Blog by Robyn Brownless: how young families in Wakefield are affected by cuts & benefit changes

Barnardo's Young Families Advisory Group have their say

Barnardo's Young Families Advisory Group have their say

On Friday 9 March Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, the MP for Morley and Outwood, met the Young Families advisory group from Barnardo’s Young Families. The meeting took place in Stanley Children’s Centre. The group wanted to express their concerns for their children and for other young parents like them about government policies and how they affect their lives. The group know Ed isn’t in government and can’t make any changes himself until an election, but they wanted him to know how they felt so their experiences could be understood, and so Mr Balls could feed them back to the decision-makers wherever he could. Here Robyn Brownless from the group takes over Ed’s blog to give her account of the meeting:

Government cuts have affected the majority of the people in this country. It’s a topic we regularly discuss at the advisory group meetings. As young people/parents we wanted to know exactly how and when we would be affected. After deciding that standing on Wakefield cathedral with a megaphone wasn’t such a good idea, we decided to contact Ed Balls to ask if he would be interested in having an informal meeting with a few members of the advisory group so that we could tell him how we feel and finally have our views heard.

Ed kindly agreed to meet us at Stanley children’s centre, Friday 9th March. During the meeting we voiced our concerns regarding EMA payments, sure start maternity grants and the possible closure of some Sure Start centres, nurseries and Pontefract hospital’s A&E department. We all feel it would be much more beneficial having a local hospital and A&E department as many of us young parents don’t have transport. Many of us fear that services such as Young Families, children’s centres and Connexions will be cut due to the government wanting to make cuts and save money. I personally do not know where I would be today if I hadn’t have had the support I’ve received from a number of agencies. It makes me extremely worried for other young parents and their children’s future if that help is not available. If I cannot get a job or further my education, what example is this setting to my children? On the other hand, if I do manage to find myself a job, I then have to struggle with rent and household bills increasing, the upcoming changes to working tax credit could leave me worse off than if I was claiming state benefits. In addition to this, childcare costs are rising and my earnings, more than likely wouldn’t cover this extra outgoing. Some may say, I should go to college or complete a course which will gain me a qualification. This is all well and good but without EMA or a bursary I, and many others, would get into debt by having to pay for our travel expenses on top of managing a family. Many of us would love nothing more than to become more educated for both ourselves and our children.

I wish all the best for my children; I want what all parents want, young or old. I want to be able to give my children the better things in life, I’d like to be able to take them away on holiday, for them to attend school trips and enjoy family days out. I want them to be happy and healthy. Many young parents fear that their child will be bullied if they cannot provide them with the things their children want and need. Bullying leads to low self-esteem and no self- confidence which is something I do not want for my children. We discussed how we would like to see more play areas as many of us are on a low, fixed income and often don’t have the money to treat out children or take them on days out. On behalf of fathers, we added how we would like to see more services so that dads can feel more involved with their children and feel comfortable asking for support and advice if they feel they need to.

It’s very difficult staying together as a family with the way the benefits system is set up. Living as a family means less money and the majority of us are struggling as it is. Surely the government should be promoting two parent families and not single parent families. Children living within a single parent family are more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural difficulties but what choice do we have? Since becoming a young parent, I feel I have been judged by others around me. I almost feel like I have to prove to the world that I am good enough to be a mum. I’d like David Cameron to walk a mile in my shoes; maybe we could swap lives for a week!

During our meeting with Ed he asked me if I still relied on support from my family. I explained that when I first fell pregnant with my son at 17, I relied solely on my family financially and emotionally. I told him that although I have now been living independently for 4 years, I still do receive support and that my mum had recently shown me how to hang a picture in a frame. Ed laughed and said “Will you come and show me how to do it?” I thought to myself “I’ve just got a job working with Ed Balls!”

Ed assured us that he would keep our views in mind. After the meeting had ended, I walked away with a better understanding as to how our government works, and I found myself feeling rather pleased that I had met such an approachable and friendly man that hopefully will make a change as and when he is able to. I am confident that on behalf of all young families, we have covered most of the worries, concerns and boundaries that we, as young parents, face on a day to day basis.

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Posted March 12th, 2012 by admin

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