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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Column: Am I worried about the budget? Of course I am.

Whatever tomorrow brings, it’s going to make a big difference to my little girl and I, writes single mother Nessa Toale.

Nessa Toale

MOST PEOPLE I know are worried about tomorrow’s budgetary announcement, especially families. I’m already living on next to nothing. Last year when the cuts came I cut my spending down to a minimum.

As a writer work can be erratic so at the moment I do rely on benefits, in particular the Lone Parent Allowance. I also rely on the children’s benefit of €140 per month. I don’t like being in this position, who would? I’m working hard to get off benefits my way. It will be a great day when I can walk into the Social Welfare office and tell them to stop my payment. However, until then, I do need it to live and this week will bring more adjustments to my life.

I am always on the look out for a suitable job but they are few and far between. Those with good prospects have such low entry level wages that I would be in a worse state than I am now. With childcare being so expensive, taxes and travel costs, some jobs just aren’t feasible for me. When Beth goes to school hopefully there will be other jobs that are more practical.

Budgeting

At the moment I spend €30 on groceries every week, my rent takes more than half my weekly social welfare allowance. There are also all the bills; electricity, gas, bins, phone, TV license, life insurance etc. At the end of the week I have €20 left over to put towards weddings, birthdays or Christmas. I would love to put this money away and let it build up for something nice for Beth but there is always something that it needs to be spent on. If Beth gets a cold and needs over-the-counter medicine that can be nearly €10 gone already, without all the rest. Yes, this week, whatever it brings is going to make a difference to me personally.

They are predicting a cut of €10 on the children’s allowance. For me this means being extra careful with my spending. Already, I only go out to a pub or club about three times a year. Thankfully, I gave up smoking four years ago. My one luxury has been my TV subscription for the many evenings I spend at home – as a single parent, there are quite a few. A few months ago I decided to cancel the subscription so I would have a little more cash every month, not much, but at least it was one less bill. They gave it to me for free for six months, for which I was very grateful, but when those six months are up it will be goodbye to good telly and hello soaps.

If the Lone Parent Allowance is also cut I will have to consider moving home. I don’t claim rent allowance. People think I’m mad not to claim it but I never wanted to be in a position of living completely off benefits and therefore decided not to claim it unless I really, badly needed it. Depending on how the Budget goes I may have to apply for it for now. So they will cut one benefit but I may have to claim another.

Forced to claim

If I don’t claim I will move to a smaller place. Moving home will be terrible. I have lived in my house for almost three years, it’s near my mother and Beth’s other grandparent’s. Beth took her first steps in the living room and I’ve spent so much time in the garden making it child friendly and pretty. I have been checking out smaller places in the lead up to the budget, little two bedroom houses with little or no garden. Not enough room for Beth’s swing set anyway. But what’s the alternative? I stay here and live a hand-to-mouth existence until an agent picks up my book or I get a regular slot in a paper. It would mean no treats for Beth, nights out, weddings, birthdays and next Christmas would be a totally different affair. I’m just glad I sorted this Christmas when I had some work.

After saying all that, I know I will survive. I don’t have debt. There are still changes I can make to ensure we can still afford little treats for Beth and me. But there are people out there that are at the bottom of the barrel, people on social welfare trying to pay rent and put food on the table, the working poor who struggle to make ends meet, spending hard earned cash on childminders, travel costs and mortgages. The changes to child benefit, social welfare payments, USC and all the rest will push many people over the poverty line. No one is safe. Let’s hope we can all pull together and help each other through these tough times.

Nessa Toale is a single mother and a writer. Her book is called, The Secret Beneath Bleeker Avenue. She also writes a blog called, Life, love and the pursuit of a crawling baby. More information can be found on her Facebook Page here.

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