"Hi this is my first diary entry. I have had a look around the site and a couple of days to think about it. I think I might be out on a limb here because I think my experience is a bit different to others I have read. Maybe I will realise different things as time goes on.
I am a lone parent with 2 daughters, in work with the NHS (considered a front-line worker so I was not furloughed) and on Universal Credit. I was living with a partner (not the mother of my daughters) before Lockdown began. And before that I was a lone parent, in work and on Universal Credit, etc. So in the last 18 mths I have experienced different situations.
Covid was in part one of the reasons for leading to my most recent relationship breakdown. My (now ex-) partner and my children and myself were not used to the restrictions imposed by being at home 24/7. We had just moved in together and this was such a strange experience. It was partly to blame for breaking us up.
And so I am around 6 weeks in to living back as a Lone Parent on benefits.
I have to be honest and say it is easier than the first time round. The parenting side of things hasn't changed much - it is harder because the girls cannot get out and do much. But then again, compared to last year when we did go out and do things, its much cheaper this time round. Its not that I can buy them many more things - I am in debt for the console and clothes and Christmas/birthdays from last year. And it would be much better to be able to go out and play badminton or go swimming. But we cannot yet. And when that changes I will need to budget better.
I will come clean also on what my job is - I am a welfare rights officer so I know the benefit system inside out, and I was a debt adviser many moons ago so I know a bit about keeping to a budget. I think both these things help me by relieving pressure, or worries that being on UC and having to budget must bring to those facing this system for the first time. In my current role I advise clients who have been affected by Covid eg through losing a job or furlough and the benefits system is a massive shock to them.
What has made this time round on UC much easier is the extra £86pcm added to UC by the Government in April. I also came from a better situation to UC than I did the first time round so I didnt need to use the Short Term Benefit Advance. Both of these things (extra £20pw, and no loan repayment) makes living on UC much much easier. I think it will become very difficult when/if the Government retract the extra they added to UC next year. I think they will because they said it was just for a year and its the biggest increase in a benefit I have ever seen in my 20+ years of doing this job. It wont last.
And that I feel will bring about problems with my budgeting. Less money and society opened up means a lot less cash to go on food, clothes, etc.
I work from home 2.5 days a week (which saves a lot on petrol) and at work the other 2.5 days. Work have been great in that they provided a food allowance for 3mths and now are providing £1.20 pd when working at home for electricity (both of which I was surprised to see UC did not take in to account)
I am managing to budget but with two main provisos: I do without on many things (eg I do not have a clothes budget for me, I dont know how I am going to get the school uniform, I have no "entertainment" budget, I buy own brand on food, etc). My second proviso is I use sites such as Prolific (a research site that pays money). I get around £30pm from this which will not really go towards bills but does go towards pocket money. A treat.
My girls do well as their mother is in a very well paid job as is her partner. So I know they will never go without from her. But I try to provide what I can for them myself. That isn't a Covid thing though - that's just being a lone parent on benefits.