I was a proud stay at home for the most part but also I was forced into unemployment by my local council the dredded EALING COUNCIL when my family was homeless and feeling hopeless after we had tried everything we could to secure a home. The council had said to us (and this is a direct quote from my previous housing advisor/officer) that they had washed their hands of us. The social services said the same.
In desperation and as a last resort I countacted every local MP. They gave the council and social services a well deserved kick up the bum to help us.
The social services told me to find a property, any property and they would fund the deposit.
I did as instructed and for once true to their word they paid the deposit and made sure I was too apply for housing benefit to cover the majority of the rent.
Things were great until my husband and I decided to have another baby. My husband got a new job as we had previously planned, to take care of us and the new baby. The housing benefit was adjusted accordingly and we survived just fine.
Fast forward to the present my son (the last baby I had) is turning 4 and soon starting his first year of school (reception). Looking towards the future I decided it was time to go back to work and make my ow contributions towards the household, that and the fact the realisation of being home 6 hours a day while both children were at school scared me. What would I do after all the household chores were done? Sit and watch day time TV all day every day? That is not me. Thats not the person I wanted to become. I wanted to feel useful. I wanted to engage with like minded people and prove to myself that I still had brain cells that could be put towards good use.
I also dreamt I could finally help my husband save enough money to be able to move out of our current flat since our daughter who soon turns 11 is sharing a bedroom with her 3 year old brother while she goes through puberty.
However my dreams were crushed and unfortunately not even instantly. If it was instant I think I would have been able to handle the blow easier.
I returned to work. The week before I started I updated my housing benfit claim online as per instructed by the council. I checked on the claim a week into work. A new award letter soon came stating my benefit had gone up. I thought it strange but was just happy it had been processed. 3 months later I rang to check again as the benefit award was still suspiciously high. The council admitted they had made an error that I WOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR in my ongoing benefit. They sent a new award almost straight away stating I owed £1461.00 and that they would recover the costs through my ongoing entitlement.
My rent is £1575 per month the council pay approximately £1100-1200 towards those costs and my husband makes up the rest. They stated when I started working I needed to contribute towars more which I anticipated and is fair but and its a big BUT they stated my husband and I should be making up a shortfall of £1116 as they were only going to pay £459 a month if I continued to work as according to the government a family of 4 should be able to survive on £266.10 per week which would be fine if we didnt have a huge rent to pay with bills on top of that!
Unfortunatelymy husband and I don’t make enough money combined to be able to cover that amount of rent and care for our children simutaneously and unfortunately Ealing Council doesn’t have a grace period of allowing you to work for a while before fully becoming responsible for your own rent. Their system is also broken where, even though I gave them plenty notice about me starting a new job they still failed to process my claim accurately in time to stop me going into debt.
I had been here before as well unfortunately which is why I was afraid for so long to go back to work. I didnt want to put my family in debt and ultimately back on the streets where Ealing Council has put us so many times before and then hidden behind their favorite phase ‘YOU MADE YOURSELF INTENTIONALLY HOMELESS BY FAILING TO PAY YOUR RENT’ (rent they had withheld from me or suspended for one reason or another only to pay me at a later date or not at all with no apology just a simple shrug and ‘we have washed our hands of you’.
I am currently fighting the council decision and was recently informend their back log of appeals/complaints is so long I will not hear anything for 6 months! Conveinent for that whole 6 months I will have to pay the overpayment that is their error.
I never understood why some women stayed at home continuously having babies living off the government and I had never wanted a life like that for myself. Alas its the life the government is now forcing on me. I tried to see if a reduction in hours wold help but the government shows I would be worse off. I tried to consider flexible hours same thing.
Not to mention childcare was becoming a nightmare! Although I was offered 30 hours free childcare for going back to work the cost for the other 10 hours I needed while at work was so high I began to realise I was working to pay just rent and childcare alone!
I had to see for myself what it was like, I had to know that I could be more than ‘just a mum’ I learned a lot in the mere 3 months I was able to work again…but I will leave that for another post ciao for now x