on.
So sick & tired of people being publicly shamed in the newspaper for shop lifting. It's happening on a daily basis in my daily newsfeed update. Now bear with me - I'm not saying shoplifting is right, but what the powers that be need to realise is that desperate people will resort to desperate measures when their survival is threatened. Take this account from my local paper " [Woman] took cleaning liquids, meats and cheeses – together worth £70 – from [local shop] on September 2.
The 32-year-old...was fined £40 and ordered to pay £85 costs, £70 compensation and a £16 victim surcharge by [City] Magistrates Court."
£70 is a lot of money for the local shop to lose - I don't dispute that. But when will those in power realise that shoplifting is a symptom of the problem that fining someone will not solve. But if they take practical steps to solve poverty & help those who may steal e.g. due to being ill with addictions, desperate people wouldn't need to resort to desperate measures in the first place.
Seasons greetings to one & all. It's Thursday 29th of December and I've spent some quiet time reflecting on my finances over the Christmas period. Two words; Skinto Maxima! (Apologies to Harry Potter fans!) I managed to stick to budget with my boys, more of less. BUT in order to do so, I had to take out a Budgeting Loan with the DWP. I borrowed £812 - the maximum allowable & I've already started paying it back at a rate of £21 per week from my ESA. At least it's interest free. And to help my youngest son realise his dream to update his 10 year old near obsolete PC so it could keep pace with current gaming technology, I had to take out a loan over four years at 14.9% APR - which he will pay me back via his PIP allowance. Those were expected costs. They came as no surprise. Where the costs became less certain was due to spending our Christmas in Scotland. We had the most wonderful time with my eldest son and his partner. We had snow, we had presents & we spotted seals. But my son's girlfriend's family had spent a fortune on me & my son with their beautiful gifts & we couldn't reciprocate in kind - I felt ashamed of being poor & very much a cheapskate. I'm not used to being spoiled like that so I actually cried. In addition, when your family live so far away, the cost of getting there is very expensive - it's a round trip of 800 miles. I was glad that the diesel prices had dropped. The cost to go via train is unimaginable. But then on the way home because of snow, we had to detour 80 miles via Aberdeen - extra fuel we did not budget for. But we made it home safe & sound & overall, I needed the change of scenery so very much. It was worth it for the boost to mine & my youngest son's mental health. I'll get to grips with the finances in January.
Christmas is in 10 days, I have only managed to spend 100 each on both my children I cant do more. I feel so bad because usually I spend 250 each and also get them bits and bobs. I'm working all the hours I can but my money is not lasting long at all my weekly shop used to cost 52 pound, I buy exactly the same things now and it's 79 pound. It's shameful and I am embarrassed that I won't have enough.