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Benefits?

“It’s not all bad,” I have written before about being a lone parent. “There are advantages,” I have said. “There are certain things that are better about being on your own with the kids,” I have revealed.

One of those things, however, is not trying to subsist on social welfare payments. A parent in my position – with two qualifying children – receives the grand fortune of €247.60 per week. There is an additional fuel allowance of €20 per week during the colder months – but the last budget slashed the ‘cold season’ from 32 to 26 weeks.   Yes, I know, lone parents and their children are entitled to medical cards and some lone parents get help with their rent or mortgage but still, €247.60 a week to cover the costs of food, detergent, toiletries, other groceries, clothing, transport, energy, the phone, the Internet (no longer a luxury) and refuse collection. Not to mention ‘luxuries’ like books and outings. Because, yes, children do need books and they do outings (of course I’ve heard of the library – and we revel in our trips there, but some books you need to own). Sending them to school will not provide them with an education (but that’s a whole other blog post).

 

Anyone can live on €247.60 for a week. Or a month. Or six. After a year, though, the shine goes off it. After five, it becomes a struggle to survive. The feeling of triumphing over your circumstances because you’ve managed to ensure that no one went hungry all week, dissipates. You get sick of having to say ‘no’ to your children because you can’t say ‘yes’ – not as a lifestyle choice.

 

The feeling of embarrassment when your laser card is declined at the supermarket is alien to you. It’s happened so many times already that you don’t care about the humiliation, just the fact that you still don’t have bread or eggs or salt.

 

You resent having to choose between paying the rent and buying food for your kids. That’s a choice no one should have to make.

 

You turn down invitations not because you’re anti-social but because the cost of a night out petrol, parking, a babysitter – just isn’t available to you.

 

The cost of everything – insurance, tax, petrol, food, clothing, energy – has risen in the past year. I understand that they have increased for everyone, not just lone parents; but when you only have yourself to rely on, then you do feel it more acutely.

 

But, guess what? I don’t want to live on social welfare payments. No, really, I don’t. This is not a lifestyle choice for me. I’m not moaning because the government won’t give me enough of your money to live and raise my kids on. I would love to work. I would love to use the talents and experience I have to provide for myself and my family. I am a highly intelligent, well-educated, articulate, motivated, capable woman. I have valuable international experience and I learn fast. I am highly employable – and I have always managed to earn enough to support myself and my family outside of Ireland.

 

For so many lone parents in Ireland, working is incompatible with raising our children. Yes, I have tried. Dear Lord! I have tried.  Again and again I have come against the brick wall that is the attitude of employers in Ireland. They do not understand how skills can be easily transferred from one sector to another. They do not understand that people can be highly productive off-site. And don’t get me started on the lack of affordable childcare – especially for those of us who don’t have another parent, or parents or siblings of our own around to share that with.

 

In the absence of paid employment – and because I refuse to atrophy – I’ve returned to education. Partly funded – I will admit – by the Irish government. The non-funded part? I had to find that myself. I’m not even going to go into how I managed it. But manage it I did. See? I’m good at project-management, juggling budgets and finding solutions. The one thing I can’t find a solution to, though, is this government’s continuing willingness to penalise the most vulnerable, the most voiceless and the most precious people in our society – our children. That benefits no one.

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3 thoughts on “Benefits?

  1. Loida says:

    Hazel, as I am reading your post, It was so interesting because as if I already know what you will tell next. I am a single mother of 3 small children. Thank you for expressing what exactly my predicament too.

  2. shannon says:

    Thanks for that. I have three boys and was in a similiar situation. Eventually I pushed and pushed till I got a job but it involved moving to the midlands, now what I earn a week still doesn’t even cover all the basics.
    Each situation presents its own and unique challenges. When I applied for lone parents because I spoke well and was educated I was put through hell to receive what I was entitled to, they questioned my family as to why they couldn’t support me? Came to my house over 7 times to check on me and called me in numerous occasions to their offices and even sent a CWO to check up on me in hospital to make sure I was actually sick (even though I had been in the CWO office and had an episode of illness there and and even more evident was I had lost most my hair from treatment).
    I applied for lone parents and medical cards I was declined medical help and only after 14.5 months of being investigated was I finally given approval for lone parents at this stage I had already accepted a job. I never got rent allowance, no medical card…even though my eldest son has a long term illness and spends a disproportional amount of his life in hospital…..even when I was diagnosed last year with a rare blood disorder they still wouldn’t approve a medical card for me or my children.
    Even now every week I have to make the choice my sons medication or mine….of course my son comes first every time. Which means I am negligent to my health and constantly feeling ill and have episodes of passing out and fits, in the long run I am doing an injustice to my children as if I cannot keep on top of my illness it will significantly shorten my life expectancy.
    Every doc I see says I should be getting help with medical but the government doesn’t see it like that. I earn 600.29 a week, I have 3 boys, thats childcare, food, medical and all the other things that it takes to make a good life for kids my rent is 950….! My income does not even nearly cover my outgoings. I receive noting from my ex husband but funny enough he receives social welfare and a free roof over his head and medical card. He doesn’t even see his kids and since the day we separated he has not given one cent. He is a non national here in Irl with currently no immigration status, you tell me how our govermnet works? In its fear to look Politically Correct people with genuine needs are slipping through the cracks and drowning in this current economic crisis whilst people like my ex husband are helped in every way as the parties involved do not want to appear biased against minorities or high risk dependent people (i.e travelers, people from poorer economic areas and such like).

    I am afraid we will continue to struggle and be penalized more and more for trying to care for our children and in the long run people like my ex husband will benefit from my heavily taxed income….you tell me who is better off financially the single mom who goes to work and does not see her children? or the single mom who gets benefits and gets to spend time with her family? I begrudge neither as I am both!

    Thanks for reading.

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