Lorraine’s Perspective on Poverty

Lorraine is a working mother, grandmother and student who recently shared her story on how she is struggling with debt and financial distress. For her, living in poverty means not having enough to pay her bills and the cost of essentials, like food or heating. Although her understanding of what poverty means has remained pretty much the same over time, she got angrier about it over the years when she realised she was stuck in the same position.

With her debts, Lorraine feels that outside her family, there are not enough places for her to go get help. She contacted Citizen’s Advice, and she is now in a 60-day breathing space which gives her temporary protection from her debtors and bailiff action. Lorraine has already struggled with council tax bailiffs in the past – not because she does not want to pay it, she explained, but because she can’t afford to pay it. “You start off with a debt that I think it was £1,600, but now is £2,300, because every time a bailiff comes, you get £200 put on top. And you have to, obviously, not answer your door, because… it’s all been very stressful.”

Lorraine is nearly finished with her master’s degree, which she started soon after completing her first degree in International Relations and Politics. Nevertheless, as a student Lorraine has been suffering the stress of having to continually switch between universal credit and her student loan. She expressed how, as a result, there were periods of time when she could not claim any benefits. “In that time, I think it was the September when I started uni, until January, I had been entitled to absolutely zero. And now I owe them over £1,000. Then this is how people get in debt.”

Even though Lorraine hopes getting these degrees will help her secure a better job, she is not oblivious to the barriers that stand in her way out of poverty, one of them being her age: “I’m going to be 60, so I may not be most employers first choice, because of my age”. Lorraine added: “I wish I had gone to university years ago, but you get stuck in that trap – you’re so busy spending your whole life concentrating on how you’re going to live, that you forget maybe there’s something you can do about it. It’s just a constant loop you get stuck in.”

Lorraine also reflected on how difficult it is for people and families to break the cycle of poverty. “If I get a better job, it will change for me. But all these people that are in world wage, they can’t all go out and go get degrees and get better jobs. It doesn’t work like that, because there are not enough jobs anyway. Who would do the jobs that people look down on if everyone got out and tried to do better? People should be paid for the value of their work – a cleaner is valuable, but they don’t treat it like that”, she says. “There should be a minimum wage and it should be enough that people can live on, and if they go out to work, they should be able to live on it. Have enough to pay their bills, to eat and everything, and have a little bit leftover. Everyone should have that.”