Alva's story

Alva, a single parent from Northern Ireland, shares her rented home with her three young children. Alva experienced a breakdown which meant she had to leave work, and she struggles to think about returning as one of her children requires full time care due to a serious health condition.

Prior to having her third child, Alva said she was ‘just about getting by’. Her daughter’s health complications meant that most of her money went on trips to the hospital. Since having her youngest child, however, born after the two-child limit policy came into force, Alva is struggling financially without the additional tax credits for her third child. As she put it, ‘I’m back to square one again’. With around £1,500 in income support, child tax credit and child benefit each month, and without any maintenance payments from the children's father, Alva manages only to afford the basic essentials for her children: ‘there’s food in the house and the baby’s milk and stuff. It doesn’t come cheap’. She has to borrow from friends and family to cover the rest, particularly the costs associated with visiting her daughter in hospital, including childcare for her other children: ‘There’s nothing really I could have cut back on… Every time she was admitted [it was] for a minimum of two weeks at a time. I was running back and forth in the car…. Whenever I’m down there I can’t make anything so I’m eating out… I have to pay a childminder whenever my daughter is in hospital, for the other ones.’

‘It’s pretty upsetting, the fact that I obviously can’t afford more for my kids’. Alva greatly regrets not being able to afford anything more than the basics for her children, such as activities or day trips. The stress affects them all but particularly her son. He has behavioural issues which are exacerbated when he spends a lot of time stuck at home.

If the two-child limit were lifted, Alva would receive an extra £53 a week which she feels would help her keep on top of bills and also allow her to pay for extra-curricular activities for children, to help their development. She also thinks that the money would help cover the cost of childcare, needed for her to return to work: I do want to work and provide for my family to try and give them a better start in life’.

Alva had heard of the two-child limit but was not sure whether it had come into effect and did not know if it would affect her as she had a child with a disability. She did not realise how much she would struggle financially after having a third child: ‘I didn’t think it would be as bad as it is now. I thought I’d still be able to manage’.

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