Let me tell you what it’s like to wake up and find yourself a single mother of three children. To find you’re suddenly without an income or any realistic means of earning one because you’ve got two kids still not even at primary school yet and another one literally a babe in arms. Three children that you need to feed somehow, to house, that you know keep relentlessly growing out of their clothes and their shoes every few months, that you need to pay for heating for to keep them all alive in the Scottish winters, where the hell is all that money going to come from? Not from their dad in my case, who I didn’t get any money out of on a regular basis until five whole years later, after a lot of wrangling via the CSA. Do you know what it’s like? It’s terrifying. Proper staring-into-the-abyss terrifying. I barely slept for a month. I staggered blindly between phone calls and letters to the DWP and HMRC inbetween feeding the baby and changing two sets of nappies and consoling an upset 4 year old, trying to understand governmental red tape while my head was still firmly up my arse from the breakup, because if I didn’t somehow sort it out we weren’t going to eat. I’ve never felt so crushingly responsible in my whole life.
I wonder if George Osborne has any concept at all of that fear. I’m not sure which is more upsetting, the thought that he’s lived such an overprivileged life that he genuinely can’t conceive of the terror of being suddenly made vulnerable like that, or the thought that he’s actually just a heartless bastard and doesn’t give two fucks for the women who will suffer when he takes tax credits away for third and subsequent children for new claimants.
Because it is women who will suffer here, let’s get that straight: 92% of single parents are women and we’ve already borne the brunt of the cuts made since 2010. And despite what Channel 5 and the Daily Mail keep shoving down your throats, most of us will do whatever it takes to cushion our children from the worst of poverty. There were already times when I didn’t eat properly to make sure my children did when I was on Income Support, before I went back to work when the littlest one was 16 months. How much worse is it going to be now, for women who find themselves in the position I did? People will trot out that well-worn line about how you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford them. Well, I had them when I could afford them. Then he left us. That wasn’t in the plan. I know other women whose plans went tits-up like that too, some with awful and tragic consequences for their mental health. Why would you take away some of that absolutely vital safety net?
They keep saying it’s not right that we should leave our debts for ‘our children’ to sort out. But they don’t mean our children. They mean theirs. They mean our children and us mothers can starve so theirs can keep going to Swiss finishing schools.