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AIBU to think there must be more help for my friend than she is getting?

(42 Posts)
spongebobandpatrick Tue 05-Mar-13 17:40:40

I have asked my friend if it is okay for me to ask for advice on her behalf.

Basically, my friend is 50, single and living in a rented property. She has brought up 3 DC on her own.

She works very hard in a minimum wage job, and has worked for the same employer for the last 15 years. She works full time.

When the DC were young, she received child tax credit, working tax credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit. Her ex has never paid maintenance, although she has fought hard for it for years to no avail.

As each child left full time non advanced education, the 2 older children have been fortunate enough to find employment, and the youngest has just left full time non advanced education, and is looking for work.

When the older children were living at home, and were working, they contributed to the bills, but now they have left, and her youngest is not yet in work, my friend finds that she is only entitled to £1.50 a week of working tax credit.
She still receives housing benefit, so pays £81 per week towards her rent.

So she has net pay of £216 per week, gets £1.50 wtc and after paying her rent and council tax (pays council tax in full) is left with £111.50. Her travel costs to and from work are approxiametely £50 a week.

This leaves my friend with £61.50 to pay everything else with. She is completely dreading the new council tax bills due out shortly, as she gets no help at all with council tax.

Her youngest has just begun to claim JSA but has been told his claim will take 6 weeks to process, and it has only been 2 weeks since he submitted his claim.

When he gets JSA, he has offered to pay as much as he can, although my friend isn't sure how much to ask him for, since he will need some of the money he gets to help him look for work. He is happy to contribute I might add.

My friend lives in the back of beyond, no public transport (not much else either) so relies on her car to get to and from work.

Can she get any more financial help?

She is very proud, but is very desperate, and does not want to give up her job if at all possible.

She has already cut down on the majority of her outgoings, so her outgoings are her gas/electric - £80 a month, her water bill - £25 a month, mobile phone - £5 a month PAYG, (no landline because she can't afford it.), car insurance - £28 per month, car tax, MOT worked out monthly is - £21.25, then her luxuries as she calls them, her tv licence - £37.62 a quarter and her window cleaner - £6 every 4 weeks.

This leaves her with just over £20 a week for food. There is no money for repairs if anything goes wrong, and no money for replacing anything.

She is currently looking for a part time job to run alongside her full time job, but have any of you got any other advice.

She is getting quite down and is permanently exhausted. I think this is due to her circumstances partly. I explained that things would look better when her son got his JSA and then a job hopefully, but she is worried about when if he decides to leave home. She says there is no hope for her, and she will spend the rest of her days lining the pockets of the rich whilst barely scraping a living.

I can assure you she is usually upbeat and positive, but the grind of week in, week out poverty is understandably bringing her down. sad

Any advice?

BookFairy Wed 06-Mar-13 16:36:42

It's a shit situation.

I'm single and pay £750pcm for a 1 bed. My parents have to help me.

What sector is she in?

fromparistoberlin Wed 06-Mar-13 16:26:35

she needs to look for a better paid job

seriously. 15 years on min wage?

she deserves better

retrain, do an evening class...

Instead of working our ways to cut outgoings, she needs to riase her income

and that car costs a fortune

I wish her the best

BrittaPerry Wed 06-Mar-13 00:09:22

HB is a means tested benefit, so if she is thinkng she can't do things because she isn'ton a means tested beneit, she is.

MummytoKatie Wed 06-Mar-13 00:02:04

40 miles each way on a push bike is a bit ambitious I'd say. I am a keen cyclist and live in a cycling city but the general consensus here is that up to 6 is no big deal, up to 10 is doable but beyond that is only advisable if you are training for a triathlon or something.

However, 40 miles for a minimum wage job doesn't sound sensible. Is there really nothing closer? We pay our cleaner a lot more than min wage and she lives within walking distance.

How about car sharing? Is there anyone else going to town from her village?

littlemisssarcastic Tue 05-Mar-13 23:31:58

Lucky isn't a word I would use for anyone in this situation. It sounds quite dire to me.
I'm not saying some people aren't worse off, but people in this position will be paying rent for the rest of their lives, no chance of ever releasing any equity.

It just sounds crap to me, yet inevitable for many many people. sad

Latara Tue 05-Mar-13 22:56:20

She's lucky to get HB because she rents.

I have a mortgage - which was fine until my wages have dropped hugely due to illness & i can't get HB.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Tue 05-Mar-13 22:34:17

Is it really the best she can do re min wage job 40 miles away? Does she have any better prospects?

purpleandgreen Tue 05-Mar-13 22:29:07

Could she get a train part way to work then cycle the rest of the way?

purpleandgreen Tue 05-Mar-13 22:28:04

This is the reality for so many people I'm afraid. DP and I slog our guts off both working full time and barely make ends meet. We are both in low paid jobs but marginally above the threshold to be entitled to any help. It's hard.

I suppose private rents closer to her place of work will be a lot more expensive than where she's living at the moment? If she moved so she was on a bus route would that work out cheaper? Or close enough so she could cycle to work? Part time cleaning jobs?

DixieD Tue 05-Mar-13 21:19:32

Or how about trading car for a scooter/moped? Much cheaper to run. And quicker than a bike.

DixieD Tue 05-Mar-13 21:17:47

Yeah 40 miles is a long way to cycle. Could she use the bike to cycle to public transport maybe? Then lock it up there and get the bus/train to work?

spongebobandpatrick Tue 05-Mar-13 21:12:39

I have passed on all of the advice, and she is going to have a think about what you have all suggested.

She has got a pushbike and uses it for leisure in the summer mainly, but thinks it might be a good idea to cycle some more, to get in shape before tackling the journey to and from work.
She agrees this would save her a lot of money.
Work is 40 miles away, hence why she has used a car until now, but she is a very active lady and says the extra £50 a week would come in very useful.

Rosyisgonnabeamummy Tue 05-Mar-13 20:52:28

CAB and MAA money advice agency might be able to help.
Don't right off further education, you can get free computers courses, which would give quals to get clerical temp work which is often reasonably well paid. Can she do over time at work?

DixieD Tue 05-Mar-13 20:02:37

Is there no chance of a raise? I mean 15 years with the same employer, working hard according to you and still only being paid min wage? Would her employer not be willing to increase her wages considering her longevity and loyalty?
The transport costs and cost of maintaining the car are what is killing her. If she could move nearer public transport and give up her car then she could afford to pat s bit more in rent and still have more disposable income.
Is cycling an option? Could she sell her car and buy a decent bike, maybe with a trailer type thing for shopping?

MummytoKatie Tue 05-Mar-13 19:54:48

The problem is that she is spending nearly a quarter of her wages just getting to work.

How far is her work from home? Could she get a closer job if the plan to move is not working out?

Her son needs to find a way of looking for work while he's waiting for the JSA. Could she take him into the town she works in in the morning with a packed lunch and he spend a day going round the shops / temp agencies seeing if anyone has any work? If there is a library then he can hang out there if cold / wet and also use their newspapers to look for anything suitable.

spongebobandpatrick Tue 05-Mar-13 19:51:35

Come to think of it, if people who worked full time were not entitled to housing benefit, how would all of the single people on national minimum wage with private rents cope?

I wouldn't imagine many people get any pleasure out of paying high rents, and I would think most people would prefer a lower rent on a decent home if they could get one.

Private rent 2 bedroomed flats where I am are being rented out for £800pcm, it is unusual to find a 2 bedroomed place that is much cheaper in the private sector.
Even 1 bedroomed flats in the private sector are asking for £650 a month. How would someone on minimum wage afford that with absolutely no help? confused

My friend has been told her rent will be increasing year upon year until it is 80% of the average private rent anyway, so if this is nationwide then I predict more and more people will end up claiming housing benefit just to have a roof over their heads.

spongebobandpatrick Tue 05-Mar-13 19:41:26

Thanks for all of the advice.

She says she is trying to move, but rents closer to the town are even more expensive, so she's not sure how much better off she would be, but she has applied to move and is on the exchange list.

catlady1, she receives housing benefit because her rent is £106 a week. Housing benefit pays £25 a week towards her rent. If they didn't, she would have no money for food or other essentials.
Paying all of her rent would leave her with less than nothing to live on for food and other essentials actually.

She is in a HA flat, yes.

I don't think she can retrain with no money. If she was on means tested benefits, she would get some help towards the cost of college I'm assuming, but for people who work full time and are on a low wage, there appears to be virtually no help, hence asking on here.

She just feels in a no win situation. sad

Ionasky Tue 05-Mar-13 19:21:42

Agree with Latara - an extra qualification to boost her pay and would boost her mood too if she can see some possibility of getting out of penury. Perhaps she could talk to her employer about this - if she's been there 15 years, they might be able to suggest something that could help her progress at work?

cakebar Tue 05-Mar-13 18:51:13

From your talk of exchanges I guess she is a HA tenant and in a 2 bed already so she can't really cut her housing costs. Her options are to work more hours or to reduce her commuting costs. Could she try and swop her flat for a flat close to her work? Or a flat on a public transport route to her work so that she doesn't have to run a car? TBH I think for her, her location is the 'luxury' she is spending all her money on.

catlady1 Tue 05-Mar-13 18:50:21

I don't really understand why she gets housing benefit if she's working full time, is it because of her son living with her? Before I went on maternity leave I worked 23 hours and earned about £160 a week and was entitled to nothing at all. Or is it to do with how much your rent is?

Anyway, unfortunately this is reality for a lot of people, and it's only going to get worse when the benefits changes take effect. They expect you to work any and all hours but they don't understand that sometimes the costs associated with going to work can make it barely worth it and leave honest, tax-paying people in dire situations. Has your friend thought about a career change or moving closer to her current job? Those are probably her only options I'm afraid.

mom2three Tue 05-Mar-13 18:47:05

She should contact her local Housing/council tax benefit office and apply for a second adult rebate if her son is on jsa. This should reduce the Council tax by the equivalent of the single persons discount on the basis that he is not in a position to contribute and she has lost her discount.

Latara Tue 05-Mar-13 18:35:00

Although i have colleagues who qualified as nurses from being HCA's in their early 50's, so a career change is possible at that age.

Latara Tue 05-Mar-13 18:33:35

Because she's on benefits - are there any free / reduced price courses or qualifications she can do to help her get a better job & earn more?

It's not easy at her age though to make a change like that.

Latara Tue 05-Mar-13 18:31:39

I don't think you are allowed to have a lodger if you are on HB sadly.

spongebobandpatrick Tue 05-Mar-13 18:29:41

Thanks for all of this advice anyway. I am passing it all on.

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