I’ll be the first to admit that, recently, times have been pretty tough for me and Mark, money-wise. Mark has been trying to deny that we no longer have as much as we used to before the kids were born, back in our ‘wild-child’ partying days, without a care in the world and the reality is, not only did i have to give up my all-inclusive beach and spa holiday for a weekend in a tent (which was extremely fun, don’t get me wrong) we’re also struggling to pull anything together in terms of savings. You probably all know how it is, kids come along, that are expensive, very expensive, combining that with a house that needs paying for, bills that need sorting, a car that breaks down every five minutes, inflation and all the rest of it, things can get a bit, well, tight to say the least. To make matters worse, I was made redundant from my office job a few weeks back and with a measly pay out, it seems I had no choice but to be put on Job Seeker’s Allowance. As you can imagine, I am bringing significantly less into the family home as I once was and it’s beginning to take its toll.
After a few mini, weekly, breakdowns and a couple of ‘what are we going to do’s’ and one teeny argument with Mark over leaving the bathroom light on all day (we made up soon after, but i’ll spare you the details) we decided that enough was enough and we were going to have to get some help before we all starved to death. Just joking, but, we were pretty worried.
Speaking to one of the girlies, I mentioned how we were struggling for money more than we ever had due to me losing my job. She agreed that things just seemed to be getting more and more expensive these days and asides from changing her shop from Sainsbury’s to Aldi she was finding it impossible to see how else she could scrimp and save some money together. I felt relieved that i wasn’t the only one in such a position, to say the least. Anyway, she proceeded to tell me about the Social Fund. Now forgive me for being ignorant but I didn’t have the foggiest what this was. But what she told me made everything seem that little bit brighter and more manageable.
The Social Fund is basically a loan that is given to you in emergency situations and does need to be paid back, but is interest free. This just makes it that little bit easier to manage when money is really stretched. You do have to have been receiving some sort of benefit eg. income support or Job Seeker’s Allowance for at least 26 weeks before you qualify for a crisis loan, but it is comforting to know that if i continue to be out of work, there is help at hand. Thee are restrictions as to what the loan can be used for but I guess this is just to ensure that the money is being spent responsibly and benefits the whole family. The loan can be used towards things like rent or hostel charges, travel expenses and essential household items.
Whilst I may not qualify for the social fund at the moment, I hope this piece informs all of you other lovely ladies (or gentleman) out there of what you are entitled to if you are struggling at the moment. The loan can also be used to cover an immediate expense, so if you have something costly that needs paying immediately, the loan can sure take an almighty weight off your mind!
The World of the Social Fund
Doing my research on Mark’s laptop, I read some interesting social fund related things (in between cooking for the kids, bath time, bargaining with them for a 7.30 bed time, you know how it is). When I got a moment to myself, I discovered that there is no set amount given for the crisis loan and it is decided based on your circumstances. A reassuring factor is that is does not affect any other benefits you are claiming and as i said before, this beauty is interest free. If you (like me) aren’t the best at budgeting and managing money, you are signed up with a Government adviser that will help you draft up a repayment plan, to make sure you are staying on track.
Another useful form of the Social Fund is cold-weather payments. Whilst it might be August at the moment, it’s surprising how quickly it can get cold once those clocks go back (I’m in full onesie and slipper mode come mid-September!). We all know how difficult it is to keep up with heating payments, but we also all know how nice it is to be able to have it on in the evenings. The amount of times Mark has shouted at me to ‘just put another jumper on’ is enough to make me want to cry! The Cold Weather Payment helps towards heating costs when the weather drops below a certain temperature.
To claim the Social Fund, the best thing to do is to pop into a job centre plus, or easier still, simply ring the contact number! I am sure your mind will be put at rest in minutes, and that light at the end of the tunnel will re-appear!
Anyway lovelies, I guess I just wanted to get some issues off my chest, and i hope a lot of you yummy mummies out there can relate. There’s no shame in being a little strapped for cash in this day and age, and where there is help available, have no shame in grabbing it with both hands!
Happy bargain hunting!