Lila* is an office cleaner and single mother of three, and continued to work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic while also coping with reduced hours and serious financial challenges. She explains the new pressures that lockdown has brought for her family.
‘I used to work 16 hours a week. When I started this job, I told them my situation: that I usually can’t work in the evening as I’ve got three children and I cannot leave them. That was ok because they needed someone in the morning, so I would come in early and clean everything – the bathroom, the meeting room. I was happy.
‘And then the first lockdown came. We got a new manager, and they moved me to 12 hours/week in the evenings, as that’s when all the staff are out. My kids ask me to be with them in the evening, and I wasn’t getting home until some time after 9pm. But work told me that’s what they’ve got and I could not say no.
‘Council tax has been another stress for me during this time. I can have 25% reduction, as a single parent working part time. Four times I did the online application and every time they said they hadn’t received it. And they sent me letters saying I have to pay £133/month because I am in arrears.
‘The kids they need food, I have to pay my bills, sometimes the money is not enough but to pay £133 – that’s too much for me. Anna, my Adviser at Money A+E, helped me to set up an appointment with the Council where we all went through the application together.
‘She also arranged for me to get a £350 grant [from the Money A+E Community Fund], and that has helped.
‘During the first lockdown I was scared. It’s weird what happened. I was taking the kids to the park, but they were bored – we live in a small flat on the second floor with no garden. My daughter kept saying ‘Oh mum, how long are we going to be like this?’
‘We haven’t had internet at home, because I’ve had too many things to pay. But Anna did another big favour for me. She talked to someone and now we have internet.
‘At the moment Universal Credit is what’s really affecting me. It’s a lot of stress. Last month they underpaid me because they thought I was earning £1,000/month. I couldn’t have earned this much – I was on £9/hour part time. Because of this I’m borrowing money from friends, and my landlord is asking me to top up £100/month in rent, as the Universal Credit is not covering that either.
‘I’m in arrears with the Council tax, I’m in arrears with my housing, I’m in arrears with my friend. I’m stressed but I have been working very hard, I’m not a lazy person. When my kids are a little bit grown, I will work full-time.
‘This second lockdown is not good too, and I actually lost my job which is very stressful. But it is good that the children are at school and not stuck in the flat. I try not to be too down and I’m applying for a lot of jobs, including as a carer and school dinner lady.’
* Name has been changed
All images used are stock photos
Age: Early 40s
Occupation: Office cleaner, formerly a dinner lady
Lives with: her 3 children
Hours worked: 12 hours/week until recent job loss
Monthly income: £430 (£9/hour) from employment until recent job loss; £380 Universal Credit
Bills include: £100 rent top-up; previously £133 Council tax; owes £700 to a friend
Support received from Money A+E included: securing Council tax discount and reduction in arrears; £350 grant from Money A+E Community Fund; IT equipment including dongle for internet access, provided by partner organisation
Total gains: £4,294.57
(Figures are correct at time of writing and may be approximate)