An open letter to Jeremy Hunt re TAX CREDITS


Do you have any idea why the Welfare System was set up? Do you think it was to look after feckless and idle ****ers who can’t be bothered to work?

Or do you think it was a safety-net for events that life throws at us when we least expect it? For those who don’t come from wealthy families who can pick up the pieces?

If you are going to take away with one hand, is it possible you set up something else positive with the other? Not everyone is born the same, yet we are all a UK collective. Not everyone has your chances – or mine. Don’t watch Benefit Street, provided as cheap entertainment by TV companies colluding with a public need to feel superior. Understand why this happens; why benefits become attractive or normal. History repeats itself. Damage repeats itself often, I’ve learnt the hard way.

If only we taught basic empathy, human psychology and emotional balance in primary schools. Give kids who don’t have the same chances, the same chances.

I had it easy growing up in the middle classes.

But, product of a broken home myself, I made a bad destructive marriage; in 2009, I left it, before I went mad.

I had 2 small kids, aged 3 & 5. Their father gave me nothing. I worked every hour God sent, writing books and in TV production, crossing London on an hour and a half commute each way at one point. Coming home to look after our home alone, feed, clothe and get the kids out of bed the next day before starting again.

I had to pay a lot of childcare to work; as a single parent there was no safety net of home babysitters. I was exhausted.

My friend, also a single mother, not through choice but because her ex was violent, told me to apply for single working tax credits. They really really made a difference. Thank God, I thought, some reprieve.

In 2010, still working hard, I was diagnosed with cancer. I kept working when I could, but I had 6 mths of full-on chemo & radiotherapy. My ex was still not contributing. My divorce went through.  During medical treatment, I applied for ‘sick benefit’ – it came through long, long after my fortnightly chemo was over, and was negligible.  AND considered as an earning, when I came to do my tax return.

My ex, scared by a court order (that actually isn’t worth the paper it’s written on) then intermittently gave me a bit for a while – at the most, £200 per month towards the upkeep of both kids. He rarely had them to stay, sucked up NO costs, including the childcare that i had to pay to work.

When he threatened to stop paying again, I rang the CSA. I was told I’d be worse off probably if I used them to chase for what I was owed. I might end up getting NOTHING because my ex was freelance too.

I succumbed to the idea that I was alone.

I absolutely relied on my tax credits to keep a roof over our heads. (And actually, if my family hadn’t stepped in whilst I was ill, I wouldn’t possibly have kept a roof over our heads; my house would have been repossessed and I’d be. another statistic on a council waiting list. So I was lucky.)

My ex stopped paying that bit of money, and moved away

At some point during this fight, I met a (lovely) new partner. Leaving school at 17, from a working-class family, he’d worked every day of his life (ok, not every weekend but you get me), working his way up the ladder with no qualifications. Until finally he’d had a great job, in a specialist firm making clocks for everyone from the Arsenal to St Paul’s Cathedral, for ten years.

When he was production manager, on £50k a year, the nice little family firm was taken over by an ex IBM man with quotas to fill.

After five years of corrupt culture my partner got made redundant for various horrible reasons.

He was forced to sign on because he’d used his savings to keep the family home for his kids to come back to, when his first wife went AWOL.

He was ritually humiliated every other week by dour JobCentre staff trying to keep up their quotas of getting people off the dole, so the government could say unemployment was down.  So this man who’d worked his arse off, and paid his taxes for 30 years; who’d never used a university, had a grant, taken money from the state before and who got NO tax credits because his ex took them all, despite them sharing the childcare.  This man was brushed by the broad stroke that taints it all nowadays: the suspicious benefit system that’s less a safety-net for when you fall, and more a supposition that you are probably just out to scam what you can.  I could go into who else sat next to him in the JobCentre, but that is probably a different argument.

Desperate to work again, he spent his whole time applying for jobs far below his ability and wasn’t allowed the time to go and train or do free work experience in a new line of work because he had to be seen to apply for a certain amount of jobs every day. At one point he was sent on a course to learn to be kitchen staff. One question was ‘how do you spell baked bean’?  But he’d been in senior management before the rug was pulled.

He searched his soul: he decided not to go back into composite engineering where the world was being eroded by a corporate culture that cares nothing for the man or the soul but only for marks on sheets of papers. For PROFIT AND RESULTS.

He now works as an assistant in a Special Needs school. He leaves home before 8am every day, gets home at 6 and has 40 mins – perhaps – for lunch, if not doing extra activities with the students. Every day he’s punched, if not head-butted, at least 3 times by the boy he cares for with psychotic autism, whom the system can barely find a place for. For this privilege, which is exhausting but at least rewarding, he earns £18,000 a year before tax.   Could he work any harder?? I doubt it. Does he get the living wage? I doubt it if you work out the hours he actually does.

I have been training to be a counsellor to help people who’ve been through life-threatening crap like I did. I write books, I don’t earn much. Sometimes I teach. I work really hard. I still get NO money from my ex, who rarely sees his children. I’ve resigned myself to that. THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT THAT – THERE IS NO FALLBACK.

But I AM NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH so my tax credits will be cut.  AND I AM ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.  There are SO many others out there far far far far worse off than me.


One thought on “An open letter to Jeremy Hunt re TAX CREDITS

  1. You’ve nailed it, Claire.

    Like you, I am a single mother who earns above the minimum wage but is reliant on tax credits.

    There’s actually very little crossover between those earning the minimum or living wage and those parents who need tax credits to raise their children – so the Tories’ claim that people who’ll lose out on tax credits will actually gain because of the increase to the minimum wage/living wage is simply a lie.

    Another lie, of course, is that benefits are hoovered up by people who can’t be bothered to work. Most benefits go to the elderly. (In any case, just because someone is out of work, it doesn’t mean to say that they don’t want a decent job and a decent living – just that they can’t get those things and need support now.)

    Anyway, thanks for your post, which expressed the outrage and fear of so many of us parents so very well.

    Good luck with your book.

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