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. hi, I’ve been raising my 3 children on my own since I was widowed 4 years ago, I get widowed parents benefit and child tax credits, that’s all, but I still get free school meals simply because of the child tax credits so I don’t understand why you don’t, it would help you massively.

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      1. im a mum of almost 4 my partner earns about the same ur hubby does I pay full rent but have since found out im entitled to housing benefit of £10 per week so its worth looking in too , I get £164 child tax a week £41 working tax and £46 child benefit and I get u should in theory should get slightly more than I do . I pay £115 a week rent I live in a council house so my rent isn’t too expensive my other half pays for council tax and anything extra out of his wage that’s after bus fair and his dinner . my kids are on pack lunches and im left with £116 for food a week and that’s after ive payed back some of my debts , and to top it off on the 14/12/14 I found outmy copper coil had failed and im now expecting my forth baby I thought I was home free my youngest almost being ready for school in September but bam im due the 21 of august , I don’t believe in abortions so baby stays and praying its a girl as I have three girls age 3 5 and 7 so I know how hard it is , if u have any debts speak to step change I pay mine £1 each per week other wise my kids would go without so its worth looking at and it must be awful only having £45 a week to feed ur family but if our nans could do it so can we if u want to speak u can see my email u are more than welcome too

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        1. I realize on this occasion your coil failed, but if you can’t afford to feed a family why did you in the first place decide to have so many children?

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          1. If you actually read the article, she could afford it comfortably before medical problems cost her her job, and the economy cost her husband his job.

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          2. Damn it. Sorry about the other comment, layout made it difficult to see you were replying to a comment rather than the article.

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          3. Hey, that may sound like a reasonable question as it’s often posed by tabloid journalists attempting to inspire outrage In their readers. People’s circumstances can change very, very quickly. I have lived with no money for rent, food and electricity and it is soul destroying. Thankfully my kids came along later. I now earn enough to support several families but it still terrifies me that I might end up in that situation again. Have some compassion please and think about what you see in newspapers. They are not trying to educate you. Quite the opposite in fact!

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          4. Hi

            I never, ever comment on blogs but I have to agree with Bill. My husband works and I work part time so we juggle our hours (and it’s a constant struggle) around one of us being available to take/collect our children from school. We are by no means well off but we are comfortable..HOWEVER we do not have a weekly food budget of £116..that would be a luxury to us. I was so irritated by your post which detailed your weekly benefits that accumulate to MORE than my weekly wage I felt I had to comment….you should think yourself very fortunate to receive what you do!!!

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            1. Also, I do have to join on the comments here…people seem to think that I (and my family) receive amounts like those stated above by this commenter. I do not–to assume knowledge of my Child Tax Credit, is to assume my husband’s wage is the same. I do not get nearly what is listed above. I also would like to get as much as this lady 🙂

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              1. Just to say….my comment was in no way referring to your blog which is written beautifully and drives home a very important point…I do realise this lady was trying to help you but I was just slightly offended by the insinuation that what she is jn receipt of was not good enough! I wish you lots of luck for the future and you’re obviously a very talented writer so I hope that it’s a brighter one sooner than you think 🙂

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          5. Bill, you miss the point. You have just added to the stigma of poverty by asking that question, as if being poor gives the rest of the world the right to judge. Perhaps you should ask everybody who is considering having children whether they will be able to foresee everything that may befall them in their lives. What would you do if they said ‘no’? Would you tell them that they are irresponsible to consider children because one day they may be in reduced circumstances compared the their current situation. Should the right to a family life (which I believe is a human right), only be the preserve of the smug people who will be buffered in the event of unseen crisis? Perhaps instead our focus should be on why we choose to have such an unequal society when there is more than enough for everyone in the world to be comfortable?

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      2. Oh no, I didn’t realise there was a threshold, I just assumed CTC = free school dinners 😦
        You’d think at th every least there would be no limit for FSD so the children don’t have to suffer.

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    1. Such a good read, somthing to think about and telling it like it is. It makes me laugh that what happened to you could happen to anyone, you’d think people would stick together, as one minute you can be up there and slumped to the bottom within a second. Keep doing what your doing, I’ve had ups and downs, juggling this, ducking and diving to survive. Your right the government haven’t a clue. Keep positive and hope things turn out better than before for you x

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  2. The benefits system is totally out of control.. before i started work i was living in a similar position to you, 4 kids and sometimes a cpl of quid in my purse to last the whole weekend.. i’ve preyed for the clock to reach 6pm on a saturday evening, cause then i knew id have electricity until 9 am monday when my child benefit went in …. the cost of living has inflated so much in the past 5 years compared to what we actually earn.. thankfully im working a part time job now. and im much better off. but its crazy to think that if i took on more hours id be working for nothing.. its certainly not an incentive to anyone!

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  3. What a brilliant post – quite inspiring.

    I am in a similar situation but nowhere near as acute as yours but like you, I have turned to writing to try and supplement my wife’s salary in what used to be called ‘household income’. I haven’t contributed to it for the better part of a year and that has, apart from the obvious dwindling of the savings and then current account, had an enormous impact on our life and home. Am sure you know what that’s like.

    As our writing subject matter is probably in competition, I’m going to avoid daft questions about self publishing but I REALLY hope you sell as many books as you need/want to. From what you’ve posted, few authors need it quite as much as you.

    Good luck and all the best,

    BH

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  4. I know exactly what you mean . I never have lamb, except on a rare occasion such as Christmas. It is possible to live on a tight budget, but the likes of Jamie Oliver would not be able to advise on it. Also , it gets a bit depressing having to do it year in and year out. I feel guilty buying a 30p bar of value chocolate as a treat to share with my husband. My children have always been well fed but have not had expensive food . Even fruit is a no, no when you have lots of children. For the same price as one apple (feeding on person), you can get a packet of biscuits and share with eight. Value everything in our house. Thank you for your blog xxx

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  5. I AM 70 YEARS OF AGE, AND WE BROUGHT UP 4 CHILDREN, MY WIFE DISABLED AND MYSELF NOT MUCH MORE THAN A LABOURER, NO BENIFITS IN THOSE DAYS. ALL THE WHILE PAID THE MORTGAGE,TOOK EVERY HOLIDAY.
    BUT CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR PLIGHT, POVERTY IS SOUL DESTROYING,
    YOU HAVE MY SYMPATHY.
    ALAN

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      1. Unfortunately this is not going to be popular… However altho the welfare state has been around for that long the current benefits that are available today are more than what was about in the 80’s, and prior to that.
        There was no such thing as separate housing benefit (council tax was poll tax and was per adult, not per household!), no child tax credit etc.

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        1. The poll tax was only around for a year or so though. Before that people paid rates based on the value of their home. You could apply for rent rebates, as my father did when he was claiming supplementary benefit as a widowed father of three young children. I’m sure the welfare state was not always as generous as it is perceived to be today but I was just pointing out to Alan that he couldn’t say “no benefits then” as benefits were available.

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          1. There was also family income supplement which was introduced in 1970 for low paid working families. This was replaced by family credit in the 80s,then working family tax credit in the 90s which then became the working and child tax creditwe have today.

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  6. I wish you the best with your writing career. Solidarity from Ireland.

    This kind of thing is really important, it really puts things into perspective. I mean sometimes I complain about not having much money… but I don’t have little ones to feed and I don’t really have to stay hopeful and cheerful for anyone when I don’t have the money. That must be difficult and well done for keeping going. You’ve taken a talent and made it work for you.

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  7. I feel for I really do as I am in the same boat, but we have Internet and that’s not free. So in a way we are hypocrites in our own right. I am not slating you as I know all about the poverty you speak of, I am not ill like you but I am a single parent. But if I got rid of everything what would I do. I am a product of a new world where technology rules us as well as a crap government! Maybe I should cut it all off and buy books from the book store. Who knows but it really isn’t Jamie Oliver’s fault and we don’t have to watch. I wish you all the luck in the world and I am sorry that once again the government has let you down.

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  8. You’re using the Internet which has to be paid for and electricity to run it and no doubt have mobile phones etc etc
    While I genuinely do feel for you sometimes you have to have a real hard look at what’s going on. Corned beef stew, brisket and potatoes cost little and certainly less than the Internet every month. In this day and age too many people put the nice things mobiles, Internet, tv before the necessities, rent and food. One should always pay rent, gas, electric and buy food for the month before any other expenditure.

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    1. Please read post 2 – The Upsetting Truth…Part Two!

      I have three children, all of whom are studying at school and college. I *need* the internet before I need heat and lights on. For them as well as me. I am a self-publishing author. My WAGE is made with my computer. Please do not tell me it is a luxury. It was a gift and, besides that, you would not tell a plumber to sell his tools.
      You cannot seriously judge me for my lack of money…because I have electric?
      I think you should read my other post and think about what is a necessity in the modern world, with all due respect. We cannot walk 5 miles to our Library (we don’t have a car, nor do have the bus fares) just to study. I cannot move there in order to do my job, which is write and publish my books, which is the difference in income between going hungry and filling a cupboard.
      I find this assumption, that poverty can be avoided by selling essential equipment, gifts, wedding rings…I find it highly offensive and upsetting.
      Please think about your words, before you write them and judge me.
      Kathleen

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    2. Lou, when I read a comment like this my heart sinks so low. I hope you never end up having to choose between the tools of your trade and a meal. Not one should have to!

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    3. People shouldn’t have to chose between food or the ‘nice things’ as your put it, but things that we all now take for granted – life would be loads harder and a lot less fun without mobiles, internet and TV – and what is the point of life without fun?

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      1. That’s fine Gina as long as you do not expect the nice things to be funded by the taxes of those who work, those taxes are meant for the necessities to keep people going until they get back on their feet.

        Without this distinction where is the motivation for people to improve their lot? obviously the author is working to improve her and her families lot and the internet \ computer are her tools, I have no issue with that.

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        1. “Without this distinction where is the motivation for people to improve their lot?”

          Well, if you think that there is any RELIABLE connection between hard work and ‘improving your lot’, you are delusional – or conversely, any connection between laziness and sinking into poverty. And I say this as someone on the extremely lucky side of this, I grew up in absolute luxury compared to most people in this discussion. And sure, my dad is a good man who works hard, but does he work, I don’t know, 10x harder than some of the people posting here, to deserve 10x the annual income? Does the CEO of a major corporation work a HUNDRED times as hard as the people on the factory floor making the product?

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  9. Just for your information, the threshold for free school meals is not £16190. I wish it was! My income is less than this and I don’t qualify as I get working tax credit. Essentially you have to be a workless household to qualify. The criteria for 2 year old funding changed recently so you can now claim that if you get working tax credit, unfortunately free school meals haven’t followed yet. And I’m a family support worker and it really isn’t difficult to access food banks, just contact your nearest children’s centre and ask. We don’t report people to Social Services for being poor, we just help. Good luck x

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    1. The threshold IS £16190, you can check that out on Gov.uk but you do have to be getting only child tax credit, not working tax credit as well. It’s a ridiculous situation and perhaps you could lobby your MP to get the rules changed?

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  10. I’ve bought your book for my kobo, it sounds right up my street. If I enjoy it I’ll review it.

    I recognise that the next question could be considered rude and if you would rather not answer, i totally respect that. But, as a matter of interest, on which medium do you get the best return? At 99p for Kobo and the same for Kindle, you can’t be making much.

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    1. thank you for buying! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

      I get a 35%(ish) royalty rate, which is standard across all digital book stores (99p = 29p for me). I can get more through KDP Select, but this means I have to sign an exclusivity contract with Amazon (I have done this with my second eBook, banking on those who purchase book 1 at the reduced price *might* go on to buy book 2).

      However, yes, contrary to some of the comments and messages I have received (insert highly amused cackling laughter here) at 29p per sale, I am far from a rich and affluent author, wafting around in a gown, drinking champagne from a shoe…

      Give it time! Thanks again,

      Kathleen x

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  11. NOBODY should ever have to live in poverty! God its the 21st century and people who are even working are finding things tough. Makes me so angry. And there is that fool Cameron saying ‘we are all in this together….right wing governments need throwing out…they propagate greed and exploitation and there is no room for this!

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    1. I have four and my three youngest (10, 16 & 18 – all in education) living at home with me 🙂 My eldest is 20 and had to move in with my mother when we were evicted – we couldn’t be rehoused as a family, which is a whole other story involving the lack of affordable housing and benefit caps. There were no council properties and the only landlords that would take ‘partial housing benefit [we get a top-up payment to cover 35% of rent] had three bedroom houses, not the four we needed for one boy and three girls. The council would not help us find a landlord, if we were going into overcrowded accommodation…so my eldest daughter moved in with my mother. When I do family things, though, I try to involve all four of my children 🙂

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  12. I can sort of relate to your plight. I was made redundant at 52 from a well paid job. My wife didn’t work. I thought the world had ended. (Luckily though only having one teenager still at home studying at local college so we get slight reduction in council tax.) I too have redirected my skills and energy to work freelance. But I’m a little confused when you say you are above the £16K+ threshold? Since working for myself I have never earned more than £10K a year (About £833 a month, sometimes less!!!) My wife still doesn’t work. I pay my mortgage, council tax, utility bills etc mobile, phone & Internet (Also essential for work) every month. We always have good food on the table and seem to manage to feed extended family at least once a week as well (Elderly Parents, grandchildren etc) Of course we shop around for food (Who doesn’t!) We don’t have young children/teenagers, but then we don’t get child benefit either. In fact I have NEVER claimed any benefit (Apart CB) ever. (I’m a bit old school and I hope I never have to?.) If your two children 16&18 are studying and living with you at home, can you claim assistance with council tax? You can where we live. I wish you every success! Working freelance isn’t easy. I’m only just starting to see the fruits of my labour after four years. (Sometimes hard times!) But we’re getting through the tunnel! M

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  13. Was pretty much in your situation 20-odd years ago. I lived in a terraced house in the roughest area of town and my food budget for two children and two adults was £30 a week. Sick Wave (Kwik Save) was my supermarket of no choice, and we were both working but never seemed to have a penny to spare. Your blog has really made me laugh. You put your point across very well and repel your critics with aplomb. If you’re ever in Derbyshire, I’d be delighted to buy you lunch.

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  14. Good morning to you!
    Perhaps a plaster on a gunshot wound, but have you considered cooking three meals in one go? And then reheating the rest? That would save on gas/electric.
    Until your situation improves… Which I really hope it does soon. Sending love and light to you.

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    1. In the same vein – have you tried using quorn mince or lentils instead of mince? Cheaper than meat, just a tasty and better for you. Win – win – win!

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  15. I can so relate to your situation.
    I’m 53, am self employed making jewellery and selling vintage stuff.
    Most weeks all I get is £52.00 Tax Credits and £70.00 towards the £90 a week rent.
    Everything else has to be paid for out of the £52….most weeks I have no money for food and live on
    cuppa soups and tea and biscuits during the day and a budget microwave meal and a bread bun for dinner, I cant afford to cook nevermind buy food to cook with.
    I dare not sign on as I am frightened I would be sanctioned and have nothing to pay the bills with.
    I’m on anti depressants.
    I have lost 2 stone in weight since the autumn.
    Like you, I need the internet to sell bits and pieces on just to scrape by and to find info about fairs etc
    to sell at.
    I never watch “foodie” programmes at all, they just depress me even more.
    So I just keep plodding on, trying to keep my hands warm so I can make stuff and waiting in vain for things to improve….or the summer, whichever comes first xx

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  16. Reblogged this on Lance Greenfield and commented:
    This is Great Britain today. The politicians, and the TV chefs, live in a parallel universe. At the forthcoming general election we should divert our votes away from Labour, Coservative and Liberal Democrat. To vote for UKIP and the modern day Reginald Molesley would be even worse than the aforementioned three. Look closely at what the independents are saying. It may be worthwhile. For me, the Green Party will get my X.

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  17. The government say you have to have so much per week to live on (rate varies as to how much dependent upon how many in family, is anyone suffering illness that qualifies them for DLA or attendance allowance) Even if you are 1p below that figure go claim. You appear to have paid your taxes over the years so it is your right to be able to claim. I didn’t want to when my husband was made redundant but had to. That 1p was a life saver. Free school meals for the kids as well as not having to pay for their school trips helped tremendously. Did you know if your kids get free school meals the school is allocated additional funding? It also entitles you to free dental & optical care (yes the nhs glasses are gross but hey at least you can see/read. I admire your honesty & wish you well in your new venture. May your God bless you & yours.

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  18. Hey Kathleen, your article is excellent and so true. I hadn’t realised it was so difficult to access a food bank.
    Coincidently, I discovered a fantastic organisation called ‘The Real Junk Food Project’ last week (http://www.therealjunkfoodproject.co.uk/), in fact I’ve eaten there a couple of times.
    As a street food business owner, I now support them with any surplus we have at the end of a day.
    With very best wishes,
    Neil.

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  19. hi Lathleen, I totally agree with you.
    When my ex husband wen off the day before my sons birthday and cleared the account. I had nothing with three children. He e paid our mortgage, because he did this I was not entitled to any assistance. I lived on my child benefit £210 per month. This was for absolutely everything., food, clothes, shoes, elect, gas, council tax…. He left the 15th aug, I finally got help 20th April. Thank god for friends, the local butche, without these I could not live. All this with the constant abusive calls. Obviously I did eat the children’s left overs,, I would buy chicken thighs and layer that with veg and stuffing in a Pyrex bowl, this would last with boiled pits for 42 days, I had to walk 4 miles each way to the local sainsburys t, as I couldn’t afford bus fare. Xx

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  20. I was in the same situation being dragged through court over contact. Funny how the bloke got the house the car the tenant and as much contact as he wants earning £40k a year and didn’t pay a penny towards the care of his own children. Instead he would use this as a way to tell the court of how abusive I was ‘always saying no to things the children wanted’ and being such a shrewd that I was ‘no fun’. The grooming and bribing by him involved the buying of their own tablets that he wanted them to use whenever they wanted to call him and skype him, and he wanted it included in the court order that I was unable to remove these as a punishment for bad behaviour! Serious … this is what our family law courts are upholding! However upholding that he uses a legal car seat for the duration of his visits was apparently something that the court couldn’t and wouldn’t enforce! He now spends his time using my poverty and struggle as material for his comedy sketch! So if you ever have the misfortune of having to live on the bead line supporting your 3 chuldren without the support of their fathers, the landlord won’t replace the window that the council have said breaches 3 health hazzards in the bathroom where you bath your 9 month old int he same bath water you use for all the family to avoid the cost of using the kettle to fill the bath with warm water. Then perhaps polititians may see that a ‘minimum property standard’ for renting should be achieved as well as more regulation on rent prices as I used to pay a mortgage for £350 p/m now I pay 3 times that to rent! The agency fees are so high that to try and move to a new property when you can’t get any luck with your current slum of a property is close to £2,000 each time for references etc. Then you start to see that the heirachy of needs – needs some improvement to assist those who are trying to complete the lower stages of it. Food, Shelter, Water, all are basic human aspirations without these how can we climb to the next stages and love our selves and our country?

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    1. You are so right!

      There should be some standards that landlords have to meet. Once you are a tenant you are stuck between a rock and a hard place if you have a rubbish landlord.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Hiya lv I understand how u feel been unable to work for last 15 mnth due to illness myself n can understand fully how u feel but av u tried claiming disability or personal independent payment as u sound very much elligable for it lv xxx

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  22. have been there and wouldn’t have survived without the help of my family ,, you forgot to mention the constant overwhelming sense of guilt and stupidity that when times were good , we should have saved more and been more “sensible” ,. Noone know whats in front of them and how if one of you works you basically get very little ,we are just about coming out the other side , I hope things get better for you soon , good luck with the writing x

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  23. I’ve been here and everything u said I can relate to except we we not lucky enough to find a new home we r living in a caravan have been for past 2 1/2 years my partner is now working but I can’t so we live like,this as its all we can afford… good knows what happens when we r old and he retires

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  24. Reblogged this on charliekb.wordpress.com and commented:
    Reblogged, broke my heart reading this, when I was growing up my Mum didn’t have two pennies to rub together so I know what you’re going though. I’m sure you’ve heard every cliche in the book, but I hope it gets better for you and for everyone else in the same boat once we kick the Tories out of Westminster!

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  25. Hi Kathleen. Apologies if this is something you’ve heard before, tried or assessed as useless – I haven’t read the 660+ comments ahead of me. I work as a freelance copy writer and editor, mostly doing small chunks of work which I find online. From your writing, I think this is work you could do, if you have the time, energy, etc (which you of course may not). One advantage is it’s easy to only pitch for work when YOU want, as most chunks are small (under 1000 words). The main site I use is PeoplePerHour.com as it has better rates that the other one I like: Elance.com

    If you sign up using this link: https://www.peopleperhour.com/site/register?rfrd=401528.1 you get some sort of discount, and I get a badge and whatever bribe they’re offering this week (hopefully cash – I like cash!). If you want to ask me any questions, please do.

    I really appreciated your honesty on this topic. It’s a wake up call of a post and am sorry you’ve had so much flak from it.

    Elizabeth

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  26. Hi, I’m 14. And feel truly sorry for you. It just annoys me when people my age and adults complain about small things and make a big fuss about it, when there are people that are living the way that you do. Most people my age are such spoilt brats (including myself) and really are unappreciative. I mean I’ve had people ask me why I don’t complain about the fact that one if the horses I have isn’t a sports horse, but I know sooo many people that would give an arm and a leg to have spare money to have a pet and such. I hope that things will get better somehow.

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  27. I just wanted to offer you some solidarity and hope. I grew up in a similar situation to this: my mother too ill to work for much of her life, and my dad trying to work. We never quite qualified for council housing, so lived in an ex-council house with 60s decor, metal-framed windows that didn’t shut properly and gas appliances that hadn’t been checked in years. We never qualified for the sums of benefits that people on the TV had. Like you, my mother found this embarrassing and shameful: she was terrified that I would be bullied for having Free School Meals or being too skinny, so she bought masses of Economy burgers and beef pies fro Kwik Save throughout the BSE crisis, with stacks of rubbery white bread and thick baking margerine on the side. Then she blanked it all out when I got bullied for being fat, hairy and wearing her pick of awful clothes instead. I remember failing French and German exams because I didn’t know what the vegetables were in English, never mind a foreign language! I literally had holes in my shoes.

    However, there’s a silver lining. I DID walk the library, and I got fit doing it. I devoured piles of books, and talked about them with my Dad. We had to get rid of the TV when we couldn’t cover the license fee any more, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me! I played and sang music, wrote, read and had the biggest GCSE art portfolio you can imagine! I have wonderful memories of listening to Radio 4 with my Dad and exploring his repertoire of frugal post-war and 70s cooking. BUT those wonderful memories are me and my Dad: Mum sank into a deep depression, refusing to let me have friends round to the house, attacking the “crap” on the radio and becoming obsessed with this idea that I was going to turn into some drug-addled teen pregnancy statistic. She adopted impoverished thinking: living on a fearsome budget (my bed was collapsing, my room was literally freezing and I hadn’t seen a vitamin in years) and then splurging on things like catalogue clothes or running up huge telephone bills – which then put you back in debt. It starts with being too embarrassed to be seen paying with pennies and sending me to the shops to cover for her. She started to reason that if I was fat, noone would realise that we couldn’t afford to eat: hence the awful food washed down with gallons of high-juice and full-fat cocoa. She was virtually house-bound, and tried to convince me that it was “dangerous” for me to leave the house too.

    My childhood prepared me well for life. I went to university, and – after carefully researching the courses with the best career prospects – I went to the best department for my subject in the country and won an industrial sponsorship to help with the expenses. Of course, mother was utterly disappointed that I didn’t study something “normal” like humanities at Cambridge and come home each summer, and she never forgave me… Unlike most students, my loan represented more money than I’d had in my life. I carried on shopping frugally (eventully becoming vegetarian) and was really healthy. Rather than waste my money on clothes and going out, I worked every summer, won t-shirts in drinking competitions and went travelling in Mexico when I graduated. With determination, I’ve done everything I was once told we couldn’t afford. I’ve gone on to have an amazing career.

    I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to feel embarrassed about paying with pennies or feeling bad every time you tell your children you can’t afford something. The ONLY negative memories I have is what poverty did to my mother’s mental state. The heartache of coming home to find her immobile in her tracksuit, staring at the corner where the TV used to be, her lunch plate still on her lap. The screaming and arguing every time she felt out of touch. The never being allowed to see friends outside school, not even for a birthday party. The lump in my throat when I left the house each morning, wondering if she would have a heart attack while I was at school, and the lasting fear of obesity-related conditions. A child doesn’t need money, and often just won’t know any better. But losing your mother for so many years is tough, and can’t ever be repaired. It IS wrong and awful and unfair that so many people are in poverty and the benefits system seems to fail so many – I don’t want to pretend it’s OK – but the embarrassment and shame are false social constructs which have no place in your life. It all stems from a concept of “normality” which has been sold to you to turn you into a consumer! They are just feelings, and I beg you to try and get over that. Please get whatever help you can and cherish each moment with your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. I totally understand where you are coming from. My husband left the army with no trade and we are currently struggling on benefits while I study to go to university. I want a career that’ll allow me to support my 7 kids. In the meantime, our shopping budget is £75 a week and has to buy nappies and baby wipes as well as food etc. The law says you need a certain amount to live on but the benefit cap means this amount can be ignored. What annoys me even more is the amount of people who assume you have a large family for the money. We had our kids while he was in the army and we were able to support them. I am actively doing my best to put us in the position where we are able to live comfortably without having to count every penny and juggle the bills. And yes, I have a pc and the Internet as these are necessary for college. I can do research and assignments at home while the kids are asleep but I wouldn’t get anything done with 7 young kids to supervise in a library. I hope that your situation improves very soon and wish you all the luck in the world x

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  29. Even though I know this already, the brutal honesty of it caught me completely off guard. Stay strong and keep writing.

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  30. Whilst this maybe a plaster on a gunshot wound, Jack Munroe (agirlcalledjack.com) was I believe in a very similar situation as yourself and offers good advice, recipes and the opportunity to get involved in direct action against the ridiculous policies made by our successive governments. I wish you well.

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  31. Reblogged this on The Communication Coach in 7 Words and commented:
    As a mother of two with a disabled partner in receipt of full benefits, I feel so much pain on behalf of Kathleen. Where is the fairness in the situations we find ourselves in? Please read her blog and support her in any way you can, she deserves all the love and kudos we can give her.

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  32. I am with you on this I am disabled and on benefits I am a mum to two girls. I was working in a job I loved and had to give it up due to illness and I can’t see me working again. We are the same with the heating and the food I look in the fridge and freezer and see what I can make for dinner out of nothing as that is it. I do get a little extra being disabled but it isn’t much the day that someone can come up with a meal for a pound, and I mean that is for the whole family, the better. I am rich in other ways and I may be richer than someone who is wealthy, my children are loved and cared for and they see their childhood as rich because they make something out of nothing.

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  33. Bought your book (nom, m/m!) and if I like it will definitely buy vol. 2. I see you’re also on goodreads – great, because I’d have recommended that. Wishing you all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I know exactly what you are going through. As the eldest of four kids I grew up in a house where there was very little money, as Dad lost his job and ended up claiming benefits. At the time I think it must have been around £52.00 per week. I’ve got a bit of a different perspective on it though. I remember growing up loved and although I was old enough to realise what was going on, I remember it being fun. We had Saturdays at the beach collecting ragworm and soft shell crabs so Dad had bait for fishing (you can catch small cod in the area), Sundays collecting nuts and blackberries, or at the allotment that Dad and my uncle shared growing veggies, baking bread with Dad, helping to do the washing in the bath (or in the backyard with a yard-brush for Dad’s jeans) when the washing machine broke, making toast on the open fireplace (no gas!), hand-sewing with mum (fixing clothes) and bargain hunting in the food shops. The other stuff that goes with the fun took a backseat in my memory, there, but not important somehow. I remember the ice on the inside of the windows, the hand-me-down clothes from my cousins, and the look on mum’s face when she had to say no to my younger sisters, but it pales into insignificance compared to what we saw as fun stuff. It’s only with an adults perspective do you realise how much your parents did and the struggle that they went through for you. It also leaves you with a reluctance to waste money when you have it yourself, and how to cope if the worse does happen. My food budget is £50-£70 per week for 2 adults and a 4 year old, not because I have to, because that’s all I need. I rarely waste food, don’t buy what we don’t need, plan meals to an almost obsessive degree and have no debt other than the mortgage. I’ve also found myself doing things, that Mum and Dad did out of necessity, with my daughter for fun. I know it may be strange to look at it this way, but in a twisted way I am almost (but only almost) grateful that the family had to struggle as it left no doubt as to the depth of love that our parents have for us.
    All that being said, I share your disappointment of Jamie Oliver – I think I watched one episode where he praised a cut of meat for one meal ONLY costing £10.00. Seriously? Completely out of touch I’m afraid. But then again, how can anyone who earns as much as him have any concept of what it is to live on a budget so tight that you have to choose between heat and food?
    For those going through it at the moment, I hope that it doesn’t last for long, things get better soon and never forget that there is support out there, and on pages like this one, even if it’s just to talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you for helping change my hard line view of those in poverty.

    I like many others see the media portrayal of typically over weight, beer swigging, fag puffing scroungers, through this “media poverty” it is very hard to see how people can claim to be impoverished. I’m guilty of using phrases like ‘if you are obese and weigh 23 stone you are not in poverty’, ‘if you afford to smoke you are not in poverty’, I still stand by those views for the most part, but your article exposes the flip side for me that not everyone in poverty is like that, disappointingly its clear that the media and politicians got what they wanted from me, a strong gut reaction, which kept me viewing and listening with a damaging side effect, the formation of hard line, one dimensional personal opinions.

    I have the utmost respect for those like yourselves working and doing something positive, rather than resorting to destructive activities to pass the time, I wish that they was more attention focused on those deservedly in need and doing something positively about it.

    I have no problem paying taxes to support those who help themselves or need a leg up, but I still hold that those in benefits who can do something about their situation but choose not to are not deserving of my taxes. Sorry its just how I feel, to my mind it simply doesn’t benefit the recipient in such cases by letting them tread water in such a way, much better they are forced to a position where they have to do something to justify the benefits they receive and possibly emerge a happier more fulfilled person at the other end of it, rather than being allowed to tread water on hand outs feeling downtrodden, yet somehow entitled to receive from, without contributing to society. Obviously I am talking about those who make an active choice not to work here and there are a whole other host of things to consider e.g. contributions to the system over time, work history, health etc.

    Thanks for sharing your story and I will certainly pick up a copy of your book.

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  36. my mother went through this for me on her own you have brought a tear to my eye thinking about things that I had cleansed from my memory, I didn’t thank her enough.
    Its a shame that there is still stigmatism with poverty lazy, dirty and freeloader are just a few levelled at me. Those who govern this country not just politians; seem to have a blinding oversight that hit the poor two fold to both undermine and demoralise.
    Your children are getting the best start thanks to you; I wish them and you all the best

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  37. This takes me back to my childhood. My Mum worked her arse off to get food on the table and keep shoes on our feet. Being on the breadline several times as a child I was prepared to tough it out when the recession started in 2008, it took nearly seven years of toil but we’re almost in the black again. Many people who plead poverty don’t know what poverty is. It’s a farce that many people would be better off on the doll than working, things need to change.

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  38. Hi Kathleen, reading this brought back vivid memories of my childhood in the 70s and 80s, i won’t go into details but suffice to say my parents did for me as you are doing for your children, they went without meals so that I could eat; I was dressed in hand me downs and clothes from jumble sales; woke up to ice on the inside of single glazed metal framed windows and mould everywhere. I am so ashamed that decades on, there are those in the UK still living like this.
    The positives from this, and there are some, are that your children will know the value of everything and be less possession orientated, they will also know how to cook, manage budgets and empathise with others. These are lessons which will stand them in good stead for the future, as they have for me.
    I’ve bought your books – for kindle though so not sure how much you will get from that so a donation is also on its way.
    I look forward to reading the books and your blog.
    With the warmest of wishes to you and yours, Lena x

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  39. Hi

    Loved reading this and really feel for you and your family. I am a single parent with three children and have lived in a similar situation as yourself but thankfully I had my health.
    Approved food is a good website to find cheap food that’s often near sell by dates or out of season. It takes some looking but some bargains are to be had.
    I was just over the threshold when I worked so had minimal housing benefit and no free dinners for my three. I’m not much better off now but I am university studying so I actually have more financial help than I did before with free school dinners no council tax and extra housing benefit.
    I know it doesn’t help you but it does and will get better. Not doubt you’ve looked but there are many budget meal ideas on the internet particular supermarkets and online shopping helps to co ordinate and pre determine what you can and can’t afford. It also helps with planning meals as you can take advantage of offers and find meals to fit before you go shopping.

    I wish you all the best and hope your writing takes off to become a bigger income for you and your family.

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  40. A real eye opener. Thank you for baring your soul – it reminded me to be kinder and more grateful for what I have. The very best of luck with your books -I’ve had a look on amazon and am going to have a read -good reviews! Stay strong. All the best.

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  41. I’ve been in your position and there were some dark times! I hope and pray that your circumstances and your health improve soon, I’m sure they will! You are a talented writer, keep going!

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