There are different levels of Poverty – TK’s story

TK is a mother who is on her way to becoming a teacher. She recently took the time to share her insights and thoughts on how poverty has impacted the life of her and her family.

Poverty, in her experience, is not being able to take care of her children. It is not being able to pay her rent, and having to choose between feeding her children or paying her bills. It is not being able to have her lights on, or turn her gas on when she needs to. It is having to buy food that she knows is not good for their health, because she cannot afford to buy the healthier products.

In essence, poverty is not being able to live comfortably.

“Poverty – you always think is food-stricken, or people not living in a home”, T.K. explained. “But there are different levels of poverty. I was in a job, I was earning – and I still felt like I was living in a poverty state, because I still get paid and I still can’t pay all the bills at the end of the month. I still can’t buy all the food that I need for the end of the month. For me, poverty is earning – but you still can’t provide.”

When T.K. decided to further her career and go to university to become a qualified teacher, she thought she could turn to the local authority for financial help. However, she soon realised there was not much support available for her: “I assumed that I could go to the government. I assumed that I could ring HMRC, that I could ring Universal Credit. I assumed all the things that you hear you can get benefits from. But then when you ring, you realise there is no help. You then think: ‘Ok, where do I go from here?’”. T.K. described how, when trying to reach out for help, there were a lot of instructions for her to follow and a lot of criteria to fill. But this led nowhere, as she did not end up getting the actual help that she needed. According to T.K., this is the biggest gap that should be addressed.

In terms of additional help, T.K. expressed how she feels grateful for the support she has received from food banks and charity shops, since it is helping bridge the gap. Nevertheless, she also admitted that this is often not enough, as the severity of her needs outweighs the help she can get.

When asked about emotional support, T.K. explained that her faith has helped her remain strong. However, she also reflected on how society often makes her feel undervalued, even when she is trying to better herself and her family. Furthermore, she believes society should re-evaluate its approach in terms of emotional and mental health support: “People think that talking to someone solves the situation or the problem… No. If someone needs financial help, they don’t need you talking to them – they need financial help. If their children need clothes, you talking to them and saying ‘Ohh, don’t worry, things will be better, just hang in there’ – that’s not going to do anything because the kids need clothes!”. “And I think that’s where we’re getting it wrong”, T.K. adds, “Everyone thinks mental health and well-being is about the talking – but sometimes it’s the doing, to get them out of that state. That’s where society I believe is getting us wrong. Because it’s a lot of talking, and not a lot of doing.”