National Living Wage

It’s a sexy title, huh? Hold on to your hats, pals. This one is about to get political.

This week Child Poverty Action Group announced that low-earning parents working full-time were not earning enough to provide even a basic ‘no-frills’ lifestyle. (BBC article)

A couple with two children were £49 a week short; a single parent is £74 a week short.

Not exactly a living wage then, is it?

Not that this is news to the many people across the country who earn the measly £7.83 an hour – let’s look at my own personal situation.

2017. I’m 7 months pregnant, working a full-time job I enjoy in a contact centre. The pay is good. One day, the operations manager comes into our office, and tells me (and my colleagues) that we are all being made redundant as the office is relocating. This means I will have no job to come back to after my maternity leave ends. I am panicky and stressed – this is literally the last thing I needed, everyone knows how expensive babies are!

Violet arrives, and my maternity trundles along nicely. I’m unemployed, but my Maternity Allowance (MA) helps cover the rent, Daryl and I cut out any luxuries (takeaways, nights out, brand label food) and we just about scrape through. 2018. A new year begins. We are concerned about the shortfall in cash once my MA runs out. By chance I am offered a job in local café, just a few hours a week, but it helps. I start selling some of my more valuable possessions to keep our heads above water. Fast forward to August. Daryl’s pay check plus my own isn’t stretching ‘til the end of the month. The last week of the month is a tetchy time. We don’t buy anything we don’t need, and I’m extremely grateful that Vi is off formula (£7 a tin) as Daryl needs bus fare. I start searching for a second job in the evenings as paying for childcare isn’t even an option. I have some luck, the local pub is hiring and I am offered a job. Downside? The pub is closing for 2 weeks for refurbishment. My friend gives me a helping hand and asks me to sell some of her things, giving me some of the money to help me out.

My situation is not unusual. Lots of other families around the country find themselves in the same situation. We don’t qualify for tax credits as Daryl earns too much and works too many hours. Yet if he quit his job, found something part-time paid £7.83 an hour, our income would be topped up by tax credits, housing benefit and council tax reduction. The system makes no sense. I have to work evenings and weekends, because childcare in my area is £35-50 a day. If I work a full shift at the café, my day’s wage goes on childcare, so there’s no point doing so unless Daryl is home to look after Violet. This also means I don’t get to spend time with my husband – we are ships passing in the night. We’ve lived like that before, but it’s a lot harder with a child, and both of us are feeling the emotional weight from not having the time to connect with each other at the end of the day.

Now let’s go back to when I was a child. I’ve spoken to my mum about this and it seems that nothing has changed. She used to be a manager in a chocolate shop, but after paying out childcare for 2 kids, she was left with £10 at the end of the month. There was literally no point in working, she was better off staying home and spending time with her kids. It was even the same with my grandma – she had 5 kids and the only reason they went to nursery was because my grandma was a teacher, and the nursery was only for children of doctors and teachers!

The thing that really gets me is that Daryl’s wage 30 years ago was enough for a family to live on, as well as save for a house. We’ve been renting together for 7 years, have 0 savings and have no ability to even consider buying a house. Renting is so expensive. Half of Daryl’s wage goes straight on rent. The government says it wants to help people renting – the cynic in me says they don’t really care that much, given that they voted down measures to force landlords to make sure properties were fit for habitation…

The National Living Wage is a joke. It’s the minimum wage rebranded and repackaged, and it makes naff all difference. I’m so angry that nothing seems to have changed since my mum was a child. I’m so angry that my experience is the norm – amongst my friends there are feelings of inadequacy and shame, that they can’t afford childcare, they can’t afford a better home, or nice things for their children. We bond over reduced stickers in the supermarket because it means we could afford meat for once, we bring our friends to a charity shop with a half price sale on kids’ clothes, we share websites with tips on making meals stretch for a week. We send the same £10 for petrol and bus fare back and forth, over and over, just so we can get our partners and friends to work.

This lifestyle isn’t glamorous. It’s hard, it’s choosing to put electric on the meter or pay your bank fees, it’s not eating meals during the day because your baby needs nappies. I’ve already mentioned the amazing village I have behind me but wouldn’t it be great if the wages we earned actually meant we could provide for our own? That we weren’t reliant on credit cards and payday loans which ruin our credit rating, shafting us for the audacity of not having money in the first place?

So how can you help? Listen to poor people. Donate to charity shops and food banks. Turn up with wine and takeaway and let us vent or forget our troubles for a while. Don’t talk about how poor you are when you’ve just spent £400 on a holiday or a new phone.

Be kind. Please be kind.

 

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. I agree with every word you’ve written – it’s not a living wage. I am angry that things aren’t better than they were when I was a child in the 1970s – like you I remember women staying at home to look after children because child care was so expensive. The ‘safety net’ isn’t really there anymore/rules and system penalise people. I’m so sorry to hear how tight things are for you and your family at the moment – I hope things improve for you soon, I hope it’s a mild winter too – I hope another job arrives for you or Darryl. None of us is far from poverty – I do my best to help people/charities here in Salford – but people don’t realise how close they are (an accident/illness = disability). take care love Bec –
    I’m looking forward to reading more on your blog too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah-Scarlett says:

      Ah thank you Bec! It’s so awful that so many of us recognise this situation and yet nothing seems to be done by those who have the power to change it. I used to live in Salford and I’ve seen first hand how tough life can be when the money doesn’t go far enough. Thanks for the lovely comment xx

      Like

  2. Thomas Mohr says:

    I see many young couples here in the US going through the same thing that you and Daryl are going through. My oldest son and his wife are in that group. Minimum wage is a joke. At least I see something that you two are doing right. Sacrifice. Violet has two awesome, loving parents and she will grow up to be a better person. I see, too often, parents at the grocer come up short on funds and instead of putting back the alcohol or tobacco, they put back milk or diapers or anything else that their child will need. Much praise to you and Daryl for being the parents that many others should be. I hope, in the near future, that you both find good fortune and can manage to have some extra funds every now and then so you can have fun more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah-Scarlett says:

      It’s such a difficult world to live in, and the divide between rich and poor gets wider every day. I know minimum wage in the US varies by state and in some places I’ve heard it can be as low as $2 an hour which is scandalous. No wonder so many people rely on foodstamps or tips to get by. I’m sending my love to your family, I really know how rough it is xx

      Like

  3. katietrafford says:

    Wow, this really opened my eyes! Thank you for sharing your story puts statistics into real life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what I wanted to do, so glad it worked. Thanks for your comment x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Im in my 50’s but can clearly see how difficult it is for families on the National Living Wage which is no better than benefits but pride, values and self respect drives everyone on. on the plus side though I remember being at your stage in life, but fortunate enough to have a high interest endowment mortgage, which was a con! Life does get better and tge struggles make you always appreciate what you get. We remember even a new lamp shade filling us with joy and pride. I do like your comment about being kind and turning up with wine and a takeaway. I will use that strategy for friends of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked the little tip at the end! We do get excited over little things these days, even if it’s getting a cake for pudding or something cheap in a charity shop! x

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