"Hello there it's Sunday, 8 November 2020. I apologise in advance for this lengthy post. So me this week my Covid Realities have come home to roost.

Firstly, because I have been working as a freelance commentator and writer under the DWP's permitted work rules I actually earned enough money of the past couple of months to pay off my remaining creditor via my Step Change debt charity debt repayment plan. It was a momentous day and having managed to pay off my remaining debts eight months early I thought I'd feel elation. Instead I felt really hollow and empty which I found strange. I think it's probably due to this been in a state of unknown whether or not I would be dragged back into poverty again. It means that I can now pay back my middle son to whom I have owed a substantial amount of money for the past four years or so. However since he began working he has been living with me rent free because I didn't feel I could ask him for room and board money because I owed him money in the first place. This was ran in contrary to watch the debt charity had advised me to do, but because his attitude towards paying rent on board was so bad at times I didn't dare ask so as not to upset the boat. Financial issues played a part in blowing apart what was our very close relationship, which saddened me greatly. It was a reminder of the past when I had been subjected to financial of abuse by my ex-husband.

Working with StepChange to resolve my debts was one of the hardest things I had to do. Even though the budget was worked out, I found it very difficult to stick to particularly during periods of low mood and depression. Furthermore although they factored in an amount each month for emergencies it still wasn't sufficient to cover unforeseen expenditures so I still had to borrow money for instance when I had to replace a car tyre one week which blew my budget for food shopping.

Another thing I found startling when I telephoned the charity to pay off my debt was how difficult it was to get through on the phone lines. They were inundated to the point that they weren't answering calls any more and you had to call back later but with no clear idea of when later would be suitable. I really do think that the COVID pandemic has put a huge spanner in the finances of those in perilous work situations by which I mean zero hours contracts, irregular hours or been put on furlough and the demand for StepChange services has increased exponentially.

Secondly, I was scheduled to have spinal surgery at Leeds General infirmary on Monday, 2 November. However despite self isolating with my 15-year-old son for the two weeks before to ensure I was covered free before going into hospital, I was cancelled even though my surgery is considered urgent and I have been waiting since August for a theatre slot. This is the second time it's been cancelled. Of course it is right and proper that given we now are experiencing a second wave of COVID infection, that any hospital beds go to those acutely unwell with COVID and also other emergencies. I myself would potentially be in a precarious postion health wse should I contract COVID so am glad I don't have that worry. The downside is that I, with this chronic incurable spinal cord condition, Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy, have to face the prospect of further pain, fatigue and paralysis as I have no idea when I will be rescheduled.

Although surgery would not be a cure from my condition it would prevent loss of what function remains if I was treated in a timely fashion. I have been deteriorating for a couple of years now but was only seen at the beginning of this year. Although I wasn't looking forward to surgery because it would have been more complex and painful than the first time round I had it, it is necessary to go through it to stand any chance of preserving function. Instead I feel destined for a life of increased disability, which cannot be helped but the recourse to disability benefits is not an easy one to navigate and I do not relish the prospect of losing what disability benefits I have if my current reassessment due to deterioration is rejected. It would be difficult to contemplate appealing for a fourth time for financial assistance if I receive zero points yet again. Not is society suitably accessible enough - to many businesses only pay lip service towards disability access issues. It's infuriating.

Thirdly, now that my middle son has moved out and drove somewhat of a cloud, I informed my local council. I live in a housing association property and am currently in receipt of full housing benefit. However, because my son has moved out I have been informed that I am now liable to pay spare room subsidy a.k.a. bedroom tax. This is in spite of having an older son in the RAF who currently lives in barracks up at his posting in Scotland and needs a room to stay in when he comes home on leave.

My housing benefit has consequently been reduced by £15 per week. I appealed the decision and asked for a reconsideration in light of my son being in the RAF. However the local council is still deem his barracks as a permanent home which I find ridiculous. That said my income support officer at the housing association was very kind and helped me to apply for discretionary housing payment - a temporary stay on charges for six months. Thankfully I qualified for it, but in my opinion having a son in the Armed Forces who has yet to purchase a home of his own thus needs a broom at my house to come home on leave to, I shouldn't have had to apply in the first place.

Not only that the letter I received from the council was quite derogatory in its tone and appeared to give the impression that anyone needing to apply was a scrounger for want of a better word and I quote:

"Discretionary housing payments are not normally made for long periods of time so I would expect you to use the time we have giving you the award over to take steps to reduce your reliance on the scheme for example by finding a property that is most suitable for your financial situation, reducing your expenditure or increasing your income"

This is a slap in the face to someone whose family has been told apart by Domestic Violence, is disabled, has chronic depression, cannot work full time as I used to & have been doing my utmost to get my finances for the past three years via a debt charity back on track. Not only that, I'm not entirely convinced that there will be a suitable property available for me in my current condition given that I need a bungalow, I've already had some adaptations made to my home and am on the waiting list for an assessment for a disabled facilities grant to make my home more accessible than what it is currently so I can maintain my independence. I've done my time in a slummy skyrise flat - no way will I go back in one of them again. I feel extremely angered by it all. They have not taken any personal circumstances into consideration whatsoever. I realise that my local council didn't bring in this cruel and callous legislation, it was down to the Coalition Government in 2013. But the tone of their letter exacerbates the cruelty.

Furthermore England is in a second lockdown for four weeks until December after my local area being in a rather confusing tier system of quarantine - we were in Tier 2 for many weeks before. But because COVID levels have been rising, which imparts are due to the confusing messages from central government, means that England as a whole are now locked down as we were originally when covered first arrived on our shores. However the government deems it okay to keep schools colleges and universities open which makes no sense whatsoever as they themselves have become hotbeds of cross infection, so much so that the Chancellor of the University of Manchester had fencing erected around the student halls of residences and the other day without prior notification, to keep students in, which didn't go down well with the students will prompt the protested and pulled the fencing down, and rightly so.

So many more people are going to become infected with COVID; many will die all because of government incompetence and wasting tax payers money on privatised test and trace apps and organisations. It's utterly utterly outrageous that private business profits at the expense of the impoverished."

Meg T
Nov 8, 2020

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