I recieved a letter from HMRC this morning, regarding my child tax credits. The first distressing point was that said letter was addressed to me and X (you know, the ex-partner who was imprisoned over a year ago for sexually abusing my daughter – which I might add, I informed Tax Credits about). The second was that my tax credits have been stopped. Again.
In August 2015, the day after I found out that X had been abusing my daughter, I was all but forced by a benefits advisor to make all the relevant phone calls. As in, to inform the benefits system of my ‘relationship breakdown’ if that’s what you want to call it. I’m sure you can understand why I was in absolutely no mood to be on hold for 40 minutes, when I could have been speaking to the police or comforting my daughter instead. Still, the benefits advisor insisted that it was necessary to get it all sorted right away, to ensure that we would have an income. So I made the call.
I remember it very distinctly because of how distressed I became on the phone. The man dealing with my call asked me why my relationship had broken down, and if I had a new address for my partner – to prove that he no longer lived with me. “He’s been sexually abusing my daughter so I’m assuming the new address starts with Her Majesty’s Prison,” I snapped angrily. The man was understandably shocked, and assured me that the claim had been shut down, and would be dealt with sensitively in all future correspondence. All I needed to do was fill out the form that was headed to me in the post, which would set up a new claim that was solely in my name.
Are you confused yet? The system is confusing.
I wasn’t paid after that phone call. I still owe numerous friends money after the whole benefits system failed me in that particular time of need; I ran up a £2000 debt with the bank of friends and family while we were moving away from the house where the abuse took place.
I filled out the form for a new claim, and instead of it being granted I suffered weeks of “extra checks” from HMRC, which apparently are carried out at random, and included asking me to fill out a budgeting form detailing exactly what I spent each week and exactly what I spent it on. I have dyscalculia (essentially number dyslexia) which I informed them of, and they told me to just fill out said budgeting form to the best of my ability. They then disputed said form.
I didn’t receive Tax Credits again until March of 2016. You can imagine how difficult it was. I couldn’t afford my daughter’s first pair of school shoes. Did you know that single parents are one and a half times more likely to be in debt than two-parent families? Just an interesting fact I thought I’d share with you.
So now, in November of 2016 (although supposedly the letter was sent out on the 6th of October, but I only received it today?) HMRC claim that they continued to pay me after the phone call, until mid October of 2015. They did not. They have stopped my claim and want £546 and something pence from me. This is not the first time I have had problems with the benefits system, and I am certain that anyone else who has found themselves claiming has had similar problems.
Which is why I need to say this: I am so sick of benefits. I hate being on benefits. I’m not on them because I’m lazy or don’t want to work. This line about teenagers getting pregnant so that they can claim benefits and get a council house? That’s not me.
To be perfectly honest, that’s not an easy out anyway. Have you looked at the council waiting lists recently? Do you have any idea how broke people are trying to raise kids on benefits?? Anybody getting pregnant now with the hope of getting a handout and a council house will be lucky if they get some hand-me-downs for the baby and a cot that fits in the spare bedroom in their mother’s house!
I claim benefits because I am not allowed to go out to work. Because I am not allowed to leave my five year old daughter. Because I stood in court and promised that I would focus solely on my child, who has been brutally sexually abused, and because the Local Authority think that me going out to work at this point in the aftermath would not be putting my child’s needs first. I don’t want to be on benefits, and it certainly isn’t easy.
So can we all stop the stigma? Please?? I understand that some people scam the system. I understand that some people simply don’t want to work. But let me tell you, single mothers on benefits do not have it easy. I’d like to think that most of us would prefer to be at work. I know I would.
Take the time to consider the challenges people might be facing behind closed doors. When you don’t know the story and assume that someone is claiming benefits because they are lazy and don’t want to work, you could be overlooking a crisis situation, like mine, an invisible illness or any number of other unseen reasons. Are people like me supposed to walk around with signs on our backs so that you know whether to judge us as ‘scroungers’ and ‘dole rats’ or not?
As the saying goes, don’t assume. It makes an ass out of u and me.