Today, my Covid reality is all about how precarious my financial position really is. I had been feeling guilty of late because after 7 years of fighting for what I am entitled to in terms of securing access to full disability benefits, unlike many others during the pandemic, my financial position seems to have improved, on the surface at least.
So what does that mean in practice? Basically, it means I'm able to pay all my bills now and not skip any direct debits and I don't have to chose between heating and eating. It means I can put fuel in my car so I can take my son out on home educational activities (now that the lockdown has eased for now; although currently, for diesel, it is £1.26 per litre in my area - up to 10p a litre more when you go over the border in North Yorkshire!).
But then I look around my home and see that I can't afford to paint and decorate and being disabled I can't employ someone to do it for me. In fact in the time I have lived in my current property (12 years), I have only been able to paint my son's bedroom, hall, stairs and landing and that was thanks to the Community Paint Store at my local community centre which sells discounted paint. The carpets were brand new when I moved in - thanks to my Mum who paid for them, but due to wear and tear, they are well past their best. I can't replace my third hand bedframe that is breaking and replace it with an electric adjustable bed that would make my life so much more comfortable from a disability point of view. I need a new cooker as my 12 year old one - again bought by my Mum is on it's last legs & only the top oven is in working order, My fridge has also seen better days - the handle is broken, it leaks and grows mould inside and my tumble dryer finally broke down yesterday. It had been having issues for some time and I finally had the money to buy replacement parts for it, only for it to burn out the power cord before I could fit them. Just my luck.
More recently, I've had to pay for new glasses for me and my 16 year old who has been issued with a prescription for the first time as he is short-sighted. And even though (thankfully!) we are fortunate to be entitled to receive a free NHS eye test &an optical voucher towards the cost of new glasses, I need varifocals which are more expensive. And even though we avail ourselves to the 2 for 1 offer available in store, the staff still try and push you towards the more expensive lens options even though they know that you are in receipt of benefits.
Not to mention my pets. I've had 3 of the rabbits to the vet this week including Ragnar who, unexpectedly, has needed dental treatment again, 6 months after the first time - all under anaesthetic and will now do so for life. I've had to shell out a total of £268 this week on vet fees and medication alone. And how did I fund it - with a credit card, of course.
I had no other option. I had paid off my Debt Management Plan with StepChange the Debt Charity last year, I have been trying to rebuild my credit rating. And the only way you can do that is with a higher interest credit card. I hate having to do so as I do not want to get sucked back into the debt spiral again. What is frightening is that despite my credit history, it is still relatively easy to get credit, much to my surprise. The difference is that I am managing at the moment - I am paying off my balance in full each month, so not having to pay interest. But if I bought everything we actually needed - and I stress need, not want, when I have access to so much credit, I would end up in the back in the same situation I have fought to escape. But I am only managing to tread water because my disability benefits, In particular my Personal Independence Payment is keeping me afloat, but in so doing I can't buy what I need, which PIP is intended to be used for e.g. an electric adjustable bed.
So, perhaps my guilt is misplaced. I have been living in poverty for 15 years now and I'm still trying to claw my way out. And my fingernails remain very brittle. It's an unnerving situation to be in and the stress is never ending. Surely some stability and peace of mind isn't too much to ask for?