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‘I have a daughter to bring up and I’m struggling to survive’

Suzanne Bearne

Name: Jason Cordingley
Age: 38
Income: Occasional part -time casual work plus rent support
Occupation: Student

I’ve lived all over the country but the only place I’ve really struggled to find work is Plymouth. I moved from Brighton more than a year ago after my ex moved here with our daughter. I have a decent CV with lots of experience and qualifications in areas like accountancy and graphic design but they don’t seem to be in demand here. This year I’ve had three jobs: a maternity cover PA role which ended when she returned early; an admin assistant job that went from temp to permanent but I was let go when their budget was cut; and cleaning bird mess off the warships in the dockyards. I apply for lots of jobs but am often told I’m overqualified and so they don’t take me on.




From Christmas to May this year I was on universal credit and it was a nightmare. I received £406 a month towards rent but my accommodation at the time was £750 as I was living in a two-bedroom flat so my daughter could come and stay. I was left out of pocket. I hoped I wouldn’t be out of work for too long but in the end I had to move into a cheaper place. Now I’m stuck in a shared house, which isn’t exactly a great environment for my daughter. The situation is far from ideal. But at £450 including bills, at least the rent here is more affordable.

I’ve seriously struggled to live during the past year. I’ve sold a lot of items such as my MacBook, iPhone, games console and TV just to afford my rent. After a year of struggling, I’ve decided to pursue a career in teaching. I’d been thinking about it for years but didn’t like the idea of studying for up to five years while also trying to support my daughter. I’d been told that if the course is less than 16 hours a week you can still claim benefits, so I started my teaching course, told the job centre, and was then told that rule used to exist when it was jobseeker’s allowance, but not now it’s universal credit.

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I’ve just been turned down for universal credit as I’m studying. The course is 14 hours a week but because you need to study outside the lessons, it’s classed as full time. Unfortunately the college can’t help with any funding. They offer a bursary that covers transport costs if you’re more than three miles away but as the distance to my home is 2.8 miles, I’m not entitled to anything. I’ve applied for a part-time admin job that’s 25 hours a week and would be perfect. In the meantime I’ve just accepted a job at KFC. I’ll take it if I need to but it just feels demoralising as I have qualifications.

The universal credit I received at the start of the month is the last bit of money I have. I have just enough money set aside for next month’s rent. I’m trying not to spend anything, but that’s hard, especially when you have a child. I spend about £20 to £25 a week on food. I live on sausage rolls and sandwiches as I can’t keep anything downstairs.

I cycle everywhere. I only take the bus if I need to, like when I pick my daughter up from football practice as I can’t climb up the steep hills with an eight-year-old on the back.

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Socialising isn’t impossible when you don’t have any money. I play open mic nights and you get a free drink if you perform so you don’t have to spend a lot. Plus the drinks are quite cheap at the students’ union where I regularly perform.

I’ve not been abroad for years. My last proper holiday was when my daughter was eight weeks old and we visited Spain. She’s now eight. I looked after my daughter for two weeks in the school holidays and we visited Paignton in Devon for a couple of days; I booked us into the Travelodge for the night.

I’m doubtful universal credit will come through – I’ll have to find a part-time job. The dream is to make it to next September, then apply for a student loan. To borrow £3,000 a term would make a huge difference to my life. I know I’ll have to work a lot of hours which will impact my studies, but there’s no other way, is there? I want to continue trying to better mine and my daughter’s lives and keep a roof over our heads.