Maddy’s* Story: a single mum struggling to raise a 10-month old on a benefit.
My name is Maddy. I’ve got one son who’s 10 months old and I currently live in a house that costs me $600 a week to rent. I used to live with other flatmates, and my rent was only $150, however the rent has gone up and I’ve had two flatmates moving out meaning the cost of living is more expensive.
My rent is so expensive. I live in Upper Hutt and it’s $350 a week. I want to move back to Wellington to be closer to my family, but in order to do that I need to fix my car, but I can’t get help from WINZ because I’m on a Learner license, and if I want to get my Restricted I need to have a warrant on my car. I need a new car.
At the moment I get paid $550 before everything. I pay $350 for rent, and then there’s power, internet, the phone. It’s anywhere from $100 on a bad week to $150 on a really, really good week. This pays for food, my baby’s food and things like nappies. When I can’t buy nappies I ask my mum. She’s on the benefit too, but sometimes she’s’ able to put $20 in my account.
Everything is a struggle. I need new clothes because everything is falling apart. I’ve got one bra and I have to buy everything at the op shops. My baby is getting too big for his carseat, but I don’t know how I’m going to afford a new one.
I can’t afford to heat my house. There’s a heater in my baby’s room, but that’s the only room that gets heated. I haven’t ever heated my room. Luckily I haven’t gotten sick yet, but my house is freezing. It’s warmer outside than inside, and it’s so big there’s really not much point in heating it because it’s uninsulated and it will be too expensive to heat. When I go to bed I wear a lot of layers, I basically live in my dressing gown. We want to move but we can’t until I get a car so we can go and look at house. I’m trying to get a loan for a car through the Salvation Army, but they won’t give me a loan until my rent comes down. I have to find a flatmate first.
I’m a solo parent. Everything just seems so hard for me and I feel discriminated against. I don’t get any time off. Even when my baby is asleep I have to clean up after him. It’s not like a normal job where you finish and go home and wind down. An extra $72.50 would be amazing. It wouldn’t fix all my problems, but I’d be able to stretch out the money to get more nappies or buy more food. I go for food grants a lot, but I think I’ve used all my food grant allocation already. The next time I go in and ask I have to do a big budget which is good, but I just can’t really do it with a 10 month old, sitting there for hours with a baby bouncing on your knees while you wait to be seen, or if he gets hungry and we miss lunch and I have to leave without being seen
I don’t eat very well at all. I live off chicken – it’s getting really boring. it’s all I can really afford – those big 2kg bags of chicken drumsticks, or pies for lunch or ham sandwiches. I’ve got a lot of health issues and I need to go to the doctor but it’s $46 and that’s just too expensive sometimes. I also need to go to get the jab so that I don’t get pregnant, but I just can’t afford to go. I’ve got a problem with my hip and it’s been really painful for the last month, but I just had to put up with the pain until I could afford to go to the doctor last week.
My house is cold and wet and miserable. It’s full of mould. I had to move out of my room ‘cause it was getting mouldy. There’s only one room in the house that gets any sun so I’ve put the baby in there. Now my baby monitors breaking and I’m paranoid that I can’t hear him at night so I have to wait until I can get some money it to get fixed.
I’m concerned about what kind of future my child has. I’m thinking about moving to Australia before he’s five because there’s more opportunity there. There’s no future in this country. I know so many people that are struggling.
The whole situation I’m in at the moment is a nightmare. Every time i make any headway i feel like I run into a brick wall. Trying to find somewhere to live is a horrible catch 22 – I can’t go and look for a place because my car is broken, I can’t get help with the car because I’m on my Learner license, I can’t get help getting my Restricted because my car doesn’t have a warrant, I can’t get a loan to fix my car because my rent is too high. I’m trying! I’m trying to move out and I did go and have a look at a few local houses but there’s fifty to 100 people looking too – and of course they’re not going to pick anyone who is on the benefit because real estate agents don’t like renting to people on the benefit.
I don’t feel safe living in NZ Housing Corp flats. Out where I live they are just these huge block flats. My flatmate’s sister needed housing and was first put into a motel and then they went to a Housing Corp flat in Petone. It’s huge block flats but it’s all filled with Mongrel Mob members and loud music. I’d rather be poor and safe and comfortable in my own house.
* Name has been changed to protect identity.