Newly single parent, want to make something of myself, help desperately needed please!

(39 Posts)
PiscesLondon Mon 21-Jan-13 20:59:03

Hi everyone,

This might be a bit long winded but please bare with me. I so need some help & advice.

Ex left me and our daughter towards end 2012, I was (still am) heartbroken. He was the earner in the relationship, he brought in a great wage and owned the property we lived in, plus another that he rents out. Since he decided family life wasn't for him, he has only seen daughter a handful of times and has been transferring £200 a month into my account for her. After 10 years together i'm still numb sad I work part time self employed as a holistic therapist, on a good week I'll earn £100, some weeks very little or more often than not, nothing. I studied so hard for my level 3 Diploma in Complementary therapies, lots of anatomy & physiology involved, basically I thought I could make a good career out of it, but that doesn't look to be the case. I feel so sad that I wasted all that time training.

Anyway, I'm on my own now and am left to support myself and my daughter. I've had to move in with my Mum as I can't afford a place of my own comfortably. I feel like I'm stuck in a benefit trap as I rely so heavily on working tax & child tax credits. I had a really good education & was very academic and I can't believe my life has ended up like this. However, I'm only 28 and I believe there's time to change things. Thing is, I'm not sure where to start?

I've always had a strong interest in counselling & psychology (as well as holistic therapies) but I'm frightened of repeating the mistake I've already made, ie: training in something that doesn't bring much of a wage in, in the end. I feel as though in my late 20's I can't afford to make that mistake again. If anyone has any idea of the career opportunities for counsellors or psychologists can you please let me know? I'd love to work freelance alongside my holistic therapies but don't know if that's possible in these fields.

More importantly, I know nothing about university, it looks to me that particularly under this new government, you just end up in a heap of debt. I also have no A levels, after my GCSE's I went straight to drama school, yet another regret. I'm thinking maybe open university would be a better option, but again I've not looked into it too much, as I've only had this epiphany this week!! Are the entry requirements/fees and everything the same as normal university? Do you get the same sort of degree at the end?

Apologies for all the questions, I'm just so lost, I thought he & I would be together forever, what was his was mine etc... I feel like a failure because I'm barely making ends meet & relying heavily on tax credits, I need things to change in order to properly support myself and my daughter. As you can imagine, living with my mum forever is not ideal!

PiscesLondon Mon 21-Jan-13 20:59:44

Not sure if it's relevant but I'm not in London as my name would suggest. I'm in the North West.

funnyperson Mon 21-Jan-13 21:40:31

pisces you had a home of your own and I'm not sure why you left it- sounds like there is quite a bit to sort out re finances with your ex first as you would have a share in your joint home normally. Don't give up the day job just yet. Take time to sort out a proper division of capital and maintenance for yourself and your child from your ex. See a lawyer.

The deadlines for UCAS etc wont be till Jan 2014 so there is plenty of time to think about further education options.Hope this doesn't sound too patronising.

PiscesLondon Mon 21-Jan-13 22:28:08

It doesn't funny person, thank you.

The house was never in my name, only his, we were only engaged, not married. I'm not entitled to any share of his property. I had to leave, he met someone else and gave me a month to sort myself out & leave.

boomting Tue 22-Jan-13 04:09:29

Regarding university, the repayment terms are very, very easy. You only pay back 9% of anything you earn over £21k. So if you were earning £25k then you would pay back 9% of £4000, so £360 per year or £30 per month. If your earnings drop below £21k then you don't have to pay anything back, and after 30 years (or in the event of your death) any remaining debt is written off. There will never be bailiffs at your door, and so it's best to think of it as being more like paying slightly more tax.

You can work out what you would receive (including help with childcare costs) using this calculator www.studentfinance.direct.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=153,4680136&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
You will also receive some money from your university, known as a bursary, which is non-repayable. Bursary amounts vary wildly, so do check in advance on the uni's website. Plus you'll still be entitled to benefits like child benefit.

With regards to what subject you might like to study, would mental health nursing attract you at all? It has the advantage of being a very good bet career wise, and within the field of psychology.

I can't recommend psychology as a degree - the degree itself doesn't actually qualify you to work as anything without further training, and there is a massive oversupply of psychology graduates anyway. Counselling I'm less familiar with, but I believe there are some accreditation schemes out there. From what I've heard there are no formal requirements to meet before you can call yourself a counsellor, so there is very little to stop any Tom, Dick or Harry setting up as one (and doing a lot of damage in the process...)

You will, of course, have to check about entrance requirements, but they are often much more flexible with entrance requirements for mature students, so if going to drama school gave you a level 3 qualification (A Level equivalent, e.g. BTEC) then they may accept that. If worst comes to worst, then you may have to take a one year Access course at your local college, which will qualify you for entry to any university (yes, including Oxbridge) in the country depending on your grades.

sashh Tue 22-Jan-13 06:38:29

Your Diploma is the equivalent of A Levels.

Did you know that to teach in FE you do not always need a degree? Could you see yourself teaching?

You can train over two years part time, IF and it is a big IF you can get a job (or can do some voluntary hours.)

IncognitoIsMyFavouriteWord Tue 22-Jan-13 06:58:48

My Auntie retrained to be a counsellor when she was in her late 30's.

She now counsels children in schools. Primary and Secondary.

She is in the north west too.

There is a company that employs the counsellor and the school hires the company if that makes sense.

I can't remember the name of it but I will find out and let you know. That way you can Google and take a look for yourself smile

IncognitoIsMyFavouriteWord Tue 22-Jan-13 07:04:43

My Auntie has just informed me that it is a charity. Place2be.

I'm not sure how it works but she only works term time grin

PiscesLondon Tue 22-Jan-13 12:44:41

boomting very helpful, thank you so much. Mental health nursing doesn't really appeal. I've always thought a job sitting with people and listening to their problems would be something I was good at. We done a basic counselling course as part of our level 3 diploma in complementary therapies and I loved it, I'm just worried that there are no counselling jobs available. Do you know what further training is required in order to become a psychologist? My friend scared me yesterday, saying I'd leave uni in a terrible amount of debt, which could be recuperated from my mother as I live with her. She said uni would take her earnings into account when deciding if I was eligible for a student loan?

sashh never thought of that, do you mean teaching complementary therapies? What course would I take in order to do that?

Incognito thank you so much, if it's not too much trouble could of ask your aunt how she trained? Did she go to uni or do an independent course in order to become a counsellor?

PiscesLondon Tue 22-Jan-13 12:47:04

Just to add, I also do a little bit of acting work when I can get it. Just in local plays, nothing big, It hasn't really worked out that I would make a good living out of it. It's a tough industry! I was hoping to do a degree in something I could eventually work freelance with so I can still follow my passions of acting and holistics. Not sure if this is realistic.

boomting Tue 22-Jan-13 12:59:31

No one but you is liable for your debt. Not your mother, not your offspring, not any past or future partner. Even if you die, the debt is just written off rather than being recovered from your estate, so your daughter would still get any inheritance in full.

Your student finance won't be calculated on your mother's income because, being over 25, you're classed as a mature student www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/mature-guide

I'm a bit vague on the full details of how to become a psychologist, but I think the BPS website would be a good place to start. www.bps.org.uk/careers-education-training/how-become-psychologist/how-become-psychologist
But ultimately, it's crazy competitive, and not the way to go if a big priority is guaranteed work after you graduate - there's just such a massive oversupply of psychology graduates, many of whom are eager to go down the path to become a psychologist.

tiggy114 Tue 22-Jan-13 17:09:09

Watching with interest. I am looking at councelling courses too.

PiscesLondon Tue 22-Jan-13 18:49:25

boomting thank you so much for all your help, you're very knowledgeable! Is the fee situation and the mature student situation likely to stay the same under this government or is it due to change when universal credit etc.. kicks in? I'd hate to start something, only for the rules to change and i'm left with serious debt that is not as easily repaid as it is now.

Tiggy if you find out any information regarding courses etc.. Can you please let me know on here?

It's hard trying to find something i'll enjoy, that can also be worked freelance alongside my other careers.

tiggy114 Tue 22-Jan-13 19:17:41

I'm thinking about doing the chrysalis councilling course. (google it) theirs is reaaonable prices and you only attend college on a wknd day so fits around kids. No evenings. But although they're accredited, they're not BACP accredited. Don't wanna waste my money on a phoney course.

tiggy114 Tue 22-Jan-13 19:19:04

I'm sort of thinking i can council from home and offer Reiki treatments as an extra service. I'm already a qualified Reiki practitioner.

kohl Tue 22-Jan-13 19:33:14

If you're thinking about training as a counsellor, definitely definitely look for the courses accredited either by the UKCP or the BACP. The BACP has a list on their website, as this is the accreditation looked for by lots of employers including the NHS. Courses look for people with some experience of 'helping relationships' either voluntary or paid, which can include befriending/mentoring/telephone helplines etc etc etc.

tiggy114 Tue 22-Jan-13 19:36:07

Khol, this course is accredited by open uni, royal college of nursing, national councilling society (NCS) and national hypnotherapy society (NHC). What do you think?

kohl Tue 22-Jan-13 20:06:09

I've had a quick google tiggy and don't know if you've seen this http://emptychair.org.uk/ecf/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=651
which gives several viewpoints of Chrysalis. May be helpful? Would there be a way of seeing what previous students have gone on to do, or a way of talking to current/previous students? Is there an open day where you could talk to a tutor? Do you feel that the course would be a good fit for you, not just time-wise but with the approach it takes, and would it enable you to practice in the way you want - which sounds like it would be privately?

For me (I'm doing an introductory course w/ a view to full psychotherapy training) I've looked for a course that offers accreditation with BACP/UKCP - (mainly because I want the most chance of getting a job after graduating and I also agree with and would want to abide by the BACP code of professional ethics) and also offers training client hours (as trying to find a training post with supervision is a bit of a nightmare). I would be wary of a course that didn't insist on students being in personal therapy as I and other people I've talked to have found this a crucial element in dealing with one's own stuff so it doesn't come up in the consulting room, and a way of working through issues that are triggered by the course, and a way of learning how a good therapist works. Are you in therapy at the moment - as this might also be a good place to discuss if Chrysalis might be right for you?

It is a bit of a minefield because it's so expensive that you want to make the right choice but there are so many options without much guidance....

I'd be interested in hearing what you decide!

kohl Tue 22-Jan-13 20:11:31

Pisces I'm really sorry that you find yourself in this position - your ex sounds like a massive nobber. I hope that this provides a new start for you and your daughter.

creamteas Tue 22-Jan-13 20:15:11

Have you thought about occupational therapy? There is a national shortage at the minute!

Although the official UCAS deadline was in January, do check with any unis that you are thinking of applying to. Everywhere I have worked as accepted new applications up to clearing week in August.

BTW I went to uni as a mature student/single parent, and ended up doing 3 degrees grin

PiscesLondon Tue 22-Jan-13 20:37:10

tiggy would you mind if I pm'd you regarding reiki? Been umming and aahing over doing my reiki training but I'm not quite sure if it's for me, I have some questions.

kohl thanks so much, he has well and truly left me in the shit, massive wake up call to do something else with my life. So are you currently doing an introductory counselling course? What's psychotherapy? blush I'm hoping if I do go down the counselling route that I can work either freelance or set up a small practice & do private sessions, but not sure in this current climate if this is wise? Who has the money to pay for a counselling session every week.

creamteas what's occupational therapies? blush and good on you with your 3 degrees!! Did it all work out for you? Just worried about the debt if the government change things.

tiggy114 Tue 22-Jan-13 21:22:51

Pisces please do. I love to talk about Reiki!!! Will look at the link Kohl. Thanks for your advice so far. I really want to do a BACP accredited course but as i already have a degree, i would get no funding so have to self finance. I simply can't afford a uni based course. And thats all there seems to be in my area thats BACP accredited unfortunately.

creamteas Tue 22-Jan-13 22:28:07

You can find out about occupational therapy here

Everyone told me that I was mad to become a mature student in a new city (knowing no one) as a single parent, and it was bound to end badly. But I had a great time, loved my degree, started a new career and made new friends for life!!

Try not to think about the total debt, just if you could afford the repayments if and when you start.

boomting Wed 23-Jan-13 00:08:03

I work in student recruitment, albeit not normally with mature students, so I have to have at least a passing understanding of these things!

>>Is the fee situation and the mature student situation likely to stay the same under this government or is it due to change when universal credit etc.. kicks in? I'd hate to start something, only for the rules to change and i'm left with serious debt that is not as easily repaid as it is now. <<

There's no link between universal credit and student finance, to my knowledge, although any benefits that you can still claim if you are a student (e.g. child benefit) may change.

Students who started their degrees in 2011 or earlier, and who are still studying in now have not had their fees, loans, grants, repayments etc. changed - they've simply been grandfathered in, and stayed on the old system. There's no talk of changing the current student finance system, but even if it did change midway through your course it would only affect new students, not you.

PiscesLondon Wed 23-Jan-13 16:27:07

Thanks guys. You're all being so helpful.

boomting obviously if I decide to go to uni, it would be until sept 2014 as I've missed intake now, so I'm worried that my tax credits would be stopped under universal credit because I'd be a student. If new rules come in then I may really struggle to afford university. Maybe I'm worrying for nothing, I don't know?

Still struggling to find something I'll enjoy making a career out of & being able to do it freelance as I still want to pursue my holistics & acting. I need to study something that there is fairly good money in so I know I can support myself & my daughter and get out of this benefit trap that I feel I'm in. I'm worried a freelance counsellor will not earn much.

Psychology seems fascinating but pointless.

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