In April's budget review, George Osborne laid out plans to cut child benefit for any household earning a total of £41,300 or less; and also outlined a number of confusing changes for child tax credits and working tax credits.
From a personal perspective, being a single parent who is currently striving to get back into the jobs market, planned reforms to the system are making it absolutely impossible to set a foot back on to the work ladder.
When I write the term "unemployed single parent" I know a vast majority of the employed population will sniff and think "scrounger". Far from it, I volunteer two days a week, write for my local paper, actively seek employment and am re-training, but truth be told, I can't afford to work. It's simply more cost effective to accept the benefits I'm being awarded, rather than struggle with the monthly budget on minimum wage.
Why? Like everyone else I'm going to have to pay child care costs. I worked diligently until a year and a half ago, and was on a pretty decent wage, but even then I was paying more childcare for a seven and three year old than my monthly mortgage payment. Having to find all of this added cash from one wage was absolutely impossible.
Speaking to friends I hear a very similar story across the board be they single or in a relationship. Childcare is killing us, and because of this we are more likely to stay at home.
Childcare costs in Britain are amongst the highest in Europe, but unlike Sweden who offer a comprehensive child-care structure, including opening schools to coincide with working hours, Britain seems to be stuck in the dark ages in comparison. Paying child care on my own meant having to borrow money from elsewhere to pay for it. I ended up getting myself into major debt to just stay in a job, and I don't think that I am the only one by any means. I'm sure many couples struggle also, but when you're a single parent and the nursery calls you to pick up a child who has had a bit of a loose stool, there is no one else there to make up the day's lost pay for caring for that child.
Personally, I strongly believe that the government have lost the plot, and completely forgotten about the single parent. It's only through grim determination that I've managed to get myself this far. At the moment my house is paid for me as is my council tax, and I receive around £70 per week for living expenses. To break even and have that seventy quid swimming about in my bank account I'd have to be earning around £21,000 per year. Well, Mr. Osborne, I'm trained; I'm willing but where is that golden job?
I attend my local job centre, once every six months. They congenially pat me on the back and tell me when I attend that there's not really much that they can do to help someone with qualifications. There's certainly no funding to be had to re-train a person who has a bit of nous about them. But there's sometimes however, a part time job on minimum wage in a supermarket/call centre/ garden centre that I can apply for, which will mean losing my benefit, having to pay extra childcare to cover unsocial shifts because all single parents want to work between the hours of nine and three.
Head. Brick wall.
I don't want to live like this, a statistic. I really want to bring my kids up showing them that we are better off working hard and setting them a strong example that my parents set me. I'm certain I'm not the only one who feels this strongly but is stuck in a black hole of bureaucracy and red tape that is moulding a generation of children who don't want to work because they haven't been set a good example. What are we teaching our kids here? That we're better off staying at home praying for a miracle to occur?
The rising cost of child-care, and the way the UK benefits system hands out on circumstance, added to dire job prospects to those who live anywhere 25km away from Central London and no clue from jobcentres. It's just painful and soul destroying.
Gives us a break Mr. O, some of us really do want better.