Scottish single mum living on subsistence level slams benefits system that ‘punishes for work’


A struggling Scottish mother has criticized the UK benefit system, saying it ‘punishes those who work’.

Claire Baxter, from Edinburgh, says the cost of living crisis has plowed her and her two girls aged 12 and 5, below the poverty line.

The mother-of-three – who is a support worker for Low Income Families Together (LIFT) – says she is being snubbed of school uniform support and free school meals because her income brings her £37 above the benefit threshold.

Claire, 30, says her role in the organization is vital for her own mental health.

But, she revealed that she finds herself in a position where the job leaves her worse off than if she had to quit and claim benefits.

If Claire decides to step down, she could earn up to £250 better with the family able to access additional support.

With that she said Edinburgh live “I’m a single mother and I have to make ends meet on my own.

“But because the benefit system is means-tested and I work, my salary exceeds me many thresholds, which means that I am not able to fulfill the benefits for free school meals and uniforms. , which puts additional pressure on our budget.

“I am £37 over the thresholds. But that £37 doesn’t cover the difference in what things like school meals and uniforms cost. If I had never worked I could claim up to an additional £250 in benefits.

“I personally would never give up work as it improves my mental health, but I feel like I am being punished for working as I find myself in a worse situation than some benefit-dependent households.

“My fear is that after weighing my personal situation, I had better give up my job.

” That scares me. It doesn’t make sense and worries me that the work doesn’t pay.

“How can I teach my children that working is the right thing to do and something to strive for?

“On paper, I could just say it doesn’t make economic sense to stay in the job.

“But having a job lets me know that I’m doing the right thing for my kids and hopefully I’m passing on that work ethic and that they understand the importance of having a job.

“My eldest has asked me in the past ‘why are you going to work if you can get it for free?’

“For me, it’s about saying that I bought you this jacket with my own money and she really appreciates it and is proud of it.

“She is so grateful and understands the value of money because of our situation.

“But it makes me feel guilty. Like she’s too young to understand our benefit system and how it works. She’s just starting high school.

“Sometimes when my five-year-old daughter wants something, she says ‘maybe next time you have some money, mum’ and it breaks my heart. The mum guilt really seeps in. It shouldn’t be like this.

LIFT offers five items for one pound, which is vital for struggling families.

His role at LIFT sees him supporting individuals and families who find themselves in temporary housing, homeless or struggling to get food in the fridge among a host of other issues.

She says about 40% of families claiming Universal Credit have a working parent — a statistic she says will only rise as the cost of living rises.

She hosts a Support and Survival (SAS) group every Thursday to help people develop skills that will maintain good mental health and provide survival budgeting techniques to help through the cost of living crisis. .

She says she is perfectly suited for the role because of her own lived experience and ability to understand the issues faced by families.

LIFT offers various services for low-income families.
LIFT offers various services for low-income families.

She continued: “I noticed a study last week that said 40% of people on Universal Credit were currently working.

“Currently, in-work poverty is as important as traditional poverty.

“I just feel like the cost of living has gone up, but not the living wage. It means those who were already struggling before the pandemic are now at breaking point.

“Anxiety is crippling and I personally struggle with the emotional side of saying no to kids.

“Unfortunately, I’m saying no more and taking the fun out of soft play that becomes a trip to the park. We need to watch the stock market more than ever.

“Rising costs have been difficult for my daughters. My eldest just went to high school and it’s kind of like following the Joneses with other kids. You want them to have that branded bag to fit in, but that’s not always possible.

“Although she is mature beyond her years and understands the situation. But it upsets me because she is too young to understand the benefit system and how poverty works. She should just enjoy life as a youngster.

“She shouldn’t know that mum has no money, but I have to be honest and she has to understand the reality.

“It’s our reality and she needs to learn that it’s important to do well in school and get a good job because that will be her escape.

“But it’s a lot of pressure on someone so young.”

Claire added that she believes many of the families she helps, including her own, would benefit from universal free school meals and free childcare during the summer holidays.

Her youngest daughter receives free school meals until fifth grade, but Claire fears she will struggle to put an extra meal on the table when she reaches that point.

She adds: “We need to review the thresholds to ensure that the work pays. It cannot mean withdrawing from those on Universal Credit who have already lost that £20 top-up despite rising costs.

“As parents, we already struggle to make ends meet and choose between keeping warm and eating. Now it’s really at breaking point.

“We need free school meals everywhere, especially during the summer holidays. At the same time, more free childcare and flexible working hours for parents would be life changing.

“I’m lucky to be able to bring my kids to work with me at LIFT, but not everyone has that.”

Claire said she worries that her children face the stigma of being a family struggling to make ends meet, but there is a sense of mutual pride within their close unit that she is able to work.

She said: “I help a lot of people in our community so they know I’m doing everything I can to make sure my daughters make a better life for themselves and our neighbours.

“I will always be proud to work and my daughters understand that. Despite the fact that the system punishes us.

You can find out more about what LIFT does through their website here.

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