45 years of working and caring.
I left the grammar school that I attended at 15, as my dad wanted me to contribute to the household. I worked full time until I was 29 when I had my first son and moved from London to Norfolk. I had my second son two and a half years later. I volunteered at the local Children’s Centre during this period becoming treasurer and also at a special needs playgroup where I was offered part time work. I did several different part time jobs while my children were small.
As my children progressed through primary school I continued with part time work and became chairperson of the Friends of the School and later on Chairperson of the parish council where I lived. I also trained as a Citizens Advice volunteer advisor and did this 1 day a week alongside all my other responsibilities until my husband was made redundant for the third time and we decided that I should try to find full time work.
I found a full time job as a support worker in a mental heath charity and my husband stayed at home to look after the children.
When my first son started high school I separated from my husband and after a number of years of single parenthood (while working full time) I remarried someone who was very supportive emotionally but had some health issues and so I continued to be the main breadwinner for the family. I was successful in applying for an internal promotion to a management post and over a number of years I completed an OU degree in Health and Social Care and also a postgraduate diploma in mental health.
I started my own caring role by supporting an elderly uncle who lived in London as he had been found collapsed on the floor of his flat having been there for several days – he had no family himself -so I helped him to move to sheltered accommodation and became appointee for his benefits and helped to organise his affairs. Later I became appointee for my brother who has mental health difficulties, he had been financially reliant on my parents for most of his life and as my mum had already died and dad was becoming unwell I needed to help him find some security for his future.
I became appointee for my fathers’ benefits after he had a diagnosis of possible Lewy body dementia and I took on the financial management of their home.
My dad’s health deteriorated and I had to travel to Cornwall frequently to help my brother cope and eventually to organise care at home and more recently nursing care for my dad, I took on Power of Attorney for dads affairs. Luckily I had managed to gain a further promotion, which allowed me to reduce my hours to 4 days a week to help me cope with all of my caring roles.
During this period I supported both my sons attend university and although they both have hefty student loans that they are repaying this was a considerable financial commitment from me for them both. One of them became a teacher and the other sells British manufactured products in Northern Europe.
My husbands health was deteriorating and so when the services that I ran for the charity came up for competitive tender and the bid was won by a much bigger national organisation I opted for statutory redundancy, to be employed by the new organisation I would have taken a very large salary reduction (thousands of pounds) for what was a very stressful job, they also wanted someone to work full time.
So I have been self-employed since then, starting my own business, 2 years ago now – I haven’t unfortunately managed to earn enough money to pay tax (except on the charity donations that I said I was a taxpayer for) but have continued paying N.I. contributions. If I didn’t try to work at all I could claim carers’ allowance – but I don’t really wish to do this – I have always strived to be independent. I continue to do voluntary work – I am a trustee of the local C.A.B. and also help the local River Care scheme to clear and care for the environment around our river. I litter pick my regular walks just as I feel any good citizen should.
I was 60 this year and became a grandmother. Once upon a time I would have had my pension and in my ideal world would have probably continued to do some of my self employed pursuits, definitely more voluntary work (I have a lot or resources and experience and know I have things I could offer to my community) and enjoyed my grandchild.
Instead of this I am looking at trying to find some settled part time work that provides a regular income that I can somehow fit around caring for my husband, trips to Cornwall to support my dad and brother and looking after my grandson 1 day a week now his mum has returned to work.
I feel I have put enough into the system and that it should be my time to get something back. I don’t think I am asking for too much just what I am entitled to.