When Anna* and her husband decided to have a third child things were going well. They were not well off, but they were comfortable and lived within their means. Anna’s husband was working in recruitment but he has now lost his job and has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; he has even tried to take his own life.
‘We chose to have our third child while we were both working full time in permanent professional jobs. We chose to have our child because we could afford to. However, my husband suddenly lost his job and is suffering with mental illness, so is unable to find new employment.’
This has left them and their three children ‘in dire straits’ financially, as Anna is currently on maternity leave from her job as a secondary school teacher. They have very little money and, even if Anna went back to work early, she would not make enough to cover childcare costs (needed because her husband is not well enough to be left alone with the children).
The two-child limit has hit Anna’s family hard. Without financial support for their third child, they are having to cut back on food. So far, Anna has managed to continue to provide meals for her children but, as much as she tries to shelter them from their financial situation, the quality of food she can buy has deteriorated. As the end of the month approaches, Anna is running out of money:
‘We are now in a situation where we cannot pay all the bills and feed our family. I know from talking to family and friends with three children all born before the two-child limit, who are in receipt of the money, that would make a major difference to us.’
She has never missed a bill before, and feels really upset and ashamed that she has to now. But it is an easy choice – she needs to feed her family.
Anna feels let down by the system, as her family has paid taxes all their working lives:
‘The safety net doesn’t exist any more for my family….You feel really distressed that you have turned to the welfare state and that there is nothing available for you, and now I must turn to charity. What am I paying my taxes for?’
The added financial burden from not receiving support for her third child is taking its toll, and is not helping her husband’s health. Anna had no experience of benefits when she chose to have a third child, but she has found herself affected by a policy that would not even have been a consideration at the time that decision was taken.
*All names have been changed.
>> Read the next story