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Benefits Street.

Okay, so there’s this new series on a certain TV channel called Benefits Street…

The main characters all live in houses on what appears to be a run down street and they all claim benefits and are unemployed.

I’m totally split in my opinion of the show…

One half of me thinks that the production company has hand picked the worst examples just to turn the country against people that claim benefits.

I’m not going to name the characters or go into details but there are people with poor hygiene, bad etiquette and rough speech going to get their payments then shoplifting alcohol from hardworking shop owners and laughing about it, There are people claiming benefits as single people but are in a relationship who have had their benefits stopped but are complaining that it’s not their fault and the benefits agency is in the wrong, the children are grubby looking and eating crap and the house is a tip… 2 adults are at home all day and the house is a bloody tip… They are rough and brash and if you were walking down the road with them, their calls of “oi wanker” to their friends would make you cringe…

Then the other half of me remembers how my life used to be and what sort of friends I had and I remember the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness and depression and confinement.

I remember the ‘fuck ’em’ attitude I had towards the world.

In my last few year in care, when I was living in a bedsit at 16/17, I was asleep and the guy from the room next to me snuck into my room, I woke up immediately, I was used to being on alert when I was asleep… he had a hammer in his hand, it was wrapped in a blood stained tea towel and he was trying to hide it. I was terrified so I let him hide it and then he realised I was awake. To cut a very long story short, he forced me to sleep in his bed and lie to the police that we’d been there all night, I had felt safe there until that night. So I clung onto other teens in my position. We’d all sleep over each other’s bedsits, we’d shoplift for food and clothes, we’d spend any cash we got on drugs and alcohol. I didn’t care about what drugs they were, who cared? They blotted out the bullshit of life and made me feel like I was living someone else’s life. I really didn’t care less if they’d kill me, life was seriously shit and I couldn’t handle it without drugs, men and a sharp object to harm myself and anyone else who took the piss. We’d fight, we’d steal, we’d commit criminal damage, we really didn’t care.

I used to sit on the tube watching other 16/17 year old’s with their parents with bags of new stuff, laughing and hugging, on their way home to somewhere safe, they could sleep without fear and I’d seriously feel hatred… no-one was there for me so ‘fuck ’em’… they’d get home and probably realise their purse was missing, the money spent on drugs they’d never have to take to blot out the life they’d never have to live… fuck ’em.

When social services had finished with me at 18, they handed me the keys to a flat 10 miles from where I had been living and a bundle of benefits forms, a leaving care grant of about £500 and a community care grant form (that I had no idea about) and that was it…

I was a scared, pregnant 18 year old girl, standing in a cold empty flat with no support and no idea what I had to do next.

I filled in the forms and messed that right up, I managed somehow to scrape some furniture together and of course I met the locals… I stopped the drugs and tried to sort my life out but knew that the local junkies would get you anything you wanted for a much lower price than the shops… all you needed to say was ” I need a new kettle” and half hour later they’d be on the doorstep with a £50 kettle asking for £20. You could easily haggle it down to a tenner and course you never asked where it was from but of course everyone knew.

People were always getting evicted or going into prison so furniture was easy to get hold of cheap or it’d be dumped at the back of the block for the kids to set alight to later for a bit of entertainment.

I had an on-off relationship with my eldest son’s dad and by 19 I was a single teenage mum of 2 little boys… A right gobby bitch, smoking, drinking, swearing, stealing, fighting, looking for trouble at the same time as trying to stay out of it and the local police knew my details on sight. That was life, it was normal, it had been normal for years… it was what people expected from an angry careleaver, it’s what they expected from a teenage mum and most of us knew no other way.

Then something happened to change my life forever. I woke up and saw things differently, I saw what I was and what I could be. I learnt to value myself and to value those around me. I learnt about ambition, education, about love, about accepting and letting go of the past, embracing the present and jumping headfirst and grasping onto the future.

I learnt to love myself and value my own life and in turn value other people. I learnt compassion and empathy and tolerance.

I did parenting courses, I went to college and gained childcare qualifications, I spent my days trying to be a better mum and a better person. I made better choices, I started working and being productive, I found a boyfriend, he joined the army. Our army friends had no idea of our pasts so it was easy to change, no-one could point the finger and say “That was her that did ****”.

I changed because I was lucky… I am still in touch with my friends that weren’t so lucky, and I’d love nothing more than to change their lives, but it’s so so hard… they’re not getting away from ‘Benefits Street’ any time soon.

I’m not that much better off now, I live in social housing, only just above the poverty line and I can barely afford the bills, I’m unable to afford to replace our broken cooker or carpets and we have no real luxuries.

But now we pay our own way, we never break the law or take drugs, we’re a world away from Benefits Street but I’m under no illusion… it only takes a small action, a marriage split, getting laid off… we’ll be back on Benefits Street and I’m well aware of the struggle to survive…

So when I watch Benefits Street, I watch it with open eyes, I see the state of the woman’s house and see she has no support, she has no reason to keep a tidy house, it’s going to look just as bad with the toys away. The guy drinking is trying to blot out the bullshit of a life with nothing, and it is a life with nothing.

I ask those of you who have nice jobs and live in nice houses in nice areas, would you trade lives with those on Benefits Street? I am assuming the answer is a resounding “HELL NO!” So free money and free housing isn’t a great life.
Have any of you tried to live on £70 a week? £15 on gas, £15 on electricity, £5 tv license, leaving £35 to divide between water rates, food, phone top-up, bus fares, clothes, and everything else a person needs to get by. Now you can see there’s no money to make a home look nice, can you see that the house will never look tidy? Tired old carpets and walls?
And hardly enough to fund a drug or alcohol addiction is there?
And before someone even thinks about that issue of all the benefits claimants owning big TVs etc… Ever heard of Bright House? It’s one of those shops that no matter how bad your credit, you can get a nice modern tv, and better still, you can have it and pay just a few pounds a week… But for a few years! You’ll pay 3 times the rrp for the privilege. A bit like those provident loans where you can borrow £400 to get through Xmas or buy a new sofa but you’ll be paying back £700.
The poorer you are, the more you’re exploited.

You have to be so careful when you’re judging another person’s situation… there is a much bigger picture and no-one is truly happy to live on benefits.

Entry level jobs are hard to get…
You can’t walk onto a building site nowadays an pick up a broom and become a labourer… You need a cscs card before you can get on site. And to get a cscs card you need to be literate, pass an exam and have a few quid for the card… £50 will get you the card alone… Out of your £70 weekly benefit.
The big corporate businesses like British Telecom have sold out our job seekers. Instead of those jobs being available to our unemployed, BT and other companies use call centres in countries like India because it’s cheaper than paying British people a living wage.
And we are constantly being told how single mothers are a drain on the system… But our government is happy to help with child care and pay childminders to look after children so they can force single mums back to work, but are unhappy to pay the mums that same amount to take care of their own children for just a few years?! It makes no sense.

But our government and our media will continue to demonise those on benefits… not the 50% that are pensioners… Nor the disabled (though they are beginning to be targeted) but the 4% of claimants that are unemployed. This is like a modern day witch hunt. Only the media is a much more powerful tool for the hunters….

And remember… Child benefit, DLA, state pensions, housing benefit, child tax credits, working tax credit… These are ALL benefits and those who live in glass houses…

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Always the Attention Seeker…

Ok, When I started this blog I wanted to write it as a care leaver because there is so little written about or by care leavers which ultimately makes us feel very alone and misunderstood especially as we become adults. We lack much of what most people have growing up and becoming adults and all that most care leavers have in the way of support are other care leavers with their own set of fucked up problems or social workers who really have no clue and who most care leavers avoid unless they really mess up!

I was going through the comments on one of my other posts and there was this one comment (on the post about being there not being enough for my friend) that didn’t much grammatical sense but the jist was that I needed to stop whinging about my life and stop being attention seeking on my blog…

now here’s the thing… firstly I’d like to point out that it’s MY blog so I can pretty much write whatever I want, and to be honest I never expected anyone to read it, it’s just my way of speaking aloud, it’s my therapy as it were. Secondly, all care leavers are accused of being attention seekers but to be fair most of us spend the majority of our time trying to blend in and appear ‘normal’ so as not to bring attention to ourselves.

Of course that isn’t to say that I can’t be a bit of an extrovert, but that’s usually a front or with a few glasses of wine and the right crowd. 😉

Anyhow, I don’t write about my life in care to gain attention, I have to write about some of the shit times, not to be attention seeking but because it would be difficult to connect with someone unless you know a little of their story, and believe me I only touch the surface on here.

As for whinging, I think I’m pretty positive about how my life’s turned out, yes I have my negative moments where I find it difficult to move forward and get a little trapped in time and find it hard to escape my memories, but they’re the times when I recoil from life a bit and avoid being around people, but hey you can’t be positive ALL the time!

The things most people work towards; education, work, home, friends, family, life, happiness… are things that are much harder to come by for most care leavers, but with a lot of hard work they are attainable.

I am incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved against the odds.

Care leavers statistics

From now I will only leave positive comments on this blog, I don’t mind a debate but there is no room in my life for negativity so if you have nothing positive to say, please say nothing at all.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Believe, Care Leaver, Life, The Past.

 

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When ‘Being There’ Just Isn’t Enough…

Most of the time I’m positive about my life and the way I grew up. I know to a lot of people who were raised by loving parents my childhood probably seems pretty horrific, and some of it was I guess, but I have this knack of putting the dark stuff to the back of my mind, the bad stuff is there but masked by the good times, and against the odds I have hundreds of thousands of brilliant memories…

I made the best friends during my 15 years in care and none who understand me better than those who I shared the good times with. There’s an unsaid agreement that you don’t ask what your care brothers and sisters are ‘in’ for but at the same time there’s an understanding between you. No-one’s in care because they had fluffy homelives, it doesn’t work like that does it? I thought everyone’s parents were like mine until I was 7 or 8 and I realised that people don’t like to hear about your experiences if they’re not pink and fluffy so I invented a life before care in true Tracy Beaker style and would relay these stories to all my friends outside of the care system! lol

But the teenage years were the hardest, this is when you really realise that your experiences are so totally different to other people’s and guilt about events in your life sets in. You may try to tell a friend at school by easing into it really slowly, giving a tiny snippet of information and then their shock is so obvious you laugh it off as a joke and retract the initial statement you made and get on with it, knowing that you will never be ‘on the same level’ as your friends.

This is when your care siblings become closer than any of your childhood friends, they ‘get you’, they’ve had similar experiences so you’re tolerant of each other’s mood swings and anger outbursts. When you leave care and lose touch it’s the loneliest feeling in the world.

When I left care I was more alone than I’d ever been before and first got the keys to a crappy bedsit at 16/17, well shared house really. I got moved into 2 or 3 bedsits until I settled in the last one. I was the only female and in the room to one side was 3 heroin addicts straight out of Brixton jail and on the other side a 40 year old pimp who scared the shit out of me so badly that when he tried to kill one of the other guys in the house with a hammer and hid the hammer in my room I said nothing and silently agreed to share his bed for the night so when the police turned up I would be his alibi… I once saw him chase his missus with a meat cleaver then beat her to a pulp so I wasn’t going to get on the wrong side of him.  downstairs was a fucked up ex copper and a 65yr old knicker stealing alcoholic so life as a care leaver wasn’t the best but you make the best of a bad situation and get on with it with the help of drugs and boys and alcohol and petty crime until you’re 18 and social services helps get the ultimate prize… your own council flat.

Anyhow, because of the joys of social networking and facebook, I’ve been reunited with a few of my care brothers and sisters and though it’s made me happy, of course it has, the people that I grew up with, fought with, cried with and laughed with were back on the scene… but it has brought with it a new heartache.. the realisation that life could have been different as it has been for so many of my siblings.

To find out that for some suicide was the best option has broken my heart and I’m left thinking ‘why wasn’t I there for you earlier’. For others prostitution was their way to get through life, for a fair few hard drugs, for others alcohol, for many crime and jail and some of these haven’t made it as far as the rest of us… but the ones who my heart aches the most over are the ones who tried so hard to break the cycle and failed… not through any real fault of their own, but because of shitty circumstances the children they love so much have been taken from them and placed in the same system that fucked us all up and made us the way we are.

These are the ones I want to help the most but I feel useless and ‘being there’ for them just isn’t enough to make a difference in their circumstances and it’s an excruciating pain that the friends you once considered your brother or sister are going through that.

There is no happy ending to this post for now, I can only hope that being positive and being here when they need me is enough to get them through the next day, and the day after…

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Life, The Past.

 

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Kids Being Kids…

Before you read this post, I’d like you to read this article

I read that article this morning and I have to be honest, I thought it was a case of a mum receiving a letter and being a little over-sensitive in her reaction, assuming people had complained about her 3 year old daughter but being a mum I get that, you’re lucky to have a safe area outside your home and let your 3 year old play outside in the fresh air with neighbour’s young children. They pick flowers and bark and act like young children discovering the world around them.

I happen to log into facebook and a certain tabloid rag has a twisted version of this story advertising their latest edition on their page talking about ‘kids running amok and ransacking other people’s garden’s’. This has escalated into a huge thread of people slating this woman’s parenting skills and her children. Comments like @she looks like a little monster!’ and ‘a 3 year old out on the streets, 2 words… BAD PARENTS’ and a barrage of people offering ‘useful’ snippets of advice like ‘social services should get involved’ and ‘the mum should get an asbo’ and ‘the mum should tan her daughter’s backside’.
It’s obvious no-one actually read the article properly, or I’ve totally misread it myself because what I got was that little girls were playing and maybe picking flowers and trampled a few plants. There has been some degree of anti-social behaviour in the area so the police decide to issue each house with a warning about how anti-social behaviour won’t be tolerated. This mum felt as there wasn’t a problem in their particular road, that it was aimed at her children and got defensive. Why do tabloid rags have to turn it into ‘Britain’s youngest child threatened with an ASBO’???
Let’s get this into perspective now, they’re not smashing neighbour’s windows or shouting profanities or smoking drugs or stealing cars, they’re picking flowers… that’s what children do.

My children have spent the best part of the last 2 weeks exploring our local woods, discovering plants, (and yes, picking some!) collecting sticks, leaves and basically being children! We’re so lucky to have the woods so close by, there is a children’s playground built into the woodland and a bmx track so children can enjoy the space.
When my older 2 boys were younger, we lived in London and the streets and local parks were their playground. They were good kids and I knew roughly where they’d be if I needed them. I had an ‘open door’ policy, our door was always open to them and their friends for drinks, snacks, lunch, toilet or a safe place to be for a while. They had the odd mischievous moment, #2 came home one day soaked to the skin and ran upstairs sheepishly, 2 minutes later a frail lady knocked and told me she’d just thrown a bucket of water over him and followed him home as he was playing ‘knock down ginger’ at her door and she was poorly. I made him come down to apologise and told him off, apologised to the lady and that was that. I have to admit to having a giggle later on as I remember being 8 and doing the same (without getting caught!) as I’m sure most did. It was naughty but hardly deserving of an asbo. He’s now almost 20 and working at the same engineering job he’s been at since he left school at 16, my eldest has just graduated from University. Neither has a criminal record or an asbo. 🙂

My point is, we’re so quick to judge kids behaviour and adults parenting skills nowadays, they really can’t do right for doing wrong. If the children sit indoors playing games consoles or watching TV- the parents are bad, they play outside and their parents are still wrong because it’s irresponsible or the kids might get an asbo.
Really? Is this where we are now? Have people forgotten what being a child was about? Full of wonder, full of energy, a bit mischievous but today’s discovers, explorers, creators, inventors… are tomorrow’s Lord Sugars, Richard Bransons, Larry Pages, Cesar Pellis and Sir Norman Fosters.

How can it be ok if we imprison our children and stop them from reaching their potentials by holding them back out of fear of being branded ‘bad parents’?

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Family, Kids, Life, News, Parenting

 

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Things Will Always Get Better!

Well I’ve been neglecting my blogs lately, I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator! But here I am, better late than never and a bit more positive than last time!
The husband has gotten a new job which pays slightly better. It’s only a stopgap because he is in the running for another job which pays exceptionally more than both and offers more in the way of promotion. So finger’s crossed on that one, we may just get out of the financial shit creek we’re in!

Anyhow, thinking positively, my crafting is going well, especially the crochet blankets and rice charms, it’s so rewarding when people appreciate something you spend so much time and effort creating.

The school holidays are going well, we’ve had some great days out.  A group of us had a picnic in the park for a friends birthday, the kids played happily and the princess juice was flowing for us mums, it was one of those carefree days where everyone’s happy.
Then we had the pirate adventure in the woods… 7 adults and 11 kiddies = another great day out.
We’ve had a few days in the park that became more hours than planned but I love it when you don’t have to check the time and you’re engrossed in good conversations with friends.

My cousin is coming out of care this month and as I write to her, I’m hoping for a meeting at some point. Some details in her files sit badly with me as I know she was blamed for things she didn’t do and I want her to know the truth, there is no reason for a child to be blamed for another child’s injury when it was one of the parents, it is disgraceful. I can’t wait to see how she’s grown and how she’s doing. I can’t wait to tell her what a precious little girl she was and how we love her and truly missed her. How we have a photo of her in our living room right next to her cousins. I want her to know we never forgot her. And most of all, I don’t want her to feel like I did when I was her age…

 

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God Bless Tariq Jahan.

After my last 2 posts on the London rioting which had spread across major cities in the UK, I was moved to tears tonight by a dignified man clutching a photo of his son who along with 2 other young men, were killed in last night’s rioting. This is a tragic end to 3 young men’s lives and completely needless.

Tariq Jahan’s words are ringing in my ears and they are now all over twitter and Tariq Jahan’s name is trending.

The words that seem to have brought the rioting to a standstill;  “I have lost my son – if you want to lose yours step forward, otherwise calm down and go home. Please. I believe in divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate, and now he’s gone” Tariq Jahan

His dignity, wisdom and faith has done more tonight than any politician, police officer, or community leader has done all week. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. May they get peace now.

RIP Haroon Jahad, 21, Shazad Ali, 30 and Abdul Musavir, 31

Michael Seamark says in the Daily Mail;

  • Tariq Jahan Urges people not to seek revenge for his son’s death
  • Desperately tried to perform CPR on his dying son Haroon, 21
  • Brothers Shazad Ali, 30 and Abdul Musavir, 31, were the other fatalities
  • Trio were were knocked down by a car doing 50mph
  • Prime Minister offers his condolences to the victims’ families
  • Racial tensions simmer in Winson Green area of Birmingham

It would have been so easy to demand ‘an eye for an eye’ and risk a race war on the riot-torn streets.

But with immense dignity, Tariq Jahan, whose 21-year-old son was mown down and killed in an apparently racist murder in Birmingham, appealed for calm yesterday.

Haroon Jahan was one of three young Muslims who died after they were thrown into the air ‘like tennis balls’ when they were hit by a car which mounted the pavement at 50mph while they were trying to protect local shops from looters on Tuesday night.

With some Muslims calling for ‘retribution’, 45-year-old Mr Jahan – who desperately tried to revive his dying son – urged people not to seek revenge.

Standing on a wall in front of a crowd he said: ‘I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community.

‘Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this?

‘Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024375/BIRMINGHAM-RIOTS-Tariq-Jahan-tells-thugs-killed-son-Haroon-2-friends.html#ixzz1Ufo01iMP

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This was never about race. It was about the youth of today violently vandalising and stealing from their own communities.

Now it’s an excuse to blame everyone else, it’s always someone else’s colour, someone else’s faith, someone else’s culture.

Let’s not keep overshadowing these issues, these deaths. Let us deal with issues as they come and move forward….

And accept that we are all responsible in some small way.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Believe, Faith, Family, Life, News, Thoughts

 

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