Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence



  Single parent Catherine Hayward, 24, from the Wirral has two children aged three and six. She says she has to save up for months if she wants to buy them a new pair of shoes. The family have not had a holiday in the past four years.

  Catherine says she can't afford to live on the £128 she receives in benefits each week—and none of the benefits which have been introduced in the past four years have significantly improved her life. In her opinion her family's situation has changed little since Tony Blair made his claim to eradicate child poverty.

  Christmas creates even more financial pressures for the family. A few years ago she took out a £300 loan to pay for presents and a new carpet for her house. The loan came from a private loan company charging a 29% interest rate. Catherine isn't sure how long it took to pay off the loan, but recalls it was "a long time".

  Living on such a tight budget means the family has to sacrifice some essentials to make ends meet. Most of the time it's new clothes—sometimes even food.

  Catherine's youngest child is due to start nursery in a couple of months. Catherine is then hoping to get a job, but knows she will have to find out if there is any support or tax credits available to help with child minding expenses.

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Prepared 22 January 2004