Covid-19 and destitute self-employed, self-sufficient single mums

I have long campaigned for the right of a mother, or any primary carer, to be able to enjoy the sanctuary of employment with some flexibility to work 0.6 or 0.8 FTE without sacrificing skillset or pay scale. As it stands, many women ‘choose’ self-employment, as an alternative to a benefits lifestyle when they find themselves with work and pay restrictions as a single parent. 

This is not an easy ‘choice’ to make, as you sacrifice pension, sick pay, holiday pay, and steady income. Your life is 24/7 trying to be self-sufficient via self-employment, you can never relax and everybody is a potential customer or sign-poster. The alternatives are a) work part-time for low pay meaning a lifelong dependency on benefit top ups or b) a benefit lifestyle. For these reasons people fight to create, sustain, and build a viable business that will be the only way for them not to be sentenced to a lifetime of ‘relative’ poverty. 

We are honest, we declare every invoice and we have already spent a decade or two paying contributions. The problem is the anomaly in the middle – it takes a couple, or a few years to build a business. Certainly, unless you are very lucky, it takes a couple of years to draw a wage from that business, as creditors and overheads and freelance invoices are priority. 

Some of my members had UC with the MIC floor applied, not relative to their income. Some members work part-time or freelance alongside their business. Most members are in year 1 or year 2 of business, and whilst they have been moving in the right direction, income has stopped overnight, actually for a number of weeks now, and they have not yet submitted tax returns. *New applicants for Universal Credit are in a queue of circa 10’000 with an estimated 1,600 days waiting time..

The Governance of this Country for many years has driven people into a situation of zero disposable income, and zero access to credit, because adversity = damaged credit scores. This means that many of the 200,000 new businesses of 2019 do not have a penny to live on, nor do they have a credit card to help them during the interim. 

The Government needs to ensure that no child is hungry, this is easily administered via amending the £20.30p child benefit payments. They cannot worry about the administration in advance, they need to alter the payment, and dot the i’s and cross the t’s in the next year or two, clawing back, as they do with all miscalculations. 

Or, as many will be childless and not have CB in place, Gov needs to order the banks to allow each individual, regardless of credit score a 0% overdraft with immediate affect, for the next 12 months. Banks currently charge people for struggling and credit score every application for business support. Now is not the time to do this. Now is the time to look after people who spend a lifetime paying Government, and its members, good money, to ensure we are not destitute in our hour of need. These overdrafts can be guaranteed by Government and clawed back via wages or benefits if needed, as a student loan would be.

I have had members breaking down on me for the past three weeks. They are not asking for £2500pcm, or £10K grants or any such like. They just need £400pcm to ensure that they can put food on the table, that is all.  Note this is not all members, some are doing well and I cannot give the impression that they are all in the same boat.

I cannot stress enough, a poor credit score does not mean poor money management or the need for financial education, it simply evidences income is less than cost of living for many. 

When my employer refused pro-rata work, my home was repossessed (poor advice by the mortgage company to take charge), this meant poor credit, my loans then to help me meet the rent (because I was working in low-skilled work on minimum wage with only half of rent covered by HB) went from 27% APR, to 50% APR, to 1150% APR, to the final Logbook loan of 2K + APR. 

This is all easily mended by allowing a primary carer to work pro-rata hours without reducing skill or pay grade, and by ordering a maximum APR on debt finance, and access to credit for all, with permissions to claw back via future wages or benefits..

Of course newly self-employed people are very high risk now, either by risking working and increasing stress on the NHS and potentially spreading Covid-19, or by being unable to cope with the stress of destitution. We should not have to put income before a pandemic, but they didn’t listen soon enough, to the fact that people can’t save for a rainy day fund… how can you when wages are so low and private rent is so high.

We should not be worrying about food, we should be worrying about the NHS, and giving disposable income to charities.

Right now:

  • Internet providers are cutting people off of the internet who are struggling to pay
  • Mobile phone providers are restricting services for people struggling to pay
  • Children are not allowed in supermarkets, meaning single mums like me cannot shop in store or on-line
  • Banks are charging for failed DD’s and overdrafts
  • Housing Benefit are still ‘deducting’ money for ‘their’ previous miscalculations.

People are vulnerable to suicide

One of my members has today confirmed that her mortgage company are refusing a payment holiday, and telling her that her credit score will be adversely affected if she does not pay, and she has also made a fresh application for Universal Credit as she was self-sufficient.  She has been trying to get through for two weeks, today she got through, and she has an appointment for the 24th April.  She is destitute, as are many others, she is crying in front of her babes.  She was salaried before, but lack of flexibility around childcare lead her to self-employment, because she didn’t want to be on benefits.

I am committed to helping my members whilst raising awareness of the shortcomings that could so easily be changed. For years I helped people cope with the damage via healing therapies. Now I am committed to tackling the poor foundations that have lead to the crumbling of the home.

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