This is a post about a subject very close to home.  My home.  It is about politicians who wouldn’t know poverty if it chewed on their overpaid arses.

It’s about, in part, Jamie Oliver.

Now, to put this out there, I love Jamie.  For years and years, I idolised the man.  He taught me to cook, when I could barely operate a Pot Noodle and we lived off Smash (dehydrated potatoes) and pasta (we even overcooked that).  I would watch all his shows and learn, slowly, from the TV.  In less than a year, I was able to cook a three course meal for 15 people.  Gourmet became easy and I was soon laughing my way through 3 meat roasts and cooked-from-scratch curries.  I owe my skill in the kitchen to Jamie.  I have a lot to thank him for.

Jamie Oliver was good to watch, when I had money.  Before I had six operations, culminating in a partial mastectomy of my right breast.  He was great, before I had a heart attack–caused, in part, by the amount of strain the constant general anaesthetics put on the organ.  Before I was diagnosed with Unstable Angina (that’s the bad sort, if you’re interested.  It means there are days when rolling over in bed causes my heart to seize up and my oxygen levels to fall drastically–on these days, I can just about, with the constant administration of GTN spray, make it to the loo).  Jamie was excellent, before I had to leave a well paid job and fall back on the State and Child Tax Credits, just to help me survive.

I lived comfortably and we wanted for pretty much nothing important.  We were young, in our late twenties, with well paid good jobs and four beautiful, if a bit spoiled, children.  Life was good.

Until it wasn’t good and all I could do was watch, helplessly, as it spiralled down the pan.  I was laid out on the couch every day with a sick-bucket as my constant companion.  They don’t tell you that part–heart failure makes you puke.  A lot.  I couldn’t walk to the shop, 100m from my front door.  I had to stop and rest, sitting on my neighbours walls, every couple of feet.  Work was an impossibility.

Enter the recession.  Goodbye Hubby’s job…thank you and goodnight.  We were now, without question, in the deepest shit it was possible to get into.  Then our landlord sold the house from under us and we were homeless as well.  Luckily, we found another house and my husband found another job pretty bloody quick.  It’s important to feel as though you’re earning money and not sitting on your arse having it handed to you.  Trust me, I know this from experience; it is a major reason I started writing ‘seriously’.

My Food Budget?  About £45 a week.  That’s for five days worth of packed lunches for four people, two lunches for five at the weekend, and seven evening meals.  £45.00.  I was over the moon, when I saw Jamie had a new show on 4oD (yes, I know it’s not *new*, but I don’t watch a lot of TV).  Food on a budget, that sort of thing.  “Hooray,” I thought, “he’ll show me how to feed us all on the money I have.”

Nope.  Not a bit of it.  You see, to Jamie Oliver, a £20 shoulder of lamb is ‘cheap’, because it can do two meals and it’s not the leg, so costs less per kilo.  Two meals, Jamie?  For twenty bloody quid, I want at least four meals.  It’s a sad day when I get angry at Jamie Oliver for being a pretentious arrogant prick.

The reality of poverty is not what you might see on TV, with those delightful characters from Benefit Street (Channel 4).  It isn’t all about people, cursing loudly in the street with a fag in hand and their pyjamas on, while they scream at little 2 year-old Albie to get ‘the fuck indoors, ya little shit, or I’ll faaahkin slap ya, innit!’  It’s not sitting around on a bench with a can of Special Brew, unwashed and stinking of urine, roll-up in filthy fingers.  I don’t smoke.  I can’t afford to smoke.  I don’t know many people who can.  I have bars of soap next to my sinks and I am able to use them to good effect.  I am not dirty.  I am relatively poor.  There is a difference.  It’s not even about food banks, because I don’t know what the hell you have to do to get referred to one, but it’s complicated, a long process.  I have a fear the food banks might be linked to Social Services and I, like most of my peers, were raised to avoid them at all possible costs. (please see part 2 of this blog for details of how to find and get help from your local food bank if you need one.  I know, now, that it is not complicated and does not involve social services.)

The reality of poverty is counting the 2p & 5p coins saved in a bottle, and sending a 10 year old to buy a packet of cheap pasta and a tin of tomatoes, because it’s sort of embarrassing to have to pay with coins and count them out while there is someone behind you with a £20 note.  The reality is eating plain boiled rice and pretending to like it, so the kids don’t know there’s no other food except for what is on their plates.  The reality is having an electric meter, running always on emergency credit, because you can’t afford to get out of the cycle you’re trapped in.  It’s making the choice between putting the heating on for an hour, or going cold and being able to buy a pack of sausages and some potatoes.

The reality of relative poverty is going to the butcher and asking for a pound of mince to be separated into three bags for three meals.  You’d be amazed what I can do with mince.  The reality is going to the supermarkets just before they close, and buying all you can for a fraction of the cost, because it’s going out of date tomorrow.  That’s okay–you’re eating it tomorrow.  It’s value priced peanut butters and cheap cuts of fatty meat.  It’s poor-quality chicken and eggs from barn hens.  It’s learning to mend, reuse, recycle and go without.  It’s washing your hair with washing-up liquid, because it’s all you have until Wednesday, when the Holy Grail of Child Tax Credit hits your account and there’s £50 for shopping.

The reality of poverty is the shame of always having to say, “Sorry, I can’t afford it.”  It’s calling your mum, in tears, because there are bailiffs pounding on the door.  It’s drinking so much water you feel ill, simply so your stomach isn’t painfully empty.

So, Jamie, forgive me for not watching your show.  Forgive me for breaking up with you.  You’re as clueless, you see, as those politicians you hound into raising the school meal standards.  I can’t afford for my kids to eat school meals–not at £2 per child per day (that’s £20 I simply don’t have) and we can’t get them for free, because we’re not ‘on the dole’.  I suggest, before churning out the tripe you film, you come and spend a day in my world.  I’m so cold I can’t feel my fingers as I type this blog about poverty on a computer bought for me by a friend.  I will let you sit next to me and we’ll laugh at how you can see your breath misting in the air above my charity-shop desk.  I’ll show you which needle is used to stitch a hole in the toe of a canvas trainer.  I’ll make you a coffee, but only if you don’t have sugar–that’s a luxury we only buy in if we’re going to make a cake.  You can help me scrub some of the mould from the walls, before it takes over the house entirely.

We can do all of that.  Then, maybe, you’ll realise what poverty is.

Read More here: The Upsetting Truth…Part Two! A follow-on from this article.  Please read this BEFORE leaving comments on this page.  Many thanks.

(A quick addendum: thank you all so much for the messages of support and the overwhelming goodwill.  Answering messages, sending people to the correct links, where they can get help, is time consuming, so please be patient – I am only one person.  Please get in touch via email, if you know of organisations that could be of help to others.  I will be sure to pass all information along the line – and share it all on my Facebook page.  If you are looking for help, advice or just someone to talk to, please contact me either through email or my Facebook page HERE.  I am great at finding numbers and websites that might help.

If you would like to donate to any of the causes that have cropped up thanks to this article, please contact your local food bank, or the Trussel Trust, who will be happy for any donations you can give!

I am an author. I am Indie-Published and I sell my books through Amazon.  I am very new at it all (in the scheme of things – only 7 months old) and I have no outside help or agents to publicise me, pay me, or do any of ‘that stuff’.  I live in rented accommodation and I *do* receive a small amount from Child Tax Credits.  My husband works.  We are above the ‘cut off’ wage of £16,190 p.a and are not entitled to any more than we already claim.  While I see the goodwill behind the thousands of comments telling me to claim free meals, Working Tax Credit etc. etc, we are not entitled to them.  We live in the Grey Area of the benefit system and actually make less than those on benefits, after taxes (but the amount after taxes is not the amount used for calculations).

To do my ‘job’, which is writing, I need the computer to be able to both write and publish my work.  My work supplements my husband’s wage.  It is a necessity not a luxury.  It is the tool of my trade.  While it seems to make sense to say that my computer is a luxury, it was actually a very generous gift from a friend who was staying with us for a while, when he was made homeless after a bereavement.  That I feel the need to justify having a computer is indicative of the ‘stigma and shame’ surrounding poverty.  As though not having a TV, not having Internet, not having a computer, keeping the gas off, eating less…(the list here is endless) will somehow magically change the poverty-stricken situation into one of good times and plenty.)

My books can be found here if you are in the UK, and here if you are elsewhere in the world.  Thank you.

As so many people have asked…here is the link to the paperback version.

688 thoughts on “The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.

  1. Ugh. Jamie, I think he tries hard, but a lot of his meals are expensive to make. In fairness though he doesn’t advertise his shows as cooking on a shoe-string.

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  2. found your article fascinating yet so same time. been there only too often myself though not through illness luckily just work placement closures ect etc but am a little better off now as i now live with my partner i am working myself so i chip in £40.00 p/w to help her with the household budget. i do hope you find yourself on more stable ground real soon and i do look forward tom reading more from you soon hopefully. kindest regards Adrian.

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    1. Thank you for writing so honestly! The life you describe now brought back many memories for me both fond and tough about surviving. I wish David Cameron et al could see the real lives of people. As a Social Worker however it makes me sad that you have been raised and believe that you should ‘avoid us at all costs’. It makes me very angry that my profession gets such a bad name… I work in Scotland, I’m not sure where you live but I would be interested to hear your experience if you did make contact with social services I hope you will be pleasantly surprised?

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      1. I hope I would be, but I’m of the era where each morning at breakfast, I’d hear my mum talking about another case of a child being taken away because of a bruise that had turned out to be pen. Remember the ‘welly boot’ scandal around the mid-eighties? It’s stuck with a LOT of people my age (mid thirties) and the thought of being judged and found wanting because I might have had to give a beans on toast supper is anathema to me.
        I’m sure *you* are a lovely person though 😀 Thank you for your comment!

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    2. we had a well paid job and i was a member of the PTA at my daughters school until my self employed husband was injured and had to have 8 months off of work. Going on benefits was such a shock £500 a week down to £87 for a family of 4. (im Disabled so cant work myself) It opened my eyes to how much the simple things at school cost…..school events which charged £1 a time were impossible to afford and yes the shame of saying no all the time got to me. I was in a position to open eyes of PTA members and explained that most parents were not supporting us because they simply cant afford to and eat. I managed to arrange things the school offered at 20p a go not £1 (by explaining that all money raised for the school was profit) and it made all the difference to those children. We didnt have luxuries and a trip out where for £2 my children could enjoy themselves for a while was such a help (paid for by saving loose coppers and 5ps) i would love to see the well off people who are all about preaching, try and live on £87 a week for 3 months. Im sure they wouldn’t preach quite so loudly if they struggled like you have and like people through no fault of their own do every day. Im sorry to say when my time as PTA came to an end so did the cheaper fun and strangely so did the profit the PTA made, they once again got greedy. well done for speaking up and pointing out that not all poor people are smokers/drinkers and that those shows dont reflect reality for the poorer people.

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  3. Very interesting and eye-opening blog post, Kathleen, I shall share it with my facebook friends.

    Have you come across Bernadine Lawrence’s book, the updated version of her “Benefit Book” subtitled ‘how to feed your family on £5 a week’ – it’s £5 a day now, 20+ years on http://www.bookdepository.com/How-Feed-Your-Family-for-GBP5-Day-Bernadine-Lawrence/9780007485659 I used to find the original book very helpful when we were on a tight budget.

    Good luck with your writing, fantasy seems to be a popular genre at present.

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  4. RE the comment about earning £25 less: I know from my own experience that there is no shame attached to receive state benefits. You paid for them with your taxes when you were working. And nothing is forever. I wish you all the luck in the world.

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    1. Dear Kathleen,

      I volunteer at a local foodbank -you can get a voucher for yours through your childs school, or your local doctors surgery.
      There is no need to feel embarrassed or worried they are there to help, not to judge. Nothing bad will happen regarding social services. I myself would have had to used the foodbank had it not been for my families help. Please feel free to message me if you would like further information.
      I wish you all the best xx

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    1. I agree with you unfortunately there are people out there who don’t have a clue what it is like . plenty of people with opinions about how people can feed themselves on diddly squat. I work with a woman who obviously has no clue been spoilt all of her life. Under the illusion that if your poor its because you have not worked hard enough and have made poor choices in life. She is an idiot I have clashed many times over this issue. These attitudes unfortunately are due to the relentless propaganda from the echilons above it suits their agenda. Divides people and puts the blame on the vulnerable in society.

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      1. You put this perfectly. Why are people blamed for being poor? It is often due to luck and circumstances. not about how hard you have worked.

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  5. On Foodbanks: to be referred to one (a) find out if there is one locally (there probably is!) (b) if it is Trussell Trust, try local agencies such as the CAB, local council, GPs surgeries for a voucher. If it isn’t, or even if it is, phone them up and ask. I promise there is no connection with social services, except as a referral agency. It may well be staffed by volunteers from your local church, and they might offer to pray for you – you can say no.
    I apologise if someone else has provided all this information by the way! Yes, TV chefs etc. have very little idea about the reality of poverty, the most useful source of genuinely cheap recipes is A Girl Called Jack. You are not to blame for your situation, neither are virtually all the others who receive benefits or turn up at foodbanks. You are also a brilliant writer, hope it all works out for you.

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  6. None of what’s happened to you is anyone’s fault. By writing a post directing your pain of poverty towards someone who, yes may not be able to share the same painful experience, but may suffer from other downfalls which you aren’t aware of makes you just as judgmental. I’m not saying what you’re going through isn’t awful and many have been there but is it fair to slate someone else because they can afford?

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    1. I think the reference to Mr Oliver is actually metaphorical, in this blog entry.
      Kathleen is using the public persona of Jamie Oliver to illustrate, by contrast, her situation.
      She isn’t being judgemental of the personal Jamie and his more affluent position.
      That’s how I read it anyway!
      :/)

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  7. i don’t know how useful this is to you but please look on facebook for feed your family for £20 per week, it’s a like page with the best support out there for crap cooks I use it a lot infact it’s taught me more than Jamie Oliver the women who run it teach you how to live on a shoe string and bulk buying and discounts for cupboard food, most of which is online shopping so you wouldn’t have to worry about walking far. Hopefully the rambling helps if you can’t find it let me know and I’ll get a link

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  8. Hi Kathleen, I read this post originally 2 days ago and apologies for taking so long to get back to commenting. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Jamie’s Money Saving Meals for review last year when the series started. I completely agree. He recommended a leg of pork for a family meal that I figured out would cost about €45. Which is far more than my budget for family dinners for a week. I completely agree with you there.
    I want you to know that it does get better, it does. Just 3 short years ago I could have written this very blogpost. Now, well things are better. Don’t respond to the bad comments, just delete them. They’re not worth it. Remember that parenting adage to ignore the bad stuff and praise the good stuff? Well it works here too. I’m in another country but if I can help with any advice or anything please do let me know.

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  9. i wanted to buy your book but the link took me to three choices and none with your name attached. Do i buy the Amazon copy for you to earn your money from the sale or is it one of the others?

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        1. Oh! Yes, I am with you now 🙂 I have temporarily withdrawn Book 2 as it was originally in a larger trade paperback–I am changing it to the same size as #1, which is slightly ‘prettier’ in its new format.

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  10. I have read you blog and I feel slightly better, I recently was fired from work and are currently challenging unfair dismissal but until then I have no money or anything I cant even afford medication, Everything that I once had, ive lost all my luxuries ect, I was starting to feel depressed and low wondering if things could get worse, I would love to challenge the government or even a celebrate like Jamie Oliver to spend a week or a month in my shoes so they know what its like.

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  11. I so agree with your blog. There are so many people who just don’t understand. They think if you are working you must be well and don’t realise how little some people earn for their hard work. My daughter is currently out of work and although her partner has a pretty good job the need to live close to London means that his salary simply doesn’t cover their basic bills. Luckily we are currently in a position to help but we don’t know how long for. As for a £20 joint to last two days!! If Jamie thinks that’s within the means of ‘poor’people he’s living in cloud cuckoo land.

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  12. I understand you are angry at the hand you’ve been dealt but I think the anger would be more appropriately directed at benefits scrounging fatties with sky TV who choose to sit at home and smoke/eat and who suck the state dry, limiting the amount of money available for deserving cases like yours. It’s hardly Jamie’s fault, he’s just making a living, and it’s not even politicians fault, they are representing us, and we won’t accept more taxes. I hope you get your health back and your books are successful, I also send strength to your husband who sounds like he’s bearing his responsibility like a man but must be extremely draining and stressful, I hope it eases for you all.

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    1. You should have a look at the statistics concerning how much money is actually used to pay for unemployment benefits in this country. It is a minuscule percentage of public spending, one that could not possibly ‘ suck the state dry’ it is a myth conveniently peddled by Rupert Murdoch and his cronies to draw attention away from the real culprits, and that is indeed the government who refuse to stand up to big business, bailing out banks while slashing disability benefits, closing public libraries whilst being unable to enact laws to make companies like apple, amazon, Starbucks and cafe Nero paying ANY tax, not raising the minimum wage to even the living wage because of the pressure that is put on them by large corporations such as the ones mentioned above, and many more besides, attempting to pass laws in secret allowing companies to hold the government legally to account for actions deemed to incur a loss in profits…I could go on. It is a sad fact that our country’s modern economic and political system is designed to keep those at the top safe and happy at the expense of those at the bottom. The wool has well and truly been pulled over your eyes.

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  13. This is the trouble with our benefits system , people that have never worked get everything, the people that have worked and now need the help are left struggling , I know someone that claims disability for agoraphobia but goes on shopping sprees every day with her benefits , has several grand in different bank accounts because she uses different surnames, been reported and they visited her and gave her more money , what a joke , that money should be going to families like you , I wish you all the very best for the future

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    1. Clearly there is something going on with this person you “know” that you are unaware of. Getting any benefits for Agoraphobia is hard; I know, I had to do it and it took over 5 years to get what I am entitled to. I only got the help in the end because it got so bad that I have seizures; seizures that are caused by pure fear.

      My doctors advise me to go out everyday, it’s the actual treatment for agoraphobia. What you see as “shopping sprees” could quite well be “treatment”.

      You also don’t get enough money on benefits to save “several grand in different bank accounts” and go on “shopping sprees everyday”. If she does have a lump sum, it’s probably from a back payment. You get back payments when the DWP have taken a ridiculously long time to process your claim or have wrongly denied you benefit or wrongly stopped your benefit leaving you with zero income. Thousands of people, in the UK, have to face weeks or even months with little to no income when they have done nothing wrong. It’s horrific.

      Hopefully you will never need to rely on the state to survive. Hopefully you will never have to live with people judging your every move because you are guilty of being sick or poor. You might have thought your comment was supportive, but it wasn’t; it comes from the same ignorance of reality that means Jamie Oliver thinks a £20 leg of lamb is “budget”.

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  14. Bless your heart. 😦 My two daughters and I are living similarly, it SUCKS.

    Heat orceat? It’s just as well my mental state diminishes my appetite, the girls get that wee bit more.

    Sending love…and lots of ‘don’t let any white hoods break down’ wishes.

    *hugs*

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  15. Sadly I recognise too many aspects of your blog. We’ve been there and are only just starting to pick up now after years of surviving on benefits. It took the removal of my husbands ESA that (I’m almost certain) contributed to his stroke four weeks later and I won’t even bore you with claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and me finally giving up my job to become his F/T carer. Our ‘life saver’ was his occupational pension, not the state. Like you I have learnt from necessity about cooking on a pittance, I don’t watch the TV chefs because their world and mine just don’t meet, never mind run on a parallel line. I truly hope that life gets better for you and your family. Also I would like to wish you every success with your writing.

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  16. This woman isn’t for real. She is having a run of bad luck (same as me at the moment). I had to stop reading this halfway through. Poverty is being embarrassed paying for things with coins really? At least she can afford to pay even if it is with coins, what about them that sit all day in the town centre begging for coin, still don’t have enough to buy food, so steal it or climb over fences to get out of date food from the skip. Whoopies and making your mince last three days isn’t making you ill, it’s in date and nutritious She lost her rented house because landlord sold it…..but got another quickly, poverty is calling your home a cardboard box! I could go on and on this article has made me so angry! This woman has a husband with a job (lots of people manage on one wage, of course it’s easier with two wages, but some people have are full households with no wage.
    I see all too often poverty being mixed up with greed and poor budgeting. All I can say is get a grip and welcome to my world this is how I have lived for 26 years….but I am truly happy without all my material things.

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    1. Obviously she’s not as poor as homeless people that sleep on the street and eat out of skips. But that doesn’t mean she’s not poor. Over half of the 13 million British people in poverty have at least one household member working. The poverty line is technically 60% of the median income, which is £26500 – so anyone on less than about £15900. But that’s for a single person, not a family with kids. The point is, there are levels, you don’t have to be completely destitute to be poor.

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    2. This lady is simply writing about her own personal experience, and clearly states that there are people in much worse positions to whom offers of support should be directed. I understand your sentiment, but when your instinctive response is a negative one and you feel such an urge to criticise, maybe take a breath and consider how necessary that really is… Most of us will struggle, or are struggling, on many different levels and in many different ways; It’s not a competition. Surely we should be striving to cultivate an atmosphere of support rather than exclusion?

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  17. Food banks are pretty much entirely frequented by people who would really rather not be there – but the point of them is to be a help. Getting referred to the one I volunteer at isn’t long winded. Turn up or phone and we’ll tell you the agencies who will refer you. You’ll get some food the same day. There’s no catch. We’re there to make things a bit easier and food is offered with kindness. I hope things improve for you soon. xx

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  18. This i see and hear all too often at the present time. Foodbanks are also linked to some churches and can provide. one needs a food voucher and this tells how many and adults need to be provided for.
    please use them. Macmillan could advise you regarding what your entitlements are with your health conditions especially around rights to benefits and charities that can provide grants to help.
    i spent time in a foodbank packing the food and giving it to people with good grace. i went to the market the other day and liver was £2.00 for a large pack. the local farm is selling spuds at £4.oo a sack and did you know horse carrots £1.50 a sack are only mis shaped and don’t make the supermarket grade but are perfectly ok for cooking with when washed and peeled. Slow cooker is great for making economical large meals. Please seek the help that is there for you i wish you well god bless.

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  19. Like you I have lived on both sides of that “poverty line”. Through my young adult life I didn’t think about the cost of things because the money was just always there. In my case it wasn’t through illness or injury but through a life choice that had me tossing it all in the air and landing 5000 miles from home, in a new country and in a place where neither my new husband or I could find work.

    I am pleased to say that 5 years later we are finally on the other side again but I’m here with a far greater respect for what we have. My experience has made my life richer, in a large part because I am now always looking for ways to support the people around me as you never know what their situation is.

    Thank you for opening yourself up like this and also for posting the link to your books. I am looking forward to reading them!

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  20. I can so relate to everything you have said. Seeing your own breath in the house, no credit in my phone to txt people.. Always having to say sorry I can’t afford to. And what makes me so sad is that more than half my friend don’t know what true poverty is. When they say they are skint they still have £70 for shopping for the week. When I am skint we are raking our jacket pockets & couch to see if we can find enough coppers to buy milk & bread & that’s to do breakfast, lunch & dinner…
    I absolutely hate when people say “if I were on benefits I would get everything”

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  21. The problem with poverty is that it is working familys who seem to be worse off. You don’t make much money by the time you pay to get to work and childcare, yet you still have to pay all the bills. I bet if food banks were available to working parents they would run out of food in less than half the time.

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  22. I have six children, one has left home, but two of my children have additional needs. My oldest child has Aspergers Syndrome and his special needs girlfriend and baby, live with me too. Money is always a struggle ,made worse by the fact that my husband of twenty four years left us all. I have also been diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, and have spent the last few months in and out of hospital. My job is on hold while consultants figure out what to do to help me. My oldest son and girlfriend had all their benefits stopped due to an error. I have struggled to either feed my family or keep the house warm. I had to tearfully beg my dad to help me get through Christmas. I would love to buy joints of beef or lamb or pork, but it is cheaper to buy mince or value chicken. My children don’t get trips to the cinema or laser quest, we have walks to the park or down the beach. Sometimes, I might have the spare cash to buy a five pound DVD. I would love to go back to work, but trying to find energy each day, exhausts me, looking after two special needs adults and their baby is also exhausting. Bringing up an Aspergers ten year old exhausts me too. Everything is going against me and I can’t see an end to this circle of debt. I would love to have the money to go shopping in Next, M and S, and go around Home base to do up my mouldy house, but there is just nothing to spare. Thank you for highlighting the reality of being poor. It’s not a choice.

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  23. Been there and got the tee shirt.
    It gets better over time and our children appreciate the ‘real’value of money, Both now with successful careers, savings accounts and no credit cards.
    Sit tight and breathe. Easier said than done but stick tight and soldier on.

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  24. I feel sympathetic but at the same time found it difficult to understand: 1. why claiming benefits is such a thing to be ashamed of for you? Do you realise by saying that you are potentially saying that people who claim benefits should be ashamed? In a way we are all benefiting from the social wellfare via NHS, child benefit etc. that’s why it’s there, to help people through hard times, just because it’s been abused by some doesn’t mean it should prevent people from using it – in fact that’s the worst that could happen; 2. If you and your partner had good jobs and you have 4 children, and additionally you find claiming benefits so ashaming, why did you never get a back up/security plan in case things like this happen? If you are unable to save, there are a lot of insurance policies cover inability to work because of sickness, they would only cost £15-20 a month for people who are young with no known illness. I mean, I was terrified when I bought my first house and my partner wasn’t working so I got those insurance in place, and having FOUR children is a lot more responsibilities than buying a small house.

    I was lucky that when I was extremely poor I didn’t have to feed anyone, I had a budget of £20 for food each month, and was lucky enough to have lived in a house as a lodger where the bills are included in the rent. But if I have children who are suffering from this, I would not have hesitated at all to ask for help from the benefit system. I don’t know what kind of ‘peers’ you have, but it’s essentially your choice to keep you ‘dignity’ over more food and possibly better living environment.

    I’ve not been big fan of Jamie Oliver, but feel a little sorry for him, meal on budget is meal on budget, and different people have different sets of budget. He didn’t make a statement to say ‘I understand property’.

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  25. I feel sympathetic but at the same time found it difficult to understand: 1. why claiming benefits is such a thing to be ashamed of for you? Do you realise by saying that you are potentially saying that people who claim benefits should be ashamed? In a way we are all benefiting from the social wellfare via NHS, child benefit etc. that’s why it’s there, to help people through hard times, just because it’s been abused by some doesn’t mean it should prevent people from using it – in fact that’s the worst that could happen; 2. If you and your partner had good jobs and you have 4 children, and additionally you find claiming benefits so ashaming, why did you never get a back up/security plan in case things like this happen? If you are unable to save, there are a lot of insurance policies cover inability to work because of sickness, they would only cost £15-20 a month for people who are young with no known illness. I mean, I was terrified when I bought my first house and my partner wasn’t working so I got those insurance in place, and having FOUR children is a lot more responsibilities than buying a small house.

    I was lucky that when I was extremely poor I didn’t have to feed anyone, I had a budget of £20 for food each month, and was lucky enough to have lived in a house as a lodger where the bills are included in the rent. But if I have children who are suffering from this, I would not have hesitated at all to ask for help from the benefit system. I don’t know what kind of ‘peers’ you have, but it’s essentially your choice to keep you ‘dignity’ over more food and possibly better living environment.

    I’ve not been big fan of Jamie Oliver, but feel a little sorry for him, meal on budget is meal on budget, and different people have different sets of budget. He didn’t make a statement to say ‘I understand property’.

    I’m not saying that your issues are not awful, but I don’t think you anger is directed towards the right place.

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  26. I read your blog and truly hope things get better. I work 2 jobs and do Avon to pay bills but it is hard when my money pays the bills but not really food or petrol. I’m managing to keep the wolves at bay but I don’t have children so good on you for managing to do all you can and hopefully they are grateful and help out when they can. Good luck. Xx

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  27. I didn’t know this was why mum sent us to the shop with the penny jar money. Your article has moved me I am now a comfortable 42 year old who does not have to pretend that sleeping in the living room under a sheet pinned to four chairs with candles for light is just an exciting adventure! My mum died just over a year ago of cancer. She was an amazing woman as I imagine you are.

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  28. I still found myself in a similar situation and I work. When my child was young I had to pay £480 a month child minding fees, before the days of child tax credit, working family tax credit. I worked full time for the Civil Service. There was no extra help in those days. Many a time I found myself with only £10 to £20 quid to feed myself and my son on for the week, times when I would walk to work and back, times when I would sit in the dark once I had put him to bed so as to save electric, times when we ran out of gas the night before I got paid so our home was cold.

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  29. Trying not to leave a negative comment, but we have all been there at some point in our lives, I know I have, most of the people I know have. Do you think it is harder for you and your family because you had so much and fell so far, through no fault of your own or your families? That is a genuine question not trying to b a bitch.

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    1. I don’t think I have it any harder than anyone else. In fact, as I state at the bottom of the post, I know there are those a lot worse off. The point of the post is to bring the hidden poverty traps and the ‘shame’ surrounding being poor out screaming into the light. We have all been there, and we should never have to struggle to admit that we are in this situation. If anything, I would say my knowledge of budgeting and cooking from absolute scratch have made it easier. There are so MANY people out there, suffering, because of a lack of education within the school system of home economics and ‘frugal cookery’. This has led to a fallback on processed foods, meaning those in poverty are being hit twice–once by the poverty itself, and then by the suffering caused by bad diet and nutrition.
      Please take a moment to read my second follow on post. It sounds as though your friends may benefit from some of the links I have put on there 🙂
      All the best xx
      Kathleen

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  30. Kathleen. I read with real interest your blog. If only the press would take the time to look at families like yours, coping with little and doing it with dignity.

    It is time the press stopped vilifying people on benefits and start showing people who live in relative poverty.

    Maybe you should start sharing recipes and tips on spending less? I could do with learning.

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      1. Incidentally. Anyone who posts comments like “we’ve all been there’ kind of winds me up… I thought that what you wrote took great balls.

        So, recipes would be great as would some of your best money saving tips😄

        Your blog made me realise what a lot of money I just waste…

        Not sure that was your intention but it was and is a good thing.

        Pete

        Liked by 2 people

  31. Most of the people that live on benefits struggle everyday to make ends meet. I worry about the ‘hidden’ poor that have jobs so are unable to claim benefits, but are on zero hours contracts so never really know from one week to the next how much is coming in. I frankly laughed at the programme Eat well for Less on the BBC last Thursday as even after all their money saving tips, the family still spent 200.00 per week on feeding themselves and 2 small boys.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I know just where you are, we struggle every day and fear at the post dropping through the door because of another bill.
    Tesco running up to Christmas put adverts on how to make different dishes, four good looking guys showing the housewife how to make meals to be enjoyed by the family. I emailed Tesco and telling them that don’t they understand the majority of people don’t have time to mess around in the kitchen making fancy foods, they are either working 12 hour jobs or working two jobs to make ends meet or they are living below the poverty line as that the millionaires who run this country are so far removed from how real people live that they cannot afford the expensive ingredients and need to rely on cheap processed or unhealthy cuts of meat to be able to feed their families……….Tescos reply told me that they cater for everyone…….my reply is Bull!!! They are out to make a profit and will do it anyway they can.

    I agree with everything you say and wish and pray your situation improves soon.

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  33. i find your comments indulgent. Get over it. I am a professional person. I have a professional job. I have 2 children. I am a single parent. And I get £200 a month from my children’s father to ‘support’ them. I have had to count 2p’s to get £5 of electric. To get the microwave to work to feed them on the ‘super noodles’ that I could only afford, while as a social worker, I was arranging to give people whi didn’t work hundreds of pounds to do up their child’s bedroom cause it was deemed w ‘need’. Seriously. Get over yourself. I’ve been in work and had to ask other people to take my children to school cause I had no petrol only to have to use it to take a client who refused to work (because her children were in need) out money that she had requested and which was approved. Get over it.

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  34. There are no benefits for those just on the ‘borderline’ when Both parents working but on small wage.! When you just don’t fit in any catagory . Trust me ‘There is light at the end the Tunnel’ Some tunnels run longer than others. Good luck with your writing but what is the fee charged for publishing These days? Cheap meal: Layer an ovenproof dish with sliced cooked potatoes, cooked cabbage leaves, grated onion and 4 cooked sausages sliced thinly. Finish with the remainder of potatoes.Season and add knobs of buttery type spread and cheapest grated cheese. Approx 200c for 15mins . Hope health issues improve to give you the strength you need. Citizens Advice have some answers too.

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    1. Hi there! Thank you for the wishes of luck!
      I ‘Indie Publish’ – it means that I have gone through Amazon (they’re the easiest) and uploaded my manuscript, formatted it, edited it and arranged the cover for it myself. I don’t have any up front fees, just a commission paid to them from each book sale. It means that it have been free to start up and with hard work and endless postings on various facebook walls (groups I have joined, sort of thing) my book started to finally sell, which means I should start seeing some cash flow within the next few months, I hope.
      Thank you very much for the recipe too!
      All the best,
      Kathleen

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  35. I understand your point of view and agree that Jamie is a bit of a joke, I can’t offer any suggestions as of how to improve the state of the world we live in, so many people all over are suffering in so many ways, and most of us are so busy just getting by that we cant spare a thought, the time, or the money to make things better for anyone other than ourselves and loved ones.
    I can maybe offer some words of comfort for you however as I can relate to the poverty you speak of. As a child me and my siblings lived with just my mom, she worked so hard to raise us and keep food on the table, some nights that would just be beans on toast but we are all grateful to her, she got us to where we are now. I wanted to let you know that your kids will love you and appreciate you for showing them that you can get by with so little and that joy comes from other people and the things that we ourselves do, not the possessions we have or the overpriced pretentious food that some people stuff themselves with daily. I now work as a chef and it sickens me to see the food wastage we have each and every day, and how £30 fillet steak dinners are given (complimentary of course) to fussy customers who take only one bite and continue to throw their ill gotten money at a roulette wheel.
    Being raised on a budget is good for children, it makes them appreciate hard work and allows them to fully understand the meaning of luxury. Going without is not the same as being left wanting if that desire and need for things that really are not necessary isn’t there in the first place. I wish you the best of luck for the future and your health and hope that you and your family will get the most out of what life has to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure that it is good for children; one of mine revealed he was constantly worried and stressed as a child about both of his parents (not togrther) not having enough money. The emotional stress of being poor could have devastating long term effects on children who are less resilient. (We were both working, not on benefits, but divorced.). All is great now and I spoil them at Xmas and birthdays and hope their childhood worries will fade.

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  36. The thing that used to drive me mad with anger when I was poor was paying a higher rate for electricity on the key system than if I had a quarterly bill. This just reeks of opportunism and exploitation by the big electricity companies. What’s the justification for the higher charge??

    It would be brilliant to get everyone who buys their electricity with a key to protest against this massive injustice by refusing to use electricity for a day or a week or however long is practically possible. Imagine a million people all turning their lights off between 5pm and 9pm for a week and how much money the electricity companies would lose! Perhaps after a bit of this enough public pressure would build up to get the rate brought down to the same level as those on quarterly contracts pay.

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  37. Why have a go at Jamie Oliver? It’s hardly his thought! And why not go to social services, others do. For the sake of your children if not for you! Why should hey suffer for your vanity? I feel sorry for you but you obviously are feeling more sorry for yourself! Things happen so do the best you can and don’t let others suffer for your negativity. The bucket is half full not half empty!

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  38. I have been in your position and remember the situation, it’s great to read such honesty and passion. I managed to work my way to a more secure future and I feel sure you will too. The important thing is ambition and hope, good luck for the future. Alan

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  39. This article is bizarre. You seem to blame people for problems that aren’t anybody’s fault; just unfortunate circumstance. If you stopped sniping and complaining more people would be willing to help you. Being poor doesn’t give you the automatic right to be nasty.

    Other than that you clearly have it quite tough, I hope everything sorts itself out.

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    1. I don’t think she is being nasty…but I do think that your comment is judgmental…in such a situation is one supposed only to bow down, be grateful for all we have and not feel angry or frustrated?
      Kathleen is firstly, using the idea of Jamie’s (feed your self brilliantly on so-called very little) to explain how it is impossible to do exactly that, when one really IS poor, and secondly, to illustrate the reality of being poor.
      It’s not a personal pop at Jamie Oliver himself.

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  40. Kathleen,
    I am self employed myself and fortunate to be able to live well but I have been out of work in the past and was very close to the poverty line myself a couple of times so I can relate to what you’re saying.

    if I can help you with anything at all, please say.. Dan, it guru

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  41. Hi Kathleen and good morning everyone. I too have been put in a terrible situation because of my health. I have a rare hormone disease which, in turn, has caused many physical and mental health issues. My Husband and I lost our business and our home due to financial issues caused by my health problems. I used to be an Office Manager for a local charity, my Husband was a Barber in our Barbershop. We have gone from being useful members of the community to an embarrassment that everyone wants to be rid of. We currently live on a disused carpark in an old, damp and mouldy caravan with little hope of ever getting out. We are on the Council waiting list, however, with no young children, it could be years before we are offered a place. We would rent privately but, no private Landlord in our area will accept people on benefits. Our only child was away at Uni and had to work all hours to support herself, however, she has unfortunately inherited some of my health issues and has taken a year off to deal with it, the Dr said she will be crippled by the time she is 30 as she also has Hypermobility Syndrome. My heart is breaking for her. Trying to get any help when you do not have an address is a nightmare, thankfully, my Mum agreed to let me use her address for my DLA. I am an accomplished Musician but, due to my health, I have developed Agoraphobia, haven’t left the caravan in 8 Months so, busking is out of the question right now. My Husband is a FT Carer for myself and my Daughter so, he can’t work either. I’m not particularly a religious person but, I did believe in paying it forward. Once a week, I would go shopping and wait behind a Pensioner or, someone who looked like they could use a little help, at the checkout. I would then pay for their shopping, just a small thing, I know but, it was my way of giving something back. I also worked for 2 charities on half the salary I would get elsewhere and I always fed the local homeless population whenever I could. Now, I’m not so sure on the whole Karma thing, those who we once helped avoid my Husband in the street, the local kids whose football shirts my Husband bought for them through his business when they couldn’t afford it, shout Gyppo and Pikey to us when they walk past our caravan. At least we have a roof over our heads though, I would be dead in a few days if I had to be out on the streets. Before anyone mentions insurance, I have been ill since being a teenager, on and off, and have been turned down for health insurance etc…. on several occasions. I wish you all the best Katherine, I cannot imagine having to do this with 4 children. Crumbs, I do hope I haven’t put everyone on a downer now.

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