Blog: Kids can’t wait another three years

Community Activist Kerrie Friel discusses the need to fast track the Scottish Government’s new income supplement for families on low incomes.

I believe that the people of Scotland are proud that we live in a society founded upon compassion and justice, yet without urgent action, one in three of our children will be swept into poverty by 2020.

In my community, working families are struggling to survive on zero hour contracts. Lone parents are financially abandoned with the fundamentally flawed Child Maintenance Service making this even worse. Families caring for disabled children are told their kids are suddenly not autistic enough, or that their crippling arthritis is fine because they were able to walk one day. These families are constantly treading water and it’s getting harder to stay afloat.

I worked for over 20 years and was in my mid 30s before finding myself as a lone parent to four children, one of whom has additional needs.

I’m always very positive and used to say “there’s no use crying over spilt milk” but that changed the day I actually spilt the last of my milk due to physical and emotional exhaustion. That spilt milk was going to give my three older kids their breakfast cereal, and my baby her bottle.

I cried and cried over that spilt milk because my kids now had no breakfast, my baby didn’t have her bottle, and I had no energy to walk to the shops (had I managed to scrape together some money to buy it). The outside world didn’t see me drowning in despair, every day my wee family was sinking, and I had to admit defeat and say I’ve worked most of my life, lived as frugally as I can, yet we’re consumed by our circumstances. My elderly parents were my lifeline, but what if they couldn’t help?

When poverty has never been on our radar, we think we’re like the Titanic, that we’re unsinkable. But when we hit an iceberg in the form of a job loss, relationship breakdown, illness, disability, death, we realise that we are sinking and desperately need a lifeline. We’d want that lifeline to represent someone telling us to grab an ore as they pull us onto the lifeboat – the last thing we need is someone hitting us over the head with the ore in judgement telling us it’s our fault. We’re all human, we will all hit a financial or emotional iceberg at some point in our lives, if we all look out for each other in times of need we can all be proud that we’ve helped to save lives – what’s more rewarding than that?

Westminster’s austerity is driving poverty but the Scottish Government must do what it can with the powers it has. The new income supplement will be a lifeline for families desperate to stay afloat, but we need it now. Kids can’t wait.

You can show your support for the campaign by using the hashtag #KidsCantWait

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