In this week’s instalment of the Covid-19 Diaries, Dionne shares her experience of writing to MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat McFadden. She explains how the lockdown measures have affected her and asks him to support our #NoYoungWomanLeftBehind campaign.
Young Women’s Trust offered me the chance to write to MP Pat McFadden and tell him about the struggles of being on Universal Credit, zero hours contracts and being unemployed. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by – it’s important that MPs like Pat are made aware of young women’s struggles, because many seem oblivious to such issues. Reaching out to people in parliament who have shown an interest in these issues is a step in the right direction to making things better for young women.
Sharing my experiences
At the beginning of this year, I had two zero hours contracts one with an office agency and one with a football club. In February, the number of shifts started to decrease and as a result I couldn’t earn as much as I would have liked. Then my Universal Credit was cut off in February, due to me ‘over earning’ and when I called Jobcentre Plus to ask how much had I over earned they were unable to give me a clear answer, leaving me confused and frustrated. Then the pandemic and lockdown soon followed and made my situation worse. I had no choice but to request P45 forms and leave my zero-hour contracts. I knew I was going to be left without work for the foreseeable future, and also wanted to avoid having my benefits cut off again.
February was a very stressful and difficult month for me as I had no source of income coming in, which caused me financial struggles. I was forced to apply for an emergency cash grant from a local church. Although my benefits were reinstated the following month and I am now entitled to a Universal Credit increase, this won’t suddenly make my financial struggles disappear. I am in a strange limbo currently as I haven’t heard back from the full-time jobs I applied for before the lockdown, and it’s hard to apply for more roles as there has been a big recruitment freeze. Part-time jobs seem to be few and far between where I live and, if I do apply for those roles, I have that fear in the back of my head that my Universal Credit will get cut off again.
The answers I needed
I wrote to Pat McFadden and asked him to hold the government to account by finding out two things for me:
- How can the government ensure that enough jobs are created after the lockdown, so that people like myself do not end up being unemployed for long periods of time and as a consequence have difficulty getting back into the job market?
- Can the government set out clearer guidelines on how much people can earn whilst on Universal Credit before they run the risk of having their benefits cut off? That way fewer people will end up in the situation I was in.
I’m hoping that as a result of writing the letter, policies will be put in place for young women who are in a similar situation to me, so that they can get help with claiming Universal Credit or getting into work, or both with ease.
Right now, thousands of young women are worrying about how they will pay their rent, feed their children and care for their loved ones throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Politicians are playing a crucial role in planning what happens next. They need to hear from people like you about what the government should do to support the young women.