Dare lives with her three children on the outskirts of London. At the time we spoke to her, she was unable to consider returning to work whilst her Leave to Remain application was being processed by the Home Office. Before this, she had worked for a number of years.
With around £880 a month to survive on in universal credit, providing for three children is a struggle for Dare exacerbated by the two-child limit since her youngest child was born. ‘I’m trying to cope, with the family. There will be a shortfall at the end of the month… Every month it’s just a struggle. I just have to budget and balance at the end of the month and see how I can do it. So sometimes somebody will have to go without, certainly. That’s how it is’. Without any family to turn to for support, Dare has spent the last two years in a vicious cycle of trying to pay off her bank overdraft charges. She sometimes struggles to afford basic essentials and turns to rationing portions of food for her three young children to get by. With three rapidly growing children, she also struggles to afford clothes: ‘My children, they’re big and… they grow every month…and I’m like “Okay, I can’t do this month because I don’t have this money”. Then I have to wait for maybe the following month.’
Dare worries that her financial situation is depriving her children of a sense of normality and the opportunity to fit in with their friends: ‘Every year my children want to go on holiday, but we can’t afford to do any of that. We can’t afford to do all those extra special things that kids normally would want to do…You know how kids are, I mean when you’re talking with your friends, you know what kids want, you know what they want to do at the end of the month or end of the year’. Being unable to afford things for her family leaves Dare feeling ashamed: ‘You just feel very useless…it’s not a pleasant feeling, to know that as a parent you can’t provide what your children need’. After a lengthy wait for the Home Office to process her application, Dare is determined to get back to work to support her family financially but worries that the cost of childcare will be an issue for her two children who are under five.
Dare tries to protect her children as much as she can from her financial worries: ‘I just try and not let it get to my children. I try and be more positive about my situation…I’m the only person that they have, so I don’t allow anything to worry them. Like I said, I just go to my own little corner and then worry, worry, worry and stress and stress and stress. That’s what I do’. Nonetheless, she fears that as the children get older they will become more aware of the family’s financial situation and her worries.
If the two-child limit were lifted, Dare believes her life would be much less stressful: she would be able to live without having to constantly go without or make do with broken items and worn-out clothing: ‘When I look at my clothes or my children’s clothes, at times I will just say, “This looks okay. It might not be okay, but let’s just manage it”… My daughter’s school bag, it needs changing…her bag is worn out, one zipper came off and then some things fell out of her bag… If I had the money, I might not have to do that.’
>> Read the next story