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. This isn’t new. I have had exactly the same experience – 28 years ago, when my husband was working and I was at home with two year old boys, we went through your experiences, no income support or child tax credit for us then, crying when the bills came in because we couldn’t pay them. We sold our house and moved North to rescue ourselves, living off the difference between north and south house prices until things got better. And I went through it again 15 years ago when I got divorced. (I lost 3 stone in weight that time, but it would have been worse if it wasn’t for my sister). The support system doesn’t always support where it should, and this current government is taking it backwards, to when my boys were two. I worry about my children and all young couples raising their families now. AllI can say is good luck, but also to remember you will come out of this wiser and stronger,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. this is exactly what I have been saying for a long time it is those who are not on benefits that are suffering and need help. but that help is not forthcoming as they are not seen as those in need!

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      1. As the years pass the general consensus never seems to differ, there has always been an assumption that people who work are financially better off than people who are reliant on benefits but WHY? People on benefits usually get their rent and council tax paid, free prescriptions, free school meals, help if that ‘pesky washing machine will not spin anymore’,etc, whereas people who work and find themselves that ‘£5’ a month over the limit and not being to clam any financial assistance facing the week or month not sure how they will manage it. Its a scary world out there and I believe that Kathleen has a valid argument.

        I myself work and have rheumatoid arthritis and was informed that I should of given up work when diagnosed but found myself trying to work out how my husband, son and I would survive as my husband also works but we would be a few pounds over the limit to claim any housing benefit or council tax relief so I kept my fingers crossed that the wonders of medical science would at least mean that I would be pain free sometimes and grin and bear it the rest and here I am 2 years later, sometimes pain free and other times not so. I have to pay for my prescriptions that I cannot manage without so I have to make sure that I can afford the monthly direct debit that goes to the NHS for my pre payment certificate.

        I do think that the system is flawed, things that aren’t means tested should be and cant make sense of the ones that are. I do agree that the rich and famous need to empathise and not sympathise, some of them have come from similar backgrounds to the rest of us but this has been forgotten along the way and maybe a reminder is in order.

        There are many TV programmes out there depicting people living on the benefits system and maybe the production companies should take time out to make a programme about the rest of us, the workers that ‘gets by but only by the skin of our teeth’, maybe we aren’t interesting enough!!

        Anyway Kathleen, I enjoyed your blog very much and hope you post more.

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    2. This prob won’t help much and is pretty much out of topic. But here’s a few Chinese recipes to try. (traditional Chinese home recipes are based on a strict budget). As a student from foreign lands and having to make do with a little cash and astronomical exchange rates I’ve learned a few tricks.

      Cook rice, spread it thin and leave in refrigerator until dry and firm (1 hour is more then enough). Add eggs and mix it up. Put a dollop of butter in a wok, add garlic before the rice and stir fry the rice until golden. It’s ready to eat. You can also add any bits and pieces of meat or frozen vegs.

      Ramen, the food for the budget concious. You’ll need a real Chinese store. Find your favourite flavour and buy them by the boxes. £10 will get you 30-40 packs, to me that’s 30-40 meals. Add whatever you want. £1 frankfurters and eggs are Asian favourites.

      Mincemeat. The staple of any Asian household. Mix mincemeat with eggs, season with salt and pepper. Place in metal dish bowl and steam. Eat with plain rice and soy sauce.

      Plain rice. When the going is tough. Cook sugar with soy sauce to taste. Eat with plain rice. To make it Japanese, get plain dried seaweed from the shop (not sushi nori). they come in circular packs. Roast it till crispy, crush it and sprinkle on top of rice and sweet/regular soy sauce. To make it even more Japanese, add tuna+mayonnaise as a side dish.

      Rice ball: Japanese office worker’s favourite. Lightly vinegar and sugar the rice. Slap a piece of sushi nori or roll it in home-roasted Chinese style seaweed as mentioned above. That’s lunch for many.

      For a treat. Soy sauce chicken/beed/pork. Lightly oil the wok, add garlic, then stir fry bite size pieces of meat until meat is sealed. Add light soy sauce and dark soy sauce and continue stirring. When sauce is slightly burnt, add water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add sugar to taste. Eat with plain rice. (ginger optional)

      Vegs. Steam any green leafy vegs you can get your hands on. Water down some oyster sauce and sugar/salt/soy sauce to taste. Pour it over the veg. Done.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is fantastic! And the sort of thing I will feed my family. Ethnic & Asian Supermarkets are so easy to find if you’re in or near a city. I hope this helps some people 🙂

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        1. And Google some veggie recipes. It is usually the meat that is expensive. You budget is tight, but ignore Oliver and go veggie. I did 30 years ago when I was struggling on a similar budget. It does work.

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    3. Benifits are for people like you. Just because the govournment and media like to portray people on benifit as scroungers and ne’er do wells does not mean you should avoid them. They were put in place for people like you and are paid for by people like you. There is not some massive devide and believing so is unfair on your children and snobbish. Free school meals for example could be a massive help to you finacially and to your childrens health. Not excepting benifits should not be worn like a badge of honour, it is shear stupidity.

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      1. Please READ part 2? I am on all available benefits that I am eligible to claim. I do not avoid benefits, I am simply in the grey area between £16,100 p.a and ‘money you can live on as a family of 5, p.a’

        I am no snob, I have not avoided benefits. I am not ENTITLED to school meals, free prescriptions, Working Tax Credits (I get some Child Tax Credits) or Income Support. I have been denied Disability benefits as I can toilet, shower and feed myself.

        Thank you.

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        1. Your situation sounds truly horrible. It’s appalling that you aren’t given nearly enough financial support when you need it. Alas, that seems to be the way with the UK government when it comes to benefits, the job centre and everything else. It’s so wrong that the people who want to work rather than live off the state are so often left wanting when others happily take what’s offered and don’t bother working.

          When I was a child, my parents fell into the same grey area of earning enough not to qualify for benefits, but with 3 children and a mortgage, not enough to be comfortable, so they had to live month to month and use overdrafts. I can’t really imagine what it was like for them, let alone what you are going through in a situation which is clearly much worse even than what my parents dealt with. But I do remember being the child who saw other kids having satellite TV, games consoles and foreign holidays while my family had to go without and our holidays were the budget ones in cold caravans from The Sun coupons.

          I applaud you for coping with your difficulties and I’m going to buy your book because it sounds cool. I really hope you can get the financial help you deserve. I hope the government learns to take notice of the working people who are so often ignored and have been for the last 30 years and maybe even longer.

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        2. Very Interesting article Kathleen, and I agree whole heartedly that politicians know nothing of real poverty in families such as yours.
          I was a single mother with 2 young children in the 1970s, ( because I had escaped my abusive and alcoholic husband, a hard thing to do in those days.)
          My kids were brought up on toast , minced beef, with an occasional treat of roast of belly pork slices.
          .Income support in those days was far from generous ,but to me a veritable Godsend, as it was paid regularly to me and we were not, as when living with my husband, dependant on his wages, which were spent, almost totally at the pub,
          In that time I learned how to stretch a meagre allowance so far that even when our circumstances improved I had an ingrained thriftiness.
          As a pensioner now, that thriftiness has enabled me to be generous to my adult children (always attempting to compensate for their impoverished childhood. ) and to be able to live comfortably and travel widely with my present husband .We also work with a charity helping children who live in shacks in a township in South Africa to overcome their circumstances of poverty and abuse.
          http://WWW.hopeandlight.co.za. (if you wish to take a peek)
          So as hard as it was for me and is at present for you, in my case it proved a valuable experience.
          I trust that your situation will turn around and that you and your family will have a better time financially.

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        3. Living on Benefits is bad… I have had to give up work as my disabled wife falls on a very regular basis and has been told that she is not employable due to her instability on her feet… We have in the last 2 years lost our home due to repossession, had to fight the council in order for them to provide us with a bungalow (they decided that it was our own fault that’ve had lost our home) and now due to the bureaucrats (PIP) deciding that she isn’t as disabled as she is, lose our car. Obviously again we are about to enter a big fight with them, but, in the mean time, struggle to do our shopping as we have a poor bus service (meaning that shopping to get the reduced items is impossible).

          The side of poverty that you don’t mention (in this article) is the strain that is placed on marriages, the constant worry of anything untoward happening. Television doesn’t make things better, anything showing people on benefits appear to choose those who are using them as a life choice.

          I would give my right arm for a good job and being able to work without the constant worry that my wife is fine at home. Sadly, this is a point that those bureaucrats, sitting in the cosy offices, driving to work in the mornings from their large luxury homes in their modern luxury cars will never accept nor see…

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        4. my apologies, I assumed you avoided benefits due to the stigma attached to them, not because your family income is above the freshhold to recieve them. My mistake.

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      2. Asian supermarkets are by far the cheapest way to feed yourself and your families I go down to Manchester or Bolton fairly regularly to stock up my cupboards, In fact anywhere where there are Asian communities you will find large Asian stores full of fruit, flour spices Onions at some time unbelievable prices… Rice is so much cheaper, Spices are a fraction of the supermarket prices with bigger packs which if stored properly will last for months. The freezers stock plenty of good fish and prawns at half the supermarket prices…The meats can be a bit dodgy but if you either freeze it on the day you buy it or cook it thoroughly there will be no problem. Buy Chapatti flour for making your own flat breads they are much healthier that shop bought brands there is no preservative in them and they freeze well. I often buy boxes of Limes or Mangos and other fruits to make chutneys and pickle I sell off the surplus to local restaurants. You might need to learn how to use some of this product but trust me its fun and very healthy and tasty. Email me on hogroastrus@gmail.com for recipes and advice on what to buy and how to get the best out of it. Why not form a co-operative and buy in bulk then split it between the co-operative this should save a few bob…. Soups and stews are another nutritional way of feeding a hungry family…Stop worrying about sell by dates and all that crap…Food DOES NOT GO OFF ON THE DATE ON THE PACKET BELIEVE ME….!!!! You should never feel ashamed that you are in this situation there but for the Grace of God I always say ….

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    4. I’d be a lot more sympathetic were you not fuelling poverty yourself by using a corporation like Amazon as your creative marketplace. And why do you have a TV? Surely that’s a luxury you cannot afford and one that is of no real benefit to you or your family.

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        1. Just makes it worse. You cannot be concerned about the poverty of other people if you are happy to patronise evil establisments such as Tesco.

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    5. I agree with many of your comments but have to disagree on the price of food. I shop for about £55-£60 per week, every week, this feeds a family of four and between 6-9 small children per day (I’m a childminder) and includes toiletries / cleaning products. We don’t eat much meat (2-3 times a week) but we eat well and healthily, lots of fruit & veg, homemade meals made from scratch every day, packed lunches for two, homemade cakes & biscuits – mainstream supermarkets charge a fortune for basic food and make huge profits at our expense, shop around, it can be done.

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  2. I just wanted to say that I grew up in a certain amount of poverty in the 80s – no car, infrequent heating, endless cheap cheese sandwiches, charity shop or homemade Christmas presents etc. I don’t think we ever had a joint of meat and I certainly never ate anything as luxurious as a steak or roast beef. Yes, my Mum was also a magician with mince! The point I want to make is that although I knew we didn’t have much money I really didn’t care and it didn’t have any lasting affect on my health or emotional wellbeing. I was happy, loved and cared for. I cherished those second-hand Christmas presents and still look on them with fond memories. I also still cook a lot of my Mum’s magic mince dishes! If anyhring it’s made me a) incredibly thankful for my comfortable financial situation now and b) very careful with my finances. Sounds to me like you’re doing a fab job for your children and that they’ll be equally well adjusted and happy. Thanks for posting.

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  3. I know all too well that poverty frequently bites at those not on benefits but pulling in a minimum wage job & doing their best to keep a roof over their heads & to just keep going. Best wishes to you & for your continued recovery

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    1. QUOTE: ‘ 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’

      Here’s a question: Why aren’t you ‘On the dole’? It seems to me that you are struggling terribly and yet you say you can’t access food banks, not because you are denied but because you don’t know how to? You obviously have the internet and a computer, can’t you look it up? And correct me if I am wrong but what is stopping you from getting welfare is your pride. Like you were taught not to get welfare or something, Is this right? Here is a suggestion: Get ‘On the dole’ for Gods sake and look up how you can get access to food banks or stamps or whatever. It’s not Jamie Oliver’s problem, it’s yours.

      QUOTE: ‘It’s important to feel as though you’re earning money and not sitting on your arse having it handed to you’
      It seems this is one of your issues right now. Here you are complaining about poverty but not claiming any welfare because you think it is important not to. Imagine someone in Calcutta reading this or someone in Africa. They would be like: ‘Let me get this straight. You are saying you COULD get money and food assistance from the state but you think it’s important not to?’….

      My suggestion is that you wake up, stop using your poverty to get attention from people and instead drop your pride, contact social services and use your computer to research food assistance…

      ‘The reality of Poverty’ as you put it is living in a third world country where children are sold as prostitutes as the family can’t afford to keep them, where children’s limbs are cut off so they can beg from tourists. Where the vultures hang around waiting for the next person to die of starvation. Where kids have to walk miles every day to collect water. Where there is NO free healthcare, No welfare, NO food assistance. Where people truly don’t have a choice….Where most people dont just have poverty, but disease and daily violence to content with….

      What you may encounter is some degree of poverty but it seems to me that your situation could be better if you weren’t avoiding benefits and food assistance out of pride…

      Liked by 2 people

        1. We’re in a similar situation and we’ve tried for additional benefits in addition to dla and child benefit but we’be been told that basically unless we’re substance abusers, immigrants or are willing to put the kids in care we won’t get anything. We’re not talking about the third world… We’re talking about our world and our country where most people aren’t aware that this situation exists. Or chose to ignore it. And as for saying that it’s pride that prevents the use of food banks…. Actually it’s knowing that there are still people out there who are worse off than us and feeling that because life used to be ‘good’ that we should let those less fortunate use the food banks not realising that we are slipping into the group of the less fortunate.
          The teality is you’re not in the situation, you are where we used to be and think we could solve the problems of those struggling with a few words of ‘ advice ‘ but that advice doesn’t work in our world. So get off your high horse and stop preaching. The hidden poor are the ones trying to save face because.We used to be like you and now we know how wrong our thinking was and part of us are ashamed that we used to think like that, we’re the ones who know that things can get bad and we are scared in case things get worse – (although in some respects it might be better because then we’d be eligible for those benefits and food banks!)

          If this reply is a bit muddled it’s because I’m so angry that you think you know the answers – but you’re answers.dont fit our situation. There are very few answers to our situation – and no-one seems to know that. Until the system changes to recognise the ‘hidden poor’ these cases will become more and more common.

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        2. Seems to me that people have lost the ability to empathise with other people. Have you actually read what the writer has written or have you just read what you want to see? she sis talking about the people on low wages who seem to have slipped between the cracks, the people who have a great work ethic but can only get the basic rate of pay. There are many out there who live on the breadline. Who walk through life on a tight rope without a balancing pole (state benefits) to keep it steady. To those people who think they are better than this writer, I hope you never hit that brick wall that can knock you off your pedestal.

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      1. I can clear this up. YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH ON BENEFITS TO AFFORD TO LIVE WITH A FAMILY OF 6! People have a really unrealistic view of being on the dole. Yes apply for housing benefit, that would help, but if her husband is working then she can’t as it will probably be deemed he earns too much and can support her. One of the main issues of today is that their is not a real understanding of how much is actually costs to live.

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      2. Your suggestions have as many invalid points as those quotes you have used.

        As someone who has been “on the dole”/”claiming welfare”, do you realize what this does to our economy on the whole? It sucks it dry. If everyone who needed it was on welfare, we’d have no economy to sustain the lives people live now.

        The writer of this has only posed her family situation, but there are others who will refuse the help of welfare because just to start with, it doesn’t help half as much as people say. Those who live off it and have a happy life and don’t complain about poverty, fine.

        There’s also no need for said writer to apply for welfare, as she probably wouldn’t even be entitled to it with her book selling and husband working anyway. There isn’t an awful lot in place for the people who are working their asses off to live a life that they would like.

        Another point, there is poverty EVERYWHERE. Every single country. And in each country people are affected in different ways. Saying that you’re not living in poverty because you have it better than some but still worse than others is like saying you can’t be happy when everyone else is sad.

        Wake up and smell the gravy. Some things are more difficult than others.

        Just saying.

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      3. Ronald, your post was a little insensitive.

        For her to even qualify for any kind of benefit, her family would need to earn under a certain threshold. With her husband working, he probably earns over that threshold (mjnimum wage at 35 hours a week). Then he has to pay for the rent, council tax, water, gas, electric. They aren’t entitled to any help.

        Another thing, she never mentioned anything about avoiding benefits or food banks out of pride. Her concern for going to a food bank is the possibility of Social Services involving themselves. All it takes is one phone call from a nosey sod and they’re in your house meeting with your kids.

        Whilst you go on about the third world countries and how poverty affects them. Take a look at Britain, it’s rapidly declining for the lower class. Whilst the rich stay rich, the poor start to have to sell their belongings to buy £10 of electric to get out of the emergency credit.

        We lived comfortably and now we don’t, I don’t see why there should be any comparison of our lives to anothers. It affects people in different ways.

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      4. Why are you judging her? Did it make you feel better to write that? Your lack of compassion is crystal clear and as sickening as poverty is.

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      5. What you don’t seem to realise is that people who are claiming everything they’re entitled to, and maybe also using food banks are still living in poverty. Benefits have been capped, both ‘the dole’ and in-work benefits and people are required to pay more council tax than before as well as the hated bedroom tax (even if that isn’t an issue for Kathleen and her family). The reality is that many people live in this kind of poverty or worse despite claiming everything they can and working really hard to make everything go a long way.

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      6. Having been “on the dole” several times with small children, if the jobcentre thinks that she and her husband have quit their jobs (as opposed to having been made redundant or go to the end of a temp job) they will be refused any benefits for six weeks or possibly even up to six months.
        I’ve lived in Birmingham for 20 years now, and I’ve heard there are food banks here but I don’t know where they are based or what I need to do be accepted by them as a “service user”. Google doesn’t give as much information about some areas as you would assume. I know that I could be “referred by my church”, but I’m not christian so that doesn’t help. I could be referred by Social Services, but I’m not one of their “service users” either. Because I work, I can’t attend some other charities during the day, who might be able to help me out.
        My children have grown up and left home, so no working tax credits any more, even though my partner is on minimum wage and I earn less than he does.
        The working poor are just screwed.

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    2. I felt your despair and remembered the hard ship that i have come through in my life.. In 2011, i had my partner arrested, and this was not a situation i saw coming. my daughter and myself became victims of a situation we had no control over.. what was too follow would be unreal, the poverty and despair escalated throughout a devastating time. Coming to terms with financial loss and no foods to speak off, and bills mounting by the day. Neighbors and real friends surfaced at this time to keep us in foods to survive and the electric token was a luxury. My x managed to get off all the bills and debts that he had accumulated and this was left to myself to keep the bailiffs from the door and previous land lords from harassing me constantly for the arrears that he had accumulated. its taken me 3 years since this time and have worked hard to gain qualification and to help myself any way i can, and now have a new amazing partner in my life. where kindness and love are a luxury and the smallest peace of mind a lusury to speak of. i am keen to help others in the situations that life can throw at us and to write about experiences and embark upon a writing career i would dearly love to share this and help many people as i can. I find that many people come to me for advice and empathy for which i have plenty. guess what does not kill us makes us stronger.

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      1. This to me Joanne is exactly what is wrong with this country… I. through a back injury at work, found myself in a similar situation. Now I am a very headstrong person and take no crap from anyone including the Bailiffs when they came knocking and issuing treats against me. I took them to the magistrates court and won my case. Unfortunately most people are not made of the same stuff that I’m made off and are afraid of these bullies. They add to the situation without any feelings whatsoever, as far as they are concerned “I am just doing my job” … Because that’s what they get paid to do…. This situation needs to be addressed and pretty damn quick before many more of us fall into this horrible trap. Never think that you have no redress against these Bailiffs etc. Never allow them into your home. Write to them and insist that all your dealings with them is done in writing(never on the telephone unless you have recording equipment to record your conversation) that way you have a record of what is said and trust me they don’t like it but in the eyes of the LAW, they have no option but to comply…. Hope this is of some help.

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  4. Your life sounds pretty much like mine. I am currently on benefits and even they aren’t guaranteed. I have been without money at all twice in three years over Christmas and winter due to sanctions put on my benefits for no valid reason, resulting in no food, no money and the bills piling up. I am a single parent and have learned to rely on cheap meals, no gas and living on the most frugal of meals. I gave up watching cooking shows years ago, and have fallen back to basic meals with basic ingredients. It’s amazing that my most well stocked cupboard is the herbs and spices given to me by friends and family to create nice tasting foods from almost nothing. My kids have learned that when we shop, if there is no sticker on it we don’t need it. We buy reduced items every day to fill the freezer and cupboard and live on these. We have some very weird concoctions of meals, but they fill an empty stomach. By the way, I am on benefits due to having severe arthritis and not able to work but I’m not ill enough to receive disability. Two of my younger children have additional needs, and I receive some disability for one of them which is what keeps us going. I scrimp and save for their Christmas and birthdays and generally buy in the sales and through bargain sites on facebook. Thank you so much for voicing what the rest of us are thinking, TV is certainly not life and bears absolutely no reality to those of us who are poor but still have standards. We do what we can for ourselves and our children. Just a quick note about the food banks though. I was referred to a food bank on 21st December 2013 but couldn’t get there. It was a 3 mile walk each way with my kids who simply couldn’t manage it. There is no guarantee that even if you are referred you can actually get food, I had no-one to collect for me and couldn’t get there so couldn’t receive any help. I asked my local job centre if they could help and they told me to knock on my neighbours doors and ask for food to feed my kids over Christmas. Thankfully, a friend loaned me £5 to get some electric, bread, tea bags and margarine so we could at least have some toast and tea to keep warm and fed.

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  5. My heart bled for you readi g this! I understand completely what youre going through, as one of three children whom my Mother brought up all by herself, i have seen poverty first hand and the detrimental effect it can have on life itself. Just remember you’re not alone in this situation.

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    1. Adam, can I ask a question please? You said that you were going through this in early life with your mother. Did this have any detrimental affect on you? I worry about the effects on my children due to our circumstances but know they wouldn’t tell me as they wouldn’t like to upset me and there is nothing that can be done at present anyway. I completely understand if you would rather not answer.

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      1. I think this is a concern for all of us re our kids. There is *nothing* we can do, but hope they’re resilient and compassionate enough to realise it’s never a choice willingly made. Try not to feel guilty x

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        1. Thank you Kathleen. It certainly helps to know that others are in the same predicament but as you are aware, nothing helps with the guilt attached. Bless you for having the guts to share your story (I’m still quite gutted that I couldn’t foresee my future). I do all I can to help those in need from advice for scrimping to receiving donations for food, clothing and household parcels to gift to those in need. We do go without a lot and certainly need a lot but I feel that I am far more compassionate due to this. If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask. I have a few items that have been donated to help those less fortunate at my house ready to be collected. God bless and I’m sending wishes for a financial and medical recovery x

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  6. Hi, I’m not sure if this is of any help but food banks are not linked to social services and if you go to the bank you can receive an emergency pack. Please try the Salvation Army as a first port of call. They have food banks.
    It is very hard to get over the stigma, but you need to think of your children. Even if SS were involved they want to help and it is foremost in keeping families together. Have you looked at benefits you can claim? Housing benefit for one. I too would offer support, through clothes and food for your children and if you need anything, please contact me. Take care of yourself too as you need to be well to care for the family.

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    1. Hallo, I felt the need to reply to this. I grew up in a similar situation, the similarities are frightening. But I don’t think you have to worry about your children.
      I’m the oldest of four and have left Scotland, and now live in Europe, am fluent in two languages and am an engineer.
      As far as the rest goes; one of my sisters is an assistant manager in a care home, the other one is at university studying to be a teacher(remember uni is free in Scotland) and my brother is still in high school.

      As long as you do your best, and raise them with the values you think are important, and teach them that none can hold them back but themselves, they will be fine.

      Hope this helps ease some of your worries.

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  7. i feel the same way. i currently have a job as a carer in a nursing home for 36 hours a week i get child benefit and tax credits but nothing else. i understand all too well what you are saying and identify with everything you have put. i have two children who go without alot but hopefully without to much realisation of this, ie they have never been abroad and dont own the latest computer consoles, they go to school with home made packed lunches with value branded produce, i hope they dont get picked on at school. but they are clean and happy and doing well in school. we dont smoke or drink and have few luaxries but play board games and go camping during the sumer holidays. poverty is hard its a difficult way to live and you feel ashamed by what you cant provide and the way people treat you i suppose.

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  8. I’m not a particularly articulate person but I just wanted to show my support for you on here. I genuinely hope things improve for you and your family soon

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  9. Hi there, I would just like to reply to the question about detrimental effects on children after being raised by a poor single parent. My mother raised 4 children singlehandedly with no help from our father. She worked occasionally ofte during the holidays so that I was at home to help with looking after my younger brothers and sister. My childhood wasn’t brilliant, BUT, this was in no way to do with my mother, who done her absolute best to raise us in the best way possible. I remember night of eating cornflakes for dinner, and then she would make up desserts like banana surprise, which was chopped banana, milk and dedicated coconut on top! To this day, we still have it as a pudding for afterwards and reminisce about how it was such a treat because none of our friends had it! Did this have any detrimental effect on us…no! It made us closer, stronger, more loving and caring of others. Did we have food banks, yes from our local church! All 4 of my mums childrens have gone on to work, have children, get married. And not one of us have spent time in Prison or got hooked on drugs. This is my reality and that of my family. I feel blessed everyday xx

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  10. Some foodbanks volunteers deliver. Depends where you live. Community Solutions work in the North of England.

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  11. My sympathies for your plight, it is hard not to have enough money for the basics in life, i bought up my two daughters on £50 a week for a long time, however at least there is help out there now if you choose to avail yourself. For cheap and nourishing food on a budget i can recommend the blog by A Girl Named Jack…… she is amazing and can produce a meal for under £1. Hope things especially your health improves for you xxx

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  12. GET A JOB!!

    Yes because it’s that simple isn’t it? Because I like being poor and not having enough, I like hoping nothing will break down and only having one hinge on the toilet seat. I like not being able to go out and making excuses to not see friends because I’m so ashamed of my circumstances. I love the confusion of wondering why society has rejected me and why I’m so useless that no one will hire me. I love having to make decisions about whether I’ll eat or have heat and not making decisions about my hair or my clothes. I love the fact the trainers I bought three years ago are worn down to the white under the sole and that I have “flank rot” in my jeans where my thighs have rubbed them away. I love the fear of the power my adviser has over me the fact I could be sanctioned at any time or that my money might come in a day late meaning no lights or a day without food. I love all of that. Why would I want a job?

    Just because I have “things” it doesn’t mean I’m not poor. I am poor because I do not have prospects. I am poor because I cannot choose, I am poor because I am powerless, I am poor because I have to make do. I am poor because my fingers are cold and I’m sitting wrapped in a blanket to fend off the cold. I am poor because I cannot say no. I am poor because I feel I owe more than I can pay for all the teas and coffees friends have bought me because they know I don’t have it to pay and don’t want to say. I am poor. I know it. I feel it. I live it. I was given this Samsung, it doesn’t alleviate my poverty.

    Thank you Kathleen. I felt like you put your arm around my shoulder and told me I am not alone. I’ve been unemployed for nearly five years. No one gets it. I don’t get it. Thanks for not judging me.

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  13. As a fellow author, I am sharing this post with everyone I know. I am suggesting that this who can afford it should buy your book. Maybe you’ll become a best-selling author whose work supports her family! That’s the hope, anyway. Best of luck, Kathleen.

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  14. A great piece that someone shared on facebook. Anyone can find themselves in similar circumstances. In our town (Blackburn) a group of us have set up Community Spirit, we run a ‘soup kitchen’ one evening a week in a empty building for the homeless and those living in hostels, but we have more and more referrals for families in crisis. We have set up our own mini food bank and help where we can with donations. It is operated and funded by local people for local people, no red tape, no judging, no politics.

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  15. I was really feeling for you until it turned into an advert for your books, if your blog was true it would have been better not to mention your book writing, it has taken any credablity away.

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    1. I am a brand new self – published author who, last month, made less than £100 from royalties. Why would I not use every resource at my disposal to try and further my prospects? I do not lack credibility because I am able to write and have a degree of education (AS level, if you’re interested. I gained three just before I had my fourth child). I am using the means I have and my ability to shine a light on a situation that is affecting millions in this country. I am far more fortunate than most. I did not ask for your sympathy, but neither do I deserve your ire.
      Kathleen.

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      1. I do not give sympathy or ire, I merely pointed out how it looks when you combine the two in one blog.
        I did not doubt your intelligence either.
        in these times sadly one can never know the truth
        You could indeed be in dire straits in which case I fully support your comments.
        Or
        You could be upping your sales, I hope your not. You will of course attack me for this but it is a fact of life nowadays.
        And before you think that I’m well off I can assure you that I am most DEFINATELY not

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        1. I understand your scepticism, and this is the single biggest reason I have refused the hundreds of offers people have given regarding financial assistance. Because there are always those who will scream grad. I assure you that I am far from well off.
          I wish you the best.

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    2. Nonsense! If someone is broke and has written something which others might want to pay to read then she should say so. Every little bit of income is crucial to families like Kathleen’s so she should take any opportunity to gain from her work.

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  16. Dear Kathleen, how you have made me think. I work with people experiencing mental health distress and often, just like you their usual lifestyle is shaken into poverty by no fault of their own. The heartening thing about you is your fighting spirit and I wish you all the best and that you can keep on fighting. Your children will grow up proud of a strong mother who did her very best in the face of adversity. Jan

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    1. Thank you so much 🙂 I really hope for a brighter future. The mental health issues in this country are so…
      They ring close to home, thanks to many friends and close family, we’ll just say that and leave it there.
      All the best, and I wish you all the success you truly deserve in your career and life.
      Take care xx

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  17. ill never understand how people on benefits and working family’s can say they cant afford to eat or heat there homes i have always had to be careful with money as i have never had alot i have worked most my life on basic wages and with the help from child tax credit and child benefit i have always managed to pay bills i am currently claiming benefits which i hate doing but needs and must but even on benefits i am able to put three meals a day in my kids bellies, its not rocket science that if you go out and buy a weeks shopping for £45 including a bag of spuds which you can make numerous meals from you will eat very well if you are cooking from fresh not all these fast meals that most people seem to buy.
    Everyone seems to moan about not being able to eat or heat there homes yet they all have new phones , and are able to have internet sky tv and all the things that are not important, for me the most important thing is a roof over my head and being able to feed my kids, its about time people got there priorities straight.

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  18. I think you made some excellent points. Every time the government show poverty they show the minority who are smokers, alcoholics, drug users and make them out to be scrounges. I was a single parent with three children on benefits for many years. I didn’t start out as a single parent but unfortunately that’s what happened. I had to manage. After being in foster are until I was 18 I had no family around for support and to help when the washing machine broke down or the electric ran out. Not one of my children have been in trouble with the police, two have been to university, two now have their own families and they are all doing ok. I went back to school when they were teenagers and gained a ba hons degree. Children are very resilient if given a good set of morals and ethics to live by. At the same time they have been brought up to have empathy with those who are worse off than they are and understand just what being poor means. I am now fortunate to have a good job but it has taken many years to get out of the poverty trap, it is not an overnight thing but with Perseverance it is possible. Good luck to all those who find themselves in such a situation.

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  19. Are you getting disability living allowance? If not, you will need to apply for personal independence payment, DLA’s replacement. You sound as though you’d qualify and it isn’t means tested, nor do you have to be out of work. Get help from a welfare rights department or CAB, they know how to answer the questions.

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      1. I applied 5 times for DLA and was turned down for them. my occupational therapist (you must have one and if not go to as and get one) Sat down and showed me where I was going wrong filling in the forms. She helped me do them and bingo I was accepted I now get high mobility (I also have heart failure as well as diabetes severe arthritis and a crumbling spine) and middle care component as I too can feed myself, shower and dress myself (usually) so don’t give up get help if NEC from CAB and write to your no and anyone else you think will help good luck I’ll be thinking of you.

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        1. You are right Lizzie, best for Kathleen to get help & apply again. In our CAB we have advisers who specialise in filling in these forms, we have a far higher success rate than people doing it on their own. The ‘mandatory reconsideration’ and appeals process for those turned down is horrendous nowadays, but we see clients through that as well.

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  20. I don’t think any of this is Jamie Oliver’s fault… In fact I’d go as fas as to say he has nothing to do with your situation whatsoever.

    While I sympathise with the situation you’re in, I have to ask how you can afford the internet if you can’t afford food…? Are you budgeting, are you shopping around for the cheapest? Do you have car, satellite TV? Lots of people go to the supermarket late in the afternoon to get the deals, there’s no shame in that. There’s a page on Facebook about feeding your family well for £20 a week, have a look at that, it might be able to help in some way.

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  21. Kathleen, Thank you for this post, a friend of a friend shared it on Fb and it brought me here.

    There are two types of poverty in the world today; absolute and relative. Absolute poverty means you do not have the basic things needed to sustain life. Relative poverty means you do not have what the average person has in your country, town, neighbourhood, etc. For most people in the Western world that do not have enough we live in relative poverty. You are very lucky that your husband has a job and you earn money from writing. But i do understand your difficulties and frustrations with health problems that others do not have to live with every day. I know because i have my own.

    After working as a staff nurse for a number of years i then became too unwell to continue working, first i worked part time and then i had to give up altogether. Although i had to leave work due to health problems i wasn’t entitled to claim my NHS pension in full. I had to live on basic benefits for a year until i could prove i was too disabled by my condition and was able to claim disability allowance and although i now get those payments i still do not have enough money coming in to pay my mortgage and every thing else, and over the last 4 years it as gone gradually further and further into arrears and recently the bank has decided that they cannot wait for things to change, because they are not going to and are starting court proceedings to repossess my house and home for the past 17 years, i cannot fight them any longer. I do not have a spouse or any other person i live with and my 4 children are grown and thankfully they do not have to live through this with me.

    My disability means i spend most of my time at home alone, much of it in bed as it is too cold and i cannot afford to put the heating on all day long. My children and granddaughters visit when they can.

    No one should judge someone else unless you have walked in their shoes and of course once we take those shoes off we quickly forget what it felt like to walk in them. And for those who have never worn them be careful what you say for in today’s world it could be your turn next.

    And my children pay for my mobile phone so if i fall i can get help. I do not own a TV and have the cheapest broad band i can find. I bought my computer from my severance pay when i left work otherwise it would have just paid the bills and my friend pays the insurance on it.

    And i love Jamie too, but yes his meals are a little rich for my pocket these days. You should try and find a young chef by the name of Sam Stern, he could be the new Jamie in the future.

    As for food banks, you can only get food from them if you have absolutely nothing and then they give you the basics for 3-4 days depending on what they have in and i think in this modern society it’s disgraceful that we need them.

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  22. Dear Kathleen – I think your situation is appalling – and untenable. That people with very llittle should have even less so that those with a great deal can keep it, is immoral. Just a couple of things – I believe you should be entitled to free school meals because you claim Child Tax Credit, and many food banks involve just turning up – but you can see how to refer by googling for one in your area. In case it’s of any comfort, having worked for Children’s Services till I retired, I know they won’t get involved with anyone unless there’s tangible evidence of significant harm to the children. People who eat rice so that their kids get a meal couldn’t possibly cause concern – especially when there aren’t enough social workers to cover the serious cases! Good luck and may your health and writing prosper from now on!

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    1. Although Kathleen is getting Child Tax Credit her husband’s income is just a little over the cut off for free school meals. You have to be getting only child tax credit, not working tax credit as well,and have an income of £16190 or less. This is why Kathleen is stuck in that “grey area” of getting any more help than she is now.

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  23. I do voluntary work at a food bank, there is no judgement when people come in, they are greeted pleasantly and offered tea and biscuits. There are many helpful leaflets on offer. The Salvation Army some churches and social workers are the people to get in touch with if vouchers are needed, but information can also be given at the food bank also it’s all done very discreetly .

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  24. Hello.

    I have to say that your blog made me cry. I’m not Brittish, I’m Finnish, but I know what you’re talking about, well not sure if I know but I certainly feel. I lived in poverty for most of my childhood. Today, things are better but there’s still the dark cloud hanging on the sky – one can’t just never know, be sure that you still have a job when you wake up at morning. And the cost of everything is just through the roof. Even if today I can afford some luxuries every now and then, I do live a life of sustainability – like only getting stuff I really need and try to buy stuff that lasts. I only try to buy food on bulks, never really cared about the taste as long it has tabasco in it. It doesn’t matter that I work or study law on the side of it, I learned this stuff as a child growing up in the 90’s.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to talk about myself. I wish for the EU decision makers to see things through the eyes of common people and do the work we vote them to do, try to make decisions for the common people – not for the lobbyist or for their future employers.

    I wish all the best for You and Your family. Let’s hope You’ll become an bestselling author.

    And thank You for sharing Your story, a story which made me cry.

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  25. With all your disabilities you would get disabiliy living allowance. Just because you can dress yourself and wash doesnt mean its easy for you. Its not based on your husbands wage either.You have claimed working tax credit I presume. We sign on when my husband is out of work and when h works we dont.We have both paid our taxes for over 30 years and we both still have to apply for 5 jobs a week and spend 7 days a week ooking for work. People look down their noses at us sometimes as if we are scroungers! Well we are not. Our time signing on is minimal but we have to as we have a child and we are entitled to it as are you.make sure you are getting what you are entitled to. Everyone else does. Your local church and coucil can provide help with food parcels.When your straight again you can donate food back.

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  26. Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It if truth
    be told was once a amusement account it. Look complex to far delivered agreeable from you!
    However, how could we be in contact?

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  27. Your Blog is Really touching, I am sure a lot of people – working and trying to manage on a weekly, daily basis can relate to this. People who have never had to struggle for money, never had to hide from the milkman or hope the electric meter will streatch another hour cannot possibly understand what it is like. I think you are so brave for sharing, and people who post negatively on here should re read both blogs before posting – I have purchased your books and look forward to reading them 🙂

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  28. Hhow touching and how brave. We too are in that area, earn just over the amount where we would get help, I am a student now too, social work!! Only a little help however I have just purchased your book, better read than my initial ones I expect. Good luck xx ouching, I

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  29. i know how you feel it is hard in these days i’m young mum at 18 with a step son and my own son living on my partners wage less than minim wage as he is self employed. we don’t get free meal or anything. no working tax credits because we are under 25, i would happily go to work but we cant afford to send the kids to day care it would cost more than i could earn. the kids eat well and we will have things like a tin of beans between us. i don’t see an end to this anytime soon but i wouldn’t change thing for the world i am lucky i have my health , i am so sorry you are going though this. if their is anything i can do to help please let me know.

    nobody should feel like this i wish you all the best in the future and hope one day things will get better for everyone.

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  30. well said Kathleen I cried when I read your article I,m 59 and was a one parent father many years ago , we lived on pot noodles , which I would never eat again then we up graded to a toastie machine then finally I had enough to buy a cooker I wasn’t a bad cook either so we ate basic but well , that was back in 1983 I couldn’t work as my son was 4 years old but know exactly the agonies you go through these people like St Jamie do not have and never will have any idea what its like in the real world it makes my blood boil when I see them crawling on tv breakfast shows plugging their next £1,000 000 best seller to the unsuspecting british public every so often so you keep up the good work girl I used to think the sword was mightier than the pen but realise after reading your story that the saying is true the pen Is mightier than the sword take care and god bless you steve bate

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  31. Kathleen, my parents went veggie in the 1970s because it was much cheaper and that remains true today if you cook from scratch. If you are making mince try throwing in a handful of oats – it stretches the meat and once cooked you can’t tell. Baking your own bread is much cheaper too and will fills you up more than the cheap white sliced. I feel like writing a cookbook with cheap meals in after what you’ve written. I too watched these programs to see if they would really offer cheap alternatives.
    The bigger problem is that wages are so low these days they cannot support a family. That shouldn’t mean benefits are decreased as some people are advocating – that would just increase poverty. As for sickness benefits it may be worth trying again. DLA is very much about how the form is filled in.
    Best of luck for your future.
    Gareth

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  32. Thanks for sharing your story. I am the trustee of a food bank in Dorset and we often support families like yours who do not fit the usual criteria but just need a ‘helping hand’. The fact is people and families do not fit pigeon holes as the powers that be think they do. Someone who to the outside world does not seem ‘poor’ could still be struggling to put food on the table (that’s if they have a table of course). Some of the poorest families are those who have fallen outside the benefits system and subsequently, and ironically, struggle even more. I am ashamed that anyone in the UK feels hungry today.

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  33. I am a single mother of 3 girls aged 10, 16 and 18 and I am also an indie author ( but I don’t make anything, even though i keep trying.) I suffer with severe depression and anxieties and every time I think my life is getting a bit better, some shit comes along and drags me back down again. I completely understand about sending a child out for cheap pasta and sauce – I do it often. However I do receive benefits and have been in a spiral of not being able to get any work because I basically have been bringing up kids and don’t have any skills that are relevant to the world of work – and those that I do don’t seem to matter to anyone. I don’t drive, couldn’t afford the car or even the petrol if I did so my chances of work go down even more and when people know you have some mental health issues, they go down even more. So for the last few years i have thrown myself (between bouts of severe depression that mean I can’t lift my head off my pillow) into writing and my blogs and now I am in a reasonably good moment in time. However that fluctuates depending on my depression. On a good day I might drag myself into college (which at 42, having the humiliation of sitting in a classroom with children my own kids’ ages is tough) and study a bit. Or I might do some more writing towards one of the many novels I have on the go, or do some blogging. However that usually leads me to enter a depressive phase because I start thinking how useless I am, that I am never going to amount to anything, nobody is ever going to buy my books and as soon as my kids leave me to go to university and get on with their own lives I will be down most of my income, which is child tax credits, children’s benefit and maintenance from their Dad. I try and keep cheerful and motivated when I sit with the job adviser changing my plans yet again because my self-employed plan dive-bombed again with no success whatsoever and I have a picture of me in my head in a few years time, sitting in a bedsit with my youngest daughter packed off to her Dad’s because I won’t be able to afford to look after her. Life’s great! I love my kids so much, if I didn’t have them I would have killed myself long ago – but I just keep thinking – when is my life going to get better? I’ve been in this same situation on and off for my children’s entire life. Jamie Oliver is a twat!

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    1. Please don’t give up. Ever.
      IndiePub. ..join all the Facebook groups you can and plug yourself for all its worth. Sometimes you may get a sale xxx
      Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you find support and the happiness you deserve

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  34. I truly sympathise with your situation, but I just want to reiterate that this is nothing new. People have always been poor – probably a lot more people than you realise – and people have come through it fine. When I was a kid my mother bought reject eggs with cracked shells because they were cheaper. My father had a low wage and my mother did some itinerant outworking which earned peanuts. My clothes were hand-me-downs with hems that were let down and let down and we ate mince cooked in a thousand different ways. My mother preserved fruit when it was in season – it was something we did together – a survival skill I became proud of. Our special treat was fish and chips once a year on our birthdays, and we went on holidays where you just pitched a tent by a stream for free, or in an old miner’s crib up a valley with no electricity because nobody knew it was there.

    And guess what – we were fine. We DID live in house. We DID have food. We DID have clothes. As an adult I haved lived in countries where the circumstances were far, far, far, far, far, far, far more dire. That taught me about the relativity of poverty – not relative to your own culture, but to the world. I could have been born into Cambodia under Pol Pot, or in a refugee camp in Darfur, or to a family living under a motorway bridge in India. I could have spent my childhood running around barefoot in a single pair of shorts, with my mother breaking rocks for a few pence a day instead of going to school, or sold into child slavery in Thailand. I could have been maimed so I could become a child beggar in Sri Lanka, shot in Pakistan for being a girl who wanted education or left to die in China because my parents wanted a boy.

    I actually KNOW people who have been through many of these things.

    But I wasn’t. I went to school. I went to university. I got a good job. I raised my daughter who is now a doctor. I have a door that I can lock at night and there has always been water in the tap and food on the table. Nobody is shooting at me when I step outside and any medical treatment (I was diagnosed with cancer last year) has been free. I am one of the lucky, lucky, lucky ones.

    So why don’t you turn your thinking around. Be PROUD of charity shop clothing – it is often far more interesting than High Street shopping. Be PROUD of the bargains you get at supermarkets. Be PROUD that you are taking care of your children. Taking care does not involve gadgets and labels. I made my daughter a patchwork dress from three old shirts when she was 6. She LOVED it and wore it till she was 12. Same with a pair of patchwork dungarees.

    Poverty is not about money – it is about attitude.

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    1. Hi There!

      Whilst I do understand what you are saying and I do realise there is poverty in the world that is dire and appalling, my blog post was not about that. Nor was it about being too proud to wear hand-me downs, make food last, buy inferior produce etc…
      It is about the fact that in this country, if you have a full time job on the national minimum wage, you are forced into a grey area where making ends meet is nigh-on impossible, only to be told that ‘you should be grateful’, and patronised by the cookery shows and ‘budgeting’ programs, such as ‘Money Saving Meals’, who tell you that £22 is a viable sum to spend on a joint of free range organic shoulder of lamb. It is not about abject poverty in a third world country. While appalling, their governments have to be held accountable for their countries, as ours do in the UK. It was nothing to do with abject, breaking rocks, child labour poverty in Cambodia; it is about relative poverty, in the UK, which is only getting worse.
      It is not about buying in charity shops–it is about not being able to afford even that.
      It is about watching every benefit you could be entitled to, be taken away because you are £10 over the threshold, and then expected to pay £800 a month rent (standard three bed terrace house…a cheap one, at that), £125 a month council tax; water rates; gas; electric; (another £300 a month), clothes and feed your family, be told you are not entitled to any further government help…and all on £1,200 a month. Because you earn minimum wage. Because you want to work and drag yourself up. Because you want your children to see you trying to make a life. Because you want better for them.
      So while I understand where you are coming from, I think rather than being PROUD of the situation, we should maybe cast light on it and hope it can be changed, so the next generation, and the one after that, are not caught in the same trap.
      Please read the follow on to this blog ‘The Upsetting Truth Part Two’. Thank you.

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  35. hi Kathleen i wish i could tell you for sure that it will get better but i can tell you that i sincerely do hope it does get better for you and your family i feel for you and things were like that for us not too long ago, just ignore the assholes and concentrate on all of the positive coments people send.

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  36. Your story really resonated with me, so much so, I felt I had to comment (I don’t usually) – I, like you, had a life of some privilege, I had a business with my husband, 2 boys and also loved cooking, picking up new recipes/ingredients etc. Then we sold the business, they guy we sold it to went bankrupt, my husband joined a gym and ran off with the aerobics teacher and I was declared personally bankrupt, car, house, life repossessed. This was nearly 6 years ago, I got a job, rented a house off a friend and started over. We were lucky enough to have £60 a week budget (although £5 was for grocery delivery as it was cheaper than a taxi from the supermarket) and did ok on it – ok, so I threw a load of brown lentils in with the 120g of minced beef I could afford when I made lasagne/meatballs etc – and made the boys eat dinner in the front room as it was always quite dark in there and they couldn’t see what they were eating, but hay, they were fed! My boys have now left home and I live with my sister, we have a budget for the 2 of us of £40 per week which is more than sufficient. How you cope with such a small budget is beyond me, and I didn’t have the misfortune to be ill either – You are amazing!

    Like you, I get incandescent with rage with cookery programmes – like when the Hairy Bikers were on with Tom Kerridge doing a 30min meal, the ingredients alone for ‘Chicken en Papillote’ would have cost over £20! And Saturday Kitchen is another culprit – a couple of weeks ago they were cooking Halibut – one of the ‘casual asides’ was if you cant afford Fresh Halibut, buy farmed, it’s only slightly inferior – at a whopping £24 per kilo??? (I had to leave the room at that point) Condescending, out of touch, supermarket-driven rubbish.

    And that ridiculous couple on yet another ‘We’ll show you how to cut your shopping budget and try not to be smug about it’ shows, there was a couple who spent £240 per WEEK on food, and they managed to save them £70 a week – that’s STILL BLOODY £170 per week, some people don’t earn that! (And don’t get me started on the waste!).

    When are they going to do something that is pertinent to the public? Eat less meat, more grains, pulses and veg. Make it interesting with flavourings and sauces, make a Roast Chicken do 4 meals and shop carefully? I hope the rise of popularity with the cheaper stores such as Aldi and Lidl makes people realise how much the Big Supermarkets have been ripping us off blind for years. We can only hope that somebody like you or I are offered a cookery show and help others like us and stick two fingers up at the established supermarket-driven tosh we are forced to watch.

    Take care, and I wish you and your family well – It wont always be like this, I promise, it does get better! xx

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  37. Kathleen, your post moved me. Not because I felt sorry for you (though I did feel great respect for all that you deal with) but because I feel so passionate about exactly what you are highlighting, that the middle portion of society is struggling silently. The ones who do work but the cost of living is just so high that there is negative income at the end of every month. Financial stress is awful (though I appreciate there are worse but they do often go hand-in-hand) because it leaves us feeling insecure & attacks our stability and that of our family worrying about keeping a roof over their heads, food on the table etc. And I honestly think things will get worse for this segment of society once the interest rates start to rise. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for moving me. And all the very very best for the future. I will be following your blog with interest.

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  38. I am in a similar situation, husband works, earns minimum wage, not entitled to other benefits due to this, receiving DLA highest rate due to spinal damage, unable to work with the best will in the world, I really do think I would be better off dead, fed up freezing, hungry and in constant pain. But like everyone else you live, because you hope life will get ‘better’. Not so sure it will now.

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  39. This was my life 10 years ago too. As a working single mum with two under 4s, not enough money for food, electric, gas, council tax etc…
    I lived off plain rice & plain pasta for years, to ensure my kids could eat a balanced diet. I’d read by candle light after they went to bed and only had a heater in the boys damp bedroom. I’d dress up like an Eskimo to keep warm & I’d make the kids laugh telling them I hung out with Pingu at night.
    They saw it all, my boys, and now, our lives are better, and they thank me every single time we eat a hot meal, every time they can choose a treat from the supermarket, every time I get them new clothes or shoes, every time we have a day trip. They remember those hard, hard times, despite me having tried to hide it from them.
    I think what I want to say is, despite the fact that NOBODY, especially not in our rich nation, should have to suffer this way, all that hardship, all that pain, all that distress, makes humble and wonderful humans who are grateful, compassionate and deeply caring. It’s a crying shame none of them have made it into our government, because, as you point out so eloquently, only those who have lived it could possibly understand it, and only thise who have survived it could be passionate enough to change it.

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  40. It’s not really any different in Canada
    I just wanted to say, that – I live this, every day of my 48 years, I grew up this way, I lived this way as a single parent, and then aside from a 4 yr break when I was actually making a reasonable living at the cost of my mental health and straining my 2nd marriage, now we’re living it again as ‘semi-retired’

    It’s odd, I find I want to apologize for, or am embarrassed that – for us this situation isn’t the result of anything quite as ‘noble’ as a debilitating illness, aside from the minor arthritis and usual aches and pains of being 49… we’re perfectly healthy. But along the way we made choices, some of them didn’t turn out so well. I didn’t PLAN to be impoverished when I left my first marriage, I didn’t PLAN to be unemployed and impoverished when I left that reasonably paying job …I made necessary choices for my emotional well being, and quit situations that were mentally abusive…. and yet, I *do* feel guilty, embarrassed and apologetic for ‘getting us into this mess’.

    Our lowest point was when we were denied public assistance because 6 months before I cashed in some small retirement savings plans ($16,000) to pay off the accumulating bills. But because we were playing shell games with credit accounts in both Australia and Canada in order to try and keep all the balls in the air and NOT end up on public assistance, we were denied because they couldn’t really grasp where we’d spent our grand windfall…. A couple weeks later I was finally able to find work – minimum wage, 24-32 hrs a week, midnights, stocking grocery store shelves….. not glamourous, not enough, not how I pictured my life at this point, but we’re not starving.

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