Victoria B on 02 July 2021

Before Covid I had money worries, but on income support the money I received was spaced out though the month (income support fortnightly and child tax credit weekly) that we always had enough money for a bus ticket and would use the month child benefit for days out. Then Covid hit and I was forced onto Universal Credit and a large part of how I was able to manage our current budget was because I wasn't paying for outings or even bus fare to town. I switched all my shopping, especially food shopping, online. The extra food costs were offset by the lower transport costs, we made it work. But now the lockdown is ending and those places we used to visit - beacon, play areas, parks, museums, beaches - are mostly free or low price to access (eg our theatre has a reduced price for families on benefits) but still got to worry about how to get to these opportunities. Bus fare for just me is £52 monthly. £11 for each kid, each week (child benefit barely covers that). Over £100 per month for transport costs alone but without the access to buses then my children will miss out on incredible opportunities. More simply put: pre-Covid I mostly had to balance low income with social and emotional opportunities for my kids (especially as we home school so those social meet ups are very important). During lockdown I had money worries + Covid worries and could worry less about the travelling worries (travel costs have always been largest bill after rent and food). Now lockdown is easing, I'm supposed to return to my pre-lockdown financial patterns and worries but that's impossible. Now I have all three concerns: low income + children's opportunity needs + Covid risk. I want to be excited about the lockdown ending but if anything the lockdown was a blessing in a sense. During lockdown I could say to myself "we can't go to that event because of lockdown, everyone is in the same boat, it's not my fault" but without lockdown I can only say to myself "we can't go to that event because we don't have the money for bus fare, not everyone is in this boat, those who aren't will say it's my fault" (the first is outside my control, the second I'm blamed for). I'm so scared for the second half of this year. I've no idea how we'll make it through the winter on Universal Credit when I'll most likely still be on Universal credit, only without the uplift + added travel costs + winter heating bills + by then we'll likely have another strain of covid to worry about. More stress post lockdown than during or before, like the two stress 'modes' have combined into a sense of impending doom and personal failure. It's very depressing. I make the best of each day, I plan and I budget, I do the best for my kids that I can. But inside I feel like I'm fading away, bit by bit, with each bill, each deduction, each job search, each wasted hope. I'm scared I'll run out of hope or every to keep fighting when I'm hungry and stressed and tired.

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