"The cap on benefits will leave my family £80 a week worse off"
'Anne' (not her real name) is a single mother. She sent us this copy of an letter she has written to her MP, which illustrates the real impact of welfare reforms. Many more families are facing the same problems.
I am writing to you with an appeal concerning the benefits cap, of which I have recently heard will be implemented April 2013.
The cap on benefits will leave my family an astonishing £80 a week worse off
I received a letter concerning this from the Department of Work and Pensions on Saturday, and this came as quite a shock, since I had considered the cap would coincide with the universal credit being introduced in 2014, and by that time I am hoping to be in employment.
I am a full-time parent with a child just three years old, and I am claiming certain benefits as a result of being the victim of a marriage breakdown, and I also have other children in full-time education, all of them I will hasten to add were born during my marriage.
I have done part-time work when my older siblings were of school age and voluntary work for a short while since the birth of my little son Joshua, but with very difficult challenges regarding childcare issues, especially as I have no other family.
Like many mothers I have not worked full-time since the birth of my oldest, and in my case 18 years.
I have always intended to seek employment as soon as Joshua starts school, before the new rule for lone parents having to be available for work when the youngest child reaches five.
After doing some basic calculations, the cap on benefits will leave my family an astonishing £80 a week worse off.
This huge sum of money would have a negative effect on our family if it was just once a month, but alarmingly it is every week.
The only possible cut I could make would mean having less than £10 per day to feed and clothe a family of six
I have considered at length and in great detail since this devastating news, as to what household cuts I could possibly make to try to find this money, and all avenues are completely exhausted.
The only possible cut I could make would mean having less than £10 per day to feed and clothe a family of six including myself: this is without the addition of essential household items as well.
I can foresee one or more members of our family becoming seriously ill. I myself need to have a healthy balanced diet because of health problems.
My children count on me to be there for them and I cannot afford to take chances with my health, neither do I want to put my family’s health at risk.
Taken as a whole this would not only have a damaging effect on my children’s education, but my future employment, as I would not be able to afford clothing for job interviews and work.
I have considered that I would not be able to afford to run my car of which I use to transport my younger daughter to an excellent school, my student siblings to their places of education, and most importantly myself to future job interviews and work!
I have carefully considered moving my daughter to a nearer school, and right now it would not be in her best interest. I would rather consider trying to find employment close to her school first; but remove her as a last resort.
Her school has small class sizes of only 11 children.
I am never opposed to public transport but in the case of our family it would not be an option. Without my car it would be impossible to fit school runs around work.
I worry that I might never find work, since I believe that there are not enough jobs for everybody
Losing £80 a week in benefits would be equivalent to my irresponsibly taking out a mortgage repayment plan, or renting a one-bedroomed council flat on top of my existing accommodation!
This is absolutely ludicrous given my income and perilous situation.
No responsible parent would put their family at such a ridiculously huge risk.
The law currently states that a lone parent does not have to actively seek employment until their youngest child turns five.
This abrupt benefit cap will come into force when my little boy is just four years old, and the theatrical implications are that I should seek work immediately.
In my particular situation this is unpractical, and may not be a viable option, especially with child care issues.
I need more time and help with preparing myself for work with many of the exact issues facing me, as other parents, Since being out of ‘full-time’ employment and raising up a family for a long period of time (in my case 18 years).
At this moment in time I need to concentrate on my son, and the short time that we have together , before he settles into school, then I can actively seek employment and or with training.
I have been looking forward to going into the workplace once my children are no longer at home, but it’s natural to be a little apprehensive, it does not mean that I am lazy or work shy.
The challenges I do face is a lack of confidence, since being traumatised by my marriage breakdown. I tried to deal with this by doing voluntary work. These are just some of the issues that lone parents face, you may not be aware of them. I certainly did not choose my predicament and would rather be living with my husband.
My greatest worry is the length of time it might take to find secure employment. I worry that I might never find work, since I believe that there are not enough jobs for everybody. I have the added challenge of trying to find work during my children’s school hours.
I forgot to mention that my other child in school will be five years old this May.
With this in mind, the safety blanket of the benefit system needs to be in place, and never ‘wrenched’ away from the feet of the poorest and most vulnerable.
It is at this point that I am appealing to you with a suggestion, and would earnestly request that you mention during your next meeting in the House of Commons.
This benefits cap will undoubtedly have a devastating effect on many families. When the cap takes effect in April 2013, it should be for new benefit claimants only. Existing claimants should have the benefit cap introduced progressively. For example; £10 each week cut to benefits, increasing to £20 the following year and so on.
This will give many more families more flexibility, in planning for employment, and where they live.
I do hope you will consider my appeal. In the meantime I am feeling very frightened, to the point it is affecting my quality of life and the ability to be at my best for my family.