Jenny's story

Jenny* and her husband have always worked, but money has been tight. Jenny’s husband works in security and she was a nursery nurse until the birth of her third child. ‘Neither of those are hugely high paying jobs’, but they were receiving working tax credit and child tax credits for their two daughters, aged 9 and 12, which enabled them to get by.

Then, in 2016, Jenny discovered that she was pregnant and the family had a baby boy in July 2017, just after the two-child limit came into effect: ‘It wasn’t a planned pregnancy but we were happy we had him'. Jenny’s mum is no longer able to help with childcare, because my mum is older now and can’t do it, and we’ve moved a little bit further away’. This means that Jenny is unable to work at the moment whilst she looks after her son.

If Jenny were to receive child tax credit for her son, then the family would have an extra £232 per month. She says that the two-child limit has affected them hugely: ‘Our life would be so much easier if the support was still available for our third child’.

As it stands, Jenny and her husband are only just managing to get by, and relying on support from their parents just to buy the bare essentials:

‘This week, we have no money. Tax credits will be paid on Tuesday so my mum will buy our food this week. I honestly don’t know what we would do without her. It sounds dramatic, but we would be visiting food banks otherwise…. It is demoralising. I’m 40 now and I’m having to ask my mum for money… My mum had to give my husband petrol money so he could get to work.’

Jenny describes a situation where her family is trapped by the pressure of not having enough to get by. It is immensely stressful and they feel they are living close to the edge:

‘Every month it gets to the point where we literally have no money. We’re not extravagant, we don’t have holidays… I don’t have a social life because I’ve got an 18-month-old son. I feel like we are living hand to mouth.’

‘My husband is under a lot of pressure, and I suffered from anxiety whilst I was pregnant with [my son] which doesn’t help. The whole situation is just miserable… They are putting so much stress on my husband; this is why people end up with mental health problems.’

Jenny says that if her two older children need something, their grandparents will help, but they are both aware that money is short and they’ll say: ‘have we got any money for this? Can we afford this? You can’t hide it. Neither of us have got any money in the bank until next Tuesday, nothing, not a penny… I’m just hoping there aren’t any emergencies or anything.’

Jenny believes that current policies are keeping her out of work right now: ‘I can’t afford to go to work, because I can’t afford childcare.’ She also feels let down by the system:

‘It doesn’t seem fair on people in our situation. I always thought the benefit system was here to help you when you needed it, not to rely on all the time, but as a top up or because I can’t work right now.’

*Names have been changed.


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