To Our Politicians,
Before you call to my home looking for my vote in the upcoming election campaign, I suggest you read the following situation summary and look through my current personal financials – with a view to proactive empathy (tea, sympathy and lip service will not pay my bills or clear my debts!).
I am asking you to sincerely try and imagine being ‘in my shoes’ and at least make an effort to try to understand how this situation would affect you and your loved ones.
I am the lone parent of one 15-year-old transition year student since he was four years old; when I say lone parent, I mean totally alone. His father lives in the UK. I had to leave him when he came home from work one day and physically attacked me, grabbed me by the throat, threw me to the floor and kicked me several times in front of our child who hid behind the sofa in fear.
This wasn’t the first time he had been physically abusive, which only began after the birth of my child, hence only one child. I made sure it was going to be the last for me and my child’s sake.
My child’s father is the epitome of the Christmas and birthday dad and does not support his child practically, emotionally or financially despite many, many personal and several legal attempts to hold him jointly responsible for his child.
I have absolute responsibility for every aspect of my child’s care, health, education and wellbeing. I have no savings left (used up early into lone parenthood), no property or land (although I am very grateful to have the security of a council house, many lone parents do not even have home security), no pension and certainly no financial security as result of circumstances.
I have been in receipt of One Parent Family support since 2004 and was delighted when I was accepted on to a three year CE scheme in 2005, a position I mistakenly believed would provide an opportunity of permanent paid employment.
From 2010-2011 I successfully completed a FETAC level 5 and went straight on to 3rd level. My maintenance grant was slashed by 60% in 2012/13 when eligibility for the non-adjacent grant changed at the same time as a grant cut.
Back to education:
Being a lone parent and studying full-time became much too difficult for me with financial hardship thrown in to mix and I dropped out after 2nd year. It totally shattered my confidence and hopes. Not one for staying idle, I threw myself into applying for work online and on the phone; cleaning, bar work, customer services, admin/clerical, anything at all that I knew I would be capable of doing.
I printed off CVs and actively visited companies within a 25km radius, introducing myself in a well presented manner and asking to be considered for future vacancies, not one ever responded. I have made other efforts , which include setting up my own small businesses, taking on temporary positions and working nights in a fast food restaurant.
I got to the first round interview for some jobs. All seemed promising until they requested my PPS nunber and informed me that to avail of government employers’ incentives they can only employ from the live register and One Parent Family recipients are not eligible.
On the Dole:
My OPF claim will be stopped in March and since I cannot secure employment, I must apply for Jobseekers. I am not confident that these ‘reforms’ will work for me since in another interview, I was reminded that I am up against government employment initiatives favouring younger people on the live register, needless to say I didn’t hear anymore about that job either.
In an effort to modernise my skills, I researched I.T. courses that I might be able to do. The closest facility offering appropriate courses and certification is 26km away, but only provide €17 per week towards the €50 it would cost to attend the required 5 days, rendering another opportunity out of the question. I am currently learning website creation and social media marketing using free online courses at home. A few weeks into this study, I enthusiastically applied for Social Media Marketing Administrator CE Scheme that was ideally based from my home and within school hours but I was informed that I’m not eligible for CE for another 12 yearrs as I have already done a CE scheme, despite completing that scheme 7 years ago and basically being back at square one.
Turned down in job interviews:
I visited the new local Intreo employment services office in February. The only two job search machines they have were both out of order. The machines in the social welfare office worked; 15 vacancies were advertised for the whole county. Three were CE schemes, three were internships, some required specific qualifications/experience that I did not have and the rest simply do not pay enough to justify me travelling the distance to them.
So what to do now?
I have no recent or relevant references, a patchy varied CV, no suitable work opportunities within a reasonable radius of home and even if there were vacancies offering the opportunity to modernise and validate my skills/CV and I’m apparently the ‘wrong’ age.
We are experiencing ongoing long term hardship, debts are accumulating weekly and I have sole responsibility for a rapidly growing, hungry teenager about to go into the Leaving Certificate.
My current weekly income of €275.40 is calculated as follows:
One Parent Family: €217.80
Fuel Allowance €20: (FA stops 1st week of April)
Child Benefit: €135pm/€33.75 per week
Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance: €200 per year/ €3.85 per week.
However, my weekly (no matter how much cutting back I do) outgoing responsibilities should be €440.93, a weekly shortfall of €165.53. I stand no chance of breaking even anytime soo. This is how debts are accumulating and why Jobridge rates are so unfavourable.
I am thoroughly exhausted from trying to adequately provide everything my child needs on my own. I’m tired of trying to find an adequately paying suitable job, and I am fed up of long term financial hardship inflicted by government cuts.
I feel sick when I have to go to an ATM as usually no cash left or when card is refused when paying for petrol/shopping, I’m scared every time an expense is due, exhausted from the stress of ‘cop dodging’ until I can afford to renew car tax, and tired from continually having to check what cheap food in the ‘going out of date’ shop shelves.
I have to keep saying no to social invitations as I cannot afford it (friends and family do not know/understand my situation and have got so used to or offended by me saying no. I hardly get any invites/visitors anymore).
Fear of unexpected expenses:
I’m constantly afraid of unexpected expenses like hospital car parking charges when my child got concussed or needed new school bag when straps broke, afraid of tyre getting punctured or something going wrong with 15 year old car.
If we lived in an urban area with public transport, I would get rid of the car reducing expenses by about €80 per week. The stress is endless but most of all I am very worried about what the future holds for my child and me if we remain trapped in rural Ireland. I am well and truly sick to my stomach of living like this and you would do well to remember I am not the only voter experiencing hardship.
What would you do in these circumstances with no support or contacts in the right places? I’d really like to know, as maybe I’m missing a trick somewhere along way. More importantly, what are you actually going to do for me? Will you be proactive as a public representative and source reasonable paying opportunities for me within a reasonable distance from my home with an immediate start?
Or are you just going to repeat more fairytale nonsense about future plans at me while campaigning at my door for election and expect me to give you my vote to keep you in your comfortably paid position?