I felt like I had failed as I went hungry so my baby could eat – Struggling mums using crowdfunding to pay for childcare
SINGLE mum Regina White fed her seven-month-old daughter porridge knowing she would have to go hungry as she had no money left for food or electricity.
She was behind on her bills, struggling to pay her rent and unable to get work, so choosing to feed her daughter while she went without became a regular occurrence.
She is one of the single mums who have turned to complete strangers for cash to help pay for childcare while looking for work, using a crowdfunding platform called Beam.
“There was a time when I was feeding her and not myself. I would go without because I wanted to feed her,” Regina, 29, from Stevenage told The Sun.
“I would try and see if I could get a bag of peas to last for a month.
“I used to turn off the lights and we would just have the TV on and I started using a portable gas cooker because it was cheaper than my cooker and I couldn’t afford the electricity.”
Just four months earlier Regina lived in a nice flat in Lambeth, had a £21,000 a year job as an estate agent and worked at nights in a pub for extra cash.
But when her relationship with her daughter’s dad ended she found herself homeless.
At first she was refused temporary accommodation from the Lambeth Council. Despite living in the borough for three years, she was told she didn’t qualify.
When she asked Stevenage Council, where she had grown up, gone to school and where her mother still lived, she was told that she had been out of the area for too long.
It meant Regina and her daughter ended up sleeping on a friend's sofa. They were housed in a hotel through Lambeth Council shortly afterwards but it was 10 months until they were offered a 2-bed flat in Enfield through St Mungo’s.
She was also told because she had a job she didn’t qualify for benefits or housing help, so begrudgingly she quit and signed onto benefits.
Although, Regina was grateful to have found a new place to live she got behind on bills as her benefits barely covered her £1,200 a month rent, leaving her with no money to buy food.
She added: “It was horrific. It was the worst thing that could happen to me.
“I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve never had a break in work.
“I was severely depressed and had to get counselling. It was the worst time in my life. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.”
“There was a time when I called up Samaritans and I said I just wanted to end it all. I felt like I wasn’t a good mum. I felt like I wasn’t able to get a job. I had the bailiffs coming to my door every morning.”
Then she discovered Beam who helped her fundraise almost £4,000 to cover the cost of training and childcare while she was at college.
She added: “It was amazing. The money paid for her nursery fees and meals, meaning she had nutritious food – breakfast and lunch.
“I wasn’t able to afford to get fruit and veg. And she was getting snacks on top of those meals too.”
“I would have zero money. I was defaulting on bills. But Beam helped me sort out a repayment plan. It took a lot of the stress off.”
The qualifications also helped her get a new £25,000 a year job as a personal assistant to a director of a charity, helping her back into full time work.
She said: “I feel like I’ve got my confidence back because of Beam and St Mungo’s.”
'I don't want to be on benefits – I want to work'
There are thousands of struggling single mums in the UK, with over 90 per cent of 1.8million single parents being women, according to charity Gingerbread.
Mum’s like Hanen Mohammed, 43, who became homeless while on maternity leave with her third child after her mum died.
Hanen, who moved to the UK in 2009 from Stockholm, Sweden in 2007 but is originally from Eritrea, Africa, had been working as a biomedical scientist earning £30,000 a year.
When her mum, Hawa, died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage in September 2012, Hanen had to quit her job as she couldn’t afford childcare costs.
“It was very hard because it was very sudden”, Hanen told The Sun.
“I saw her the day before and she seemed fine. The next day my dad called and said I needed to come and that my mum was not well.
“I saw her but I didn’t recognise her. She wasn’t speaking and she was looking at me. It was very hard to see her like that.
“I took her to the hospital and she had another seizure and passed away.
“I had problems paying the rent and I got in debt to my landlord and we had to leave.
“Everything was a shock because I didn’t expect my mum to die. It was impossible to go back to work.
“I felt helpless because I loved working.”
Childcare help for single parents
THE amount of childcare help you get depends on the age of your child and whether you are working or receive any benefits.
If you’re not working
If children are under two then you are not entitled to any free childcare. Some two-year old children are entitled to 15 hours a week – but not all qualify and you must be on certain benefits.
When your child is three you will be entitled to 15 hours a week free during term times with a registered childminder or nursery.
If you’re working – but also get Universal Credit or benefits
If you’re working an on Universal Credit then you can claim up to 80 per cent of childcare costs back. But crucially, this is paid in arrears. The Sun has been demanding the government change this as part of our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
If you get working tax credit then it could cover up to 70 per cent of your childcare costs.
If you’re child is aged 2 to 4 you may also qualify for 15 hours a week free childcare.
If you’re working – and don’t get benefits or Universal Credit
Working families in England with children aged 3-4 get 30 hours of free childcare.
Working families earning under £100,000 and at least £131 per week, who don’t get benefits, universal credit or childcare vouchers and have children aged 0-11 can get tax free childcare.
At the time her husband was still living with her but their relationship had deteriorated and he wasn’t financially contributing to the family or helping with childcare and the couple separated shortly after the family was made homeless.
Initially the family was placed in a hostel but shortly after they were given a three-bedroom flat in Wembley through the local council.
Hanen tried looking for work and spent a year applying for jobs. In the meantime she has been volunteering at her children’s school.
“I go sometimes twice a week, whatever they need. I’ve enjoyed it very much”, she said.
But then Hanen found out about Beam. They helped her raise almost £3,700 to cover the cost of a teaching assistant course, childcare and even transport.
The course finishes in July and then Hanen hopes to get a job in a nearby school, so she can continue to care for her children.
“My plan is when I finish studying, I’ll find a job and then I’ll be able to use some of my salary towards childcare costs.
“I don’t want to be on benefits. Before I rented my own property. I paid for everything. I don’t want to take any thing from the government and I want to give back”, she added.
Beam – a crowdfunding platform for homeless people to get back into work – was launched in 2006 by Alex Stephany, an entrepreneur and founder of successful parking app JustPark, which was valued at £80million last year.
The 38-year-old who lives in North London spent two years researching and building the website before it launched, giving up his own job to take on the project full-time.
It started after an encounter with a local homeless man became ill. Alex used to see him daily, often buying him cups of coffee or socks.
“He disappeared for weeks. When I saw him again he said he’d been in hospital”, Alex told The Sun.
“I walked home to my flat and I realised he was in a really bad situation.
"I knew he’d been out of work for a long time and he needed help to get the skills, the support and confidence.
“I thought why can’t we do whip round or crowdfunding to help him”.
It was from that idea that Beam was created.
“The confidence that it gives people. It’s more valuable than money."
Since launching in 2016 it has grown to employ 14 full-time members of staff and has helped more than 170 people, who on average have been out of work for five years.
The website is funded by high net worth individuals or through foundations. To crowdfund through the website people are referred by their local authority or a charity.
They need to be over 18, have the legal right to work in the UK and have 12 weeks of abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
You can fund individuals or sign up to make monthly donations, which are then allocated to a new person each month using technology, and you can leave messages of encouragement to those raising money.
And it’s those messages which can make the biggest difference, says Alex.
“The confidence that it gives people. It’s more valuable than money.
“A lot of these people feel like they are done. Then to have fifty or even 150 strangers send them messages, it’s really powerful.
“There’s this moment when they realise they’re not alone.
"I take that for granted. Lots of them don’t realise that people still believe in them.”
The Sun has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Stevenage and Lewisham Council for a comment.
Source: Read Full Article