I am quoted in The Observer today, in a piece about the tax credit cuts that have recently been voted in.  Under the heading, Case studies: people in the front line, there is a photo of S and I and information from a short interview I gave last week.

I’ve done my best to avoid reading the comments on that piece, because we all know the golden rule of things like this is: never read the comments. However, there was only a short paragraph devoted to S and I so I thought it might be pertinent to explain more, for those who care to read.

I am self employed, and this year saw my first tax return where my self employed income was my only income. Even I was shocked at how low the final figure was when I submitted my return. Each month I invoice my clients, and when they pay me I pay my rent and major bills, and then do an online food shop to stock up on essentials for the month. Whatever is left, I try to put back into my business in order to expand my knowledge and earning ability. There is always something else that needs to be bought, though – especially at this time of year.

I get around £20 per month in child maintenance. Yes, you did read that right; it is not a typo. When that £20 comes in, I usually use it to replace a couple of items from S’s wardrobe that have become too small. At this time of year, it will go towards a new coat, winter shoes, gloves and suchlike. That’s when it turns up. Often it doesn’t arrive for a few months, and then I need to call the CSA to chase it. They’ve not contacted me about the changes to the system yet, so I’m not sure whether we will continue to receive that money.

I receive £247 in tax credits per week. £150 of that is paid immediately to nursery. S loves nursery, and after rent it is the most important bill I pay. I do not pay late; I do not miss payments. I cannot afford to lose S’s place at nursery. What is left of that £247 is what we live on for the week. It pays for our electricity, which is on a meter and topped up weekly with a key. At this time of year, I’m putting £30 a week on in the hope that we can build up a bit of a cushion for the colder months in the new year. We have not put any heating on yet. I will hold out as long as possible before we do that; the two heaters we have in the flat use up electricity like you wouldn’t believe, and we’re still waiting for our landlord to put in some new ones which we’re hoping will be more cost effective.

I do not smoke. I do not drink. I do not go out for meals. I have not been to the cinema for almost four years.  I do drink Coke Zero; I think that and chocolate are my only vices, the only areas in which we could cut back. It’s not like when these cuts come in, we’ll just knock the horse riding lessons on the head, or I’ll have to limit my nights out to once a month. It’s not like I can just stop buying flat screen TVs and fags with my benefit money.

I am lucky, in that I am self employed. Although my income is low, there is always the potential to increase that. I can put up my prices; I can find more clients; I can work more hours; I can diversify what I’m doing. Before I was made redundant, I was on a set wage with no chance of a pay rise or promotion. Because of childcare, I could only work the 15 hours per week I was contracted for; there was no way for me to increase the amount of cash in my pocket each month. Being self employed might seem more precarious to those in employment, but for me it feels like I have more control – and more hope, in the face of these tax credit changes.

Others are in employment, working all the hours they can, for minimum wage. When these cuts come in, they do not have the potential to just work more, just charge more, just find more work. They are stuck with wondering whether they could perhaps look for a job that will pay more. In the current climate, how likely is that?

I cannot fathom what the government hope to gain by this. People have said it will be Osborne and Cameron’s “Poll Tax moment” – but the truth is, the people who are reliant on these tax credits daren’t take a day away from work to go and riot in London; they have mouths to feed and bills to pay. They can’t risk losing their job to go and protest against these cuts.

And yes, you can go ahead and say people shouldn’t have had children if they couldn’t afford them. You can say people should have done better in school and got a better job. You can say we shouldn’t be sponging off the government; you can say we still have a better quality of life than people twenty or thirty years ago. None of that will change the fact that this government seems insistent on punishing the poor. You can say what you like about me, but the fact is that me and my daughter are one and the same. Punish me; you punish her. And she has done nothing to deserve the distain with which this government treats her. None of these children have.


Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Michelle · 18/10/2015 at 14:33

I haven’t heard anything about the tax credits here in the states yet but it was in the news recently that people who are on benefits aren’t getting the $20 increase they usually get every year. The government here in the states sounds a lot like the government in the UK. I’ve been saying this for some time now but I believe, at least here, that every member of my government needs to replaced with real leaders who aren’t hell bent on punishing the poor.

Bek Dillydrops · 18/10/2015 at 17:23

As a single Mum, these Tax Credits cuts do worry me. I have recently taken on more work so that I feel more secure for the cuts next year. In doing so, I am going to be hundreds of pounds worse of each month. Career-wise and for job security, I am better off but working more to receive less money on already very tight budget is crackers, in my mind. I know that I am very lucky to be in the position of being able to take on more work but I am exhausted already, let alone when I start my extra work in a few weeks. There is so much propaganda against poor people, which a lot of people believe to be true. There are always the, “You should’ve…” thoughts that people say aloud that are so judgemental, it is unreal. It’s always those ordinary people with little power and limited resources that are pushed further down the scale. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!

    Vicky Charles · 18/10/2015 at 21:04

    Thanks Becky, you’re right of course. It’s always the poor who are vilified and suffer – as if we’re all feckless losers who really are just sitting there saying the state should fund our lifestyles or something! It drives me mad, the things people say. “we never had tax credits in my day” – yeah, and there was also a time when there was no penicillin or indoor toilets but you don’t moan about that do you! Bloody judgemental idiots!

Jayne · 18/10/2015 at 18:07

Your newspaper piece reads very well, I’m glad someone is kicking up a fuss about this. I’m dreading the cuts, I just don’t know how we’ll manage or what else we can cut back on.

    Vicky Charles · 18/10/2015 at 21:01

    I think the majority of people are in the same boat, worryingly.

Mrs Tubbs · 18/10/2015 at 20:57

Well done you for speaking out. This makes me so angry. My church’s biggest ministry is the food bank. A food bank in one of the richest countries in the world. It’s great that we do this, but it’s outrageous that it’s needed. Policies like this will mean more people will need us than ever. :( #weekendblogshare

    Vicky Charles · 18/10/2015 at 21:00

    Trussell Trust head office is here; I’ve done some media stuff for them before. Like you I find it despicable that such a thing should even exist in one of the richest countries in the world!

Jenna · 24/10/2015 at 10:43

We need to start a protest or something treating us like this is against human rights we should have a say really I am a single mum an graft as much as possible with no help from her father who is a doley

    Vicky Charles · 24/10/2015 at 10:55

    Valid point Jenna! It’s always worth looking at what Gingerbread are up to – they might have a petition or something.

Rachel In Real Life · 25/10/2015 at 07:57

I’m concerned too. As you know, I can’t work outside of the home for health reasons (and I’ve no idea how to even begin to attempt a freelance career) and my husband currently works two minimum wage part time jobs so that I don’t have to do both school runs and he can take me to appointments. If he is going to have to work extra hours in order to make up any loss, that will mean that I will be in more pain and unable to attend appointments; I can’t even walk to my doctor surgery myself which is only about a third of a mile. The government can shout all they want about the increase in tax free allowance and minimum wage but the timings don’t work together!

    Vicky Charles · 25/10/2015 at 12:54

    Agreed Rachel. A sensible government who cared about people would ensure an increase in tax free allowance and minimum wage were fully implemented and would definitely make up the shortfall before cutting anything.

Pen · 28/10/2015 at 21:25

Well done for your piece in the Observer. Almost every day I hear a story about the impact of cuts that this government is making. A friend at work has a severely mentally handicapped and disabled brother who is 43. Her parents, who are in their 80s have been told that they have to complete a load of really confusing forms to justify why he cannot work. they are really stressed and faced with the prospect of further funding him out of their meagre pensions. It’s not fair.

    Vicky Charles · 30/10/2015 at 12:53

    Oh that’s so awful! Government forms are hard enough for the rest of us, let alone someone in their 80s! I feel like the government are just trying to push the lower income levels of society further down.

A Moment with Franca · 31/10/2015 at 13:45

Aww Vicky this is terrible really!! It is hard for me with a partner I can imagine how hard it could be for you! You are doing great and I’m so proud of you speaking up like that!! This is something that I like about you…you tell the things how they are and I always like people like you! I’m so used to this as I come from a country where the government support is minimum. And to be honest things are even worst there but the thing is that we are here in the UK and I expect better support from the government! I really hope things get better for all! Thanks so much for joining me at #KCAKOLS. I really appreciate your support!! :-) xx

    Vicky Charles · 31/10/2015 at 18:54

    Thank you Franca. It makes me so angry that we’re one of the richest countries in the world but people are still scraping around for cash for food!

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