Friends and Benefits

When your child dies your brain stops working, you are consumed by grief and can barely look after yourself in the most basic of ways. Being a single parent on benefits I had things I had to do and within a set time frame or I would face penalties. Without my friends helping me I still wouldn’t have them sorted now as I still can’t focus, think or work things out. Nothing makes sense, and I’m not an idiot, I have lived alone, sorted my own bills and money, I have budgeted and never been in debt or had any credit cards or loans, I have always been proud of dealing with my own life and never messing it up.

So, to start with, I, like a lot of people believe peoples finances are their own business and its embarrassing letting people know how much you have coming in and going out. I wouldn’t ask any of my closest friends how much they earn or what benefits they get or don’t get. But I knew I needed help, so my first thought was simply the Citizens Advice Bureaux, that’s exactly what they are there for. I checked the online information and they said it was a drop in centre and all I needed to do was come down and wait. I couldn’t go half an hour without crying, I hadn’t been taking my meds and my illnesses were massively out of control, I had so much pain in my hips, the pain in my stomach and the uncontrollable urge to go to the toilet when stressed was making the thought of sitting in a waiting room for a undetermined amount of time really stressful, add stress to the stress triggered illnesses and I was going to have a hard time sitting waiting. There was a number so I thought I would give them a ring and explain and see if there was anything they could do. The man that answered said I could ring each morning and see how busy it was and therefore be able to judge how long the wait might be, then with how I feel that day I can see if I can go and wait. Then I asked what I would need to bring with me and he asked what it was I would need help with, I explained I needed help with my benefits as I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope and needed help working out what was going on, he said I wouldn’t need to come and see them and instead I can just go directly to ‘Turn2us’ who calculate benefits make sure you are getting all you are entitled to and know about any grants you may be able to claim. So not to bother with CAB at all and just go directly to them. On their website it says to have all your out goings and in comings written down to give them and they would work it all out for you…my head was already spinning.

My friend Justine said she would come over and ring everyone and speak to people and departments for me and make sure everything was right, as my biggest fear was that I was going to be told I couldn’t stay in my house as I was living above my means in a house now too large for my family as I now have a ‘spare’ room. Mid November she came over on the Wednesday and Friday and was on the phone constantly for over four hours on both days, being fobbed off basically…everyone was saying it wasn’t them or their organisation or department it was someone else and that then meant a call to someone else. Even Justine was confused by all the information and so I knew without her ringing on my behalf I would have been lost.

The first and worst contact was the DWP, you have to contact them yourself within 1 month of the death of your child or you face penalties, a fine and have to pay back any money they have over paid you. I managed to do that, while on hold I began to cry as it was and still is the thing I hate most, telling someone else that Jamie is dead, making it real, making the pain fresh again, having to go through the I’m sorry’s, I hated it. The woman that answered took my details and as I was crying continuously asked if I just wanted to call back another time but I knew I couldn’t. I had to do this, now. She told me I would receive my usual benefit for 8 weeks after the date of Jamie’s death and then it would be reduced to that of a single child allowance. I had no idea how I would cope, I don’t smoke. drink. go out, gamble, buy new clothes for myself, I sew as a therapy for my pain and illnesses, so that would have to stop as that is the only place I could cut back money. I could just cover the bills on the money I got before and now it would be cut in half, Jamie not having his showers and being on this laptop wasn’t going to half my gas and electric bills. Jamie not being there wasn’t going to halve my food bill. Jamie not being there wasn’t going to change the TV licence fee, my phone bill, the internet or TV…its not like it knows how many people are watching.

I had to sell my playstation, games, DVDs, and any bits I had to keep Jamie’s phone line on while the police continued to look into the Snapchat conversations, I couldn’t have anything ruin that, so everything went. I cancelled the TV channels and just have the internet so William can play his tablet and I could watch TV on catch up on my laptop when I was stuck in bed. There wasn’t anything else I could cut down. While Justine continued to call people it turned out I hadn’t been claiming a benefit I was clearly entitled to, she was passed from department to department to try and find out why no one had told me I was entitled to this money which was approximately £60 a week. No one had an answer…so the next question was how do I apply for it? As that would nearly make up for the money I had lost with the DWP. I couldn’t claim it, because of the new all in one benefit (I still don’t understand so bare with me) no new claims for the old benefits were being taken even though I had been eligible for it for a number of years. No one was holding their hands up to say it was their mistake and I should already be on it, and everyone was hiding behind the fact that no new claims were allowed.

Bedroom Tax…my stomach turned. I receive housing benefit and pay an extra £7 a week on top for my rent, I had no idea where I would find that 7 pound…and now I was worried my benefit would be reduced further again as now I have one child and technically for the number of children I don’t need the two rooms. I was so upset it was making me heave thinking about it, all I have left of Jamie is the smell in his room, being able to go in there and lay on his bed and breathe him in. See his things, sit where he sat, imagine hes just behind the closed door on his laptop with his headphones on. I couldn’t move out and pack up his room just 8 weeks from loosing him, I just couldn’t. I shouldn’t, its not fair, I didn’t choose to have all these illnesses that stopped me working, because I did work. And people that work wouldn’t even have to think about moving house and moving on in such a way, so why should I. Its not fair what I physically have to live with why would this happen, how is that ok? Justine had managed to get passed through a few departments and it seemed that I wouldn’t have to move as what can happen is when my mum has to stay over to look after me both of the boys would be in the bunkbeds in Williams room and she would stay in Jamies, to be there while I was sick in the night and there for the boys should they need an adult.

I still feel on edge that they are going to make me move. I have had so many nightmares about it. Jamie’s room is how he left it, cleaner, but as he left it. I can’t pack him up, I can’t change the room, its his room, its always his room…I’m FOREVER a mum of TWO…I can’t do it. People say in time I will, and maybe they are right but I don’t think they are.

I am struggling, I feel like if I complain to anyone about not having enough money to pay the bills for the house the answer they will give me will simply be move to a smaller house, smaller house smaller bills…but I can’t. Like I said at the beginning, I had my direct debits set up, the money came in and went out and it was hard but it ran itself and worked…now every week scares me that I won’t have enough, every bill every direct debit, I don’t spend any money. I treat William when he is feeling down out of the money left over from the Just Giving pot, but I know that soon will be gone, and I have already had to pay a TV license out of it. I hope that it will all work and things will settle and be right, but I don’t think they will. There’s nothing else I can cancel, there’s nothing else I can do, eventually I will have to give up Jamie’s room and my heart will be broken once more.

Anne

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