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How long were you on benefits when you first became a lone parent?

(15 Posts)
steaknife Tue 25-Aug-09 13:17:51

Having split with DH I will be on benefits with DD, 12 months. This isn't a particular issue for me, after all I paid into the system for years and now I need it to look after me while I sort out how my life will change.

But DH was shocked when I told him I won't be working straight away and my mum keeps making "helpful" suggestions about finding a part-time job.

I just wondered how long it took people to get back on their feet and feel ready to start working again.

OrangeFish Tue 25-Aug-09 14:25:14

The sooner the better, I would have suggested to take some time to find your feet in your new life (it is already a VERY stressful time), and once you know where you stand, start looking for a job.

However in this difficult economy crisis time, my advice would be to start searching for a job straight away, it may end up being so difficult to get one, that you would have time to find your feet while you are at it.

And don't fall in the trap, it is easy to get comfortable on benefits particularly if you are aiming to jobs that are part time or pay near the minimum wage. But remember that benefits are changing, and the more active, workwise, you remain, the easier it would be to provide for you and your DD when they stop. (be it at 8 or 16)

OrangeFish Tue 25-Aug-09 14:26:12

And don't forget, that the longer you are out of work the most unlikely for you to get interviews.

meemarsgotabrandnewbump Tue 25-Aug-09 14:33:43

If you had not split from your DH how long after your DD was born were you planning on returning to work?

I think this is an important factor. If you would have been going back at 12 months anyway, it may be a good idea to start thinking about it and give your new life some focus.

If you had planned to stay home for longer, I understand how it can feel tough for you to suddenly feel you have to change your parenting plans.

How do you feel about returning to work?

StillNorks Tue 25-Aug-09 14:35:55

I have been on benefits for 7 months, and he lne parent adviser actively told me not to seek work until next september when my youngest starts school as I am unlikely to be better off.
Currently I am keeping my eyes out for a post suitable for my qualifications and if nothing comes up after christmas will be starting my own cleaning/caring agency

steaknife Tue 25-Aug-09 15:42:18


DH and I were living in France, DD and I will be living in the UK, in my old home town. So before I had planned on getting a PT job in France.

Now I am unsure what to do. I chose my old town because my mum still lives there and so can help with childcare etc, however it is limited in terms of going back into my old career. But if I take my skills - marketing - out of my old sector - charities - then I would have more choice.

On the other hand this is an opportunity to retrain, as who knows what.

In the mean time I something part-time would be useful, but I don't want to necessarily get stuck in a rut.

Am I worrying too much too far ahead? I haven't even moved into our new house yet!

steaknife Tue 25-Aug-09 15:45:14

I do apologise for dodgy typing.

floatyjosmum Sun 30-Aug-09 17:25:09

i was on benefits for 14 weeks, last 4 weeks of my pregnancy (when ex had left) and then until ds was 10 weeks.
this was nothign to do with the stigma of claiming beneifts but to do with how crazy i was going being a full time mum - my hat goes off to all who do it!

only went to work part time to start off wiht but it gave me loads of confidence after becoming a single mum

juicychops Sun 30-Aug-09 18:38:15

i was on benefits for about 16 months before i started working again. wanted to do it a bit sooner but it just wasn't right for ds as he was going through a clingy rough patch for quite a while.

but glad i finally did as i was rattling around getting bored out of my brain - but then thats me. some people dont go back at all. everyone is different

dont let others make you feel bad or guilty for not working.
in my opinion though it gives you more focus and sets you up for getting back into work later on in life once dcs are older. its a nicer feeling getting a pay pack you have earned and worked hard for as opposed to the one that just appears in your bank every week

steaknife Sun 30-Aug-09 18:53:37

I've been thinking this through and I think once I am back then I will want to go back to work. If only so that when the time comes that I want to go back FT then I will not have been out of work for several years.

Having been out of the UK for 3 years then my work history has already taken a bit of a battering.

I have found and applied for a PT job already - only 4 hours a week but it would be a start.

Realistically to have the kind of life for DD and me that I would like I would have to go back FT into my old career, which is no problem as I loved it.

startingagain Mon 31-Aug-09 00:11:16

I am a working single mum but i know i would be better off financially if i didn't work. Probably doesn't help that i have alot of debts to paysad

I won't be giving up work though, i keep trying to find extra jobs to add to my current job!!!

steaknife Mon 31-Aug-09 07:23:07

startingagain - that is the concept I am struggling with. That if I work but still need benefits then my income is capped until I start earning more than the total benefit threshold. But I will have the assossiated costs of having a job - travel, work clothes, childcare etc.

And with a CC to pay off too. So really the economic answer is to try to get a well paying FT job, but how likely is that going to be?

Well I move into our new place on Wednesday so I guess I will find out about this single-mum-on-benefits life from then.

thesouthsbelle Mon 31-Aug-09 10:02:16

for me it was a year. (for 2 reasons)

a) my dad didn't want me to leave DS in a nursery at 2, and actually offered to pay me a wage to stay at home.

b) we moved here from elsewhere in the country so I took 6 months settling in here before looking which took me to 9 months out of work. I had an apt with the job centre who said about the in work credits, which happen after a year of being out of work incl the run ons etc. again spoke to parents who agreed that for the sake of 3 months I would look around with a view to starting work around the year mark. As it was it took 6 months to find my current job - I was however fairly picky to begin with, would only do 16 hours over 2-3 days within a 10 mile radius of the town. Thankfully the right job did come along and I love where I work now, have just taken on more hours now DS is that bit older & starting school next year.

my feelings are don't feel pressured into getting back to work too soon - get settled get sorted then look about

I also went with 2 agencies who mostly looked on my behalf (I also study with OU as well) but the agencies would do their thing, and I rang/emailed them once a week just to say hi yep me still looking iycwim. (it was the agency who found me the job I have now)

startingagain Mon 31-Aug-09 16:36:35

steaknife, i have a cc to pay off too, a big onesad could probably manage without that problem and a few other smaller debts....

I am racking my brains at the moment for another job to fit around what i already do...!

Good luck for your move on Wednesdaysmile

gillybean2 Sun 06-Sep-09 15:30:16

I stayed at home for 5 years on IS until my son was starting school.

I live in a rural area and while I was well qualified any job would have meant a fair bit of travelling which for me meant time away from my son.

I was in fact offered two jobs just after my ds was born. One was a job with the company i had temped at while pregnant, but it was full time and an hour drive each way. The other with a small local business but would have involved traveling every three months or so and being away overnight on these occassion.

Neither of these was an option for me. I was bf at the time (did for 18 months), plus lack of adequate child care locally, little family support and several other factors, not least of which was that I had always wanted to be a SAHM meant that I stayed home while he was small. It was very hard finanically.

When I did return to work I found a part time job easily (at our local play group) which covered the 16 hours I needed for WTC and CTC. After a year there I was ready to look further afield. I was very lucky to find a very flexible employer who lets me work flexible hours without too much issue.

I was back on the bottom rung of the ladder, but I still work at the same company and my son is now 10.5. Life is still a bit of a struggle, and I am stuck in that 'capped' limit where I am not actually any better off working more hours (possibly even worse off!), but we are so much better off now both in terms of money but also that quality time we had together at home when he was small.

I no longer have to worry if I have the money for the bills when they come in etc and we can afford to go on the odd (cheap) holiday.

My advice to you is you have to good look at your situation and decide what you want in terms of your life and what you are able, willing or prepared to either live without or willing to do (in terms of childcare and time away from your child) to have the kind of lifestyle you want. I had no debt to consider and counted every penny and went without on many occassions. I'm not talking nights out, clothes, shoes etc, I mean food. My one luxury was my car and I did stress over whether I could afford to keep it (living in a rural area it was my only means of getting to shops etc without expensive taxi or infrequent buses). Even though I rarely used it the cost of insurance, tax etc was a huge chunk of my budget.

If you have a big cc to pay off then clearly that is a major factor in your decisions about returning to work. Go see your local CAB for advice on that. They may be able to get a freeze or lower interest rate for you in the short term.

Also are you getting anything from your ex in terms of child support? This will be taken into account if you claim IS. I didn't so it wasn't a factor for me. You may find you are actually better off working, claiming WTC & CTC and keeping the child support if you do.

The lone parent advisor at your job center may be able to help you as well. Mine proved invaluable when I first returned to work and helped me work out just how much better off I would be.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do

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