After this week's budget I feel the need to declare, "my name is Jess and I relied on benefits." After the birth of my first baby ten years ago, my husband and I received Child Tax Credits. Our household income was around £19k. Without Child Tax Credits I would never have been able to afford childcare for my young son. The top-up meant that I could do small bits of paid and voluntary work. My tax credits helped me go to work and begin to build a career. When my second son was born three years later, both my husband and I had advanced in our careers so we no longer needed the help. Combined with the free nursery place we were given the state had handed us support to now help ourselves.
There are two things that gall me about what Mr Osborne said in the budget. The first is the idea that benefits system should not support "lifestyles" those in work cannot afford. Well first, I was working! Second... lifestyle... lifestyle... I'd like to see him live it up on these benefits. Me and my husband lived on a weekly food budget of £25 per week. If I never see another chickpea curry again it might be too soon. We ate the same thing every night. Week in week out. I remember my mate, who was in a similar situation delighting in buying 8p noodles in bulk. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, we were happy, we were fine. But the idea it was some cushy lifestyle... I should bloody coco.
The second thorn in the budget is the rebirth of the idea that people have extra babies to get benefits. We seem to be harking back to a time when we thought teenage girls had babies to get council flats. Unlike me, the Chancellor has obviously never pushed out a 10lb 10oz baby and endured 15 odd stitches. Let me tell you it would take a lot more than an extra £25 quid a week to make me do that again. I think I'd turn down a Euromillions windfall in fact! People have babies for love and worth. I have worked with loads of vulnerable young people who had babies. Without question all went through with, what was probably a mistake to give them family, love and belonging. If you are poor, feel worthless, and as if you are good for nothing, being a mom or dad makes you matter. I was 22 when I had my son, and I felt that it gave me a place in the world. I never thought, "KERCHING, I'm gonna be in the money." Truth was it meant I couldn't work and I wondered how we would cope. Should I not have had him?
I'm sorry if people felt that they were subsidising my mistake or, as I like to call him, Harry. In fact I am not sorry, I am thankful. I am thankful that I was given a chance to go back to work, build a life for my mistake and I. I wouldn't be here in Parliament if it wasn't for that help, that chance. George Osborne thinks tax credits are a handout but for me it was a hand up.