A Difficult Reality – Flick’s Story

Poverty can be a difficult reality to escape from – one that is full of barriers and challenges. Seeing as though Flick has been through these challenges herself, she agreed to share some of her thoughts and feelings about poverty and her experiences with it.

For Flick, living in poverty means living in a way where you are struggling to make ends meet, whether that is struggling to pay your bills, your food, or even having to make the choice between the two. In other words, it is where you are not confident you can live from one pay-day to the next. Flick believes that poverty is a concept that can understood in theory by most people, however the feeling of powerlessness and distress of living in a poverty state is deeper and harder to understand: “I think people can understand it. But I think they don’t necessarily understand the feeling of… the kind of helplessness and the desperation of not knowing if you can eat or put your heating on. I don’t think people can understand how that feels.”

Over the years, Flick has been living with a range of health issues that required multiple financial requirements. Flick is on benefits – she is on ESA and PIP for disabilities, mainly mental health. These benefits however proved not to be enough to meet Flick’s support needs, as the health expenses she had to pay for were higher than the PIP she was getting. As a result, Flick constantly struggled to make rent, had to ask for extensions on the payments and used to always be in debt. In addition to all the health costs, Flick expressed how – partially due to her mental health conditions – an unhealthy relationship with money was holding her back: “When you don’t know how much you must put aside each week, or you don’t think ahead enough, then I think you get stuck in this cycle. And in the past, I suppose, I wasn’t able to manage my money. Partly because the bipolar – it makes it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with money. Because I just didn’t have the skills to do it.”

Flick shared that going to a bipolar psycho-education group and engaging with the NHS was a step in the right direction, as that helped her get her mental health more under control. Furthermore, she explains that the use of banking apps such as thinkmoney helped her acquire the skills to budget and manage her bills and expenses: “That has made the biggest difference to me. I’ve never been behind rent since I discovered it. It’s just… yeah, it’s changed the way – my relationship with money, totally. I don’t kind of fear it anymore.”

Flick believes she is in a much better position now than she was when she had the health issues. Nonetheless, she­ still believes there should be a re-evaluation of how support is provided. For instance, she explained the challenges she faced whilst trying to get a letter proving she was on benefits, just to get access to certain services such as food banks. It was not until after several attempts of trying to get a hold of the right person and being put on hold for hours that she managed to have a two-minute conversation and have the letter sent out: “It just seems crazy that something can’t be simplified and streamlined, because if you’re in that much dire need and you haven’t eaten in a day or two, and… you just need a letter – it seems so silly that it takes so much effort to get just a letter saying ‘Yes, I’m on benefits’”.

According to Flick, housing is another big issue for people living on benefits – especially for those who have nobody to rely on. As she explains, with council housing and housing associations being so oversubscribed, many people are told they have to go private. But although landlords are technically not allowed to discriminate against people on benefits; they frequently rely on people having a guarantor, which just was not an option for Flick. Consequently, landlord insurance means that they quite often are not allowed to accept people on benefits. “There must be a way to kind of make it so it’s easier for people on benefits to get housing. Because it’s illegal to discriminate – but if landlords have to discriminate because their insurance says they do, then they’re never going to find a middle ground for benefit claimants to get housing”. “That was such a huge stress when I knew I had to move out my last place” – she continues – “in that I applied to loads of different places and they just said ‘no’ because I was on benefits. So, I think there needs to be something put in place to make housing a lot simpler for benefits claimants as well.”