Liz Jarvis on her experience of unemployment as a single parent

An article with the headline “I lost my job in the last recession. I know how difficult it will be for single parents this time” is compulsory reading, especially when written by a journalist who is also a Lib Dem member.

Liz Jarvis gives a very personal account of the impact of the recession on her and her family:

Every time more job losses are announced during this crisis I think of all the people behind the headlines, the lives affected, and the knock-on effect for local communities. I lost my job in the last recession and all opportunities seemed to vanish overnight. As a single parent of one, my little family’s financial situation quickly became very precarious indeed. For six months I struggled to find any regular paid work at all, and I was at risk of losing the roof over our heads.

The speed at which all this escalated was terrifying. As the bills mounted up I started to dread every text message, every phone call, every letter. The credit crunch had already bitten. I sold what I could and sometimes skipped meals so my son could eat. We had been on our own since he was 18 months old and being able to provide for him was massively important to me.

Like those excluded from government support during this crisis and the “forgotten freelancers”, because I had been on a contract I wasn’t entitled to much in the way of benefits, and had never been in the position to save for a deluge of rainy days, I applied for countless jobs and temp positions without receiving any reply. Christmas saw me scouring recruitment sites.

And she goes on to consider the current crisis and its impact, especially on women:

It is women who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and the figures are incredibly concerning. In July the charity Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed nearly 20,000 working mothers and found that 15 per cent have been made redundant or expect to lose their job by the end of this year. According to the housing charity Shelter one in three families are only a month’s pay from being unable to make their rent or mortgage payments. Research from Crisis shows there there has been a 500 per cent increase in households hit by the benefit cap. More than four million people are already trapped in deep poverty and almost a third of children live in poverty.

Despite repeated calls for first Universal Credit payments to be sped up to five days, the first payment can still take five weeks. That’s an incredibly long time to wait when you’re already struggling, and because it’s only paid into one bank account it can leave those in abusive relationships at risk of financial abuse.

Finally, a shout out to the Lib Dems and the policy motion on Universal Basic Income.

Later this month I’ll be joining Liberal Democrat members at the party’s annual conference in calling for the introduction of a Basic Income, to be paid to every adult, with additional support for the most vulnerable households. It would make such a difference to so many – but particularly women, single parents and those on low incomes. A Basic Income would have helped enormously when I was working out what meals to make from the reduced items shelves in the supermarket, worrying about the prospect of losing our home and having to make tough decisions about which bills to pay first.

Everyone deserves security and freedom, and fewer sleepless nights. So many people are facing a very bleak winter without proper support or a safety net. No one should be left behind.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

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