Feel so stuck and useless

Hi everyone. I’m Nadine and I’m new here.
I’m a single mum of a 12 yr old son who has autism, learning difficulties and a physical disability. Obviously I’m his full time carer.
We rent a flat and receive benefits to live.
I have recently had a breakdown as my depression and anxiety have got so so bad, because I am so sick of being stuck in this situation. I so want to work, part time, so i can have a sense of pride in bringing some of my own money in and to get out and do something with my life, but I’m so limited. I only have the hours that my son is at school. I have no other help with him and there are no breakfast or after school clubs at my sons special needs school. I am qualified in working with children and young people, I have diplomas and stuff, but no degree. But I have an awful lot of experience through my own situation and volunteering that I have done through the past few years.
Every school job as a TA/INA etc need you to start at 8.30/8.45am etc and this is not possible because I am getting my son to school. It has to be a school job as I have no one to have my son in the school holidays. Then there’s the thing where I need to work over 16 hrs, but I don’t want too many because it will exhaust me as caring for George is very hard work. Then there’s the issue of the cap of what you can earn and get carers allowance. It’s all so bloody complicated and confusing. All i want is to not have to rely totally on benefits and to do something with my life. I am severely depressed being stuck in this situation and I really worry about the future. I know people look down on me for living off benefits and it’s so degrading. I also have my own health problems and mental health issues which makes it even harder to deal with living like this.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I just don’t know what to do anymore. Thankyou.

Hi Nadine
Welcome to the forum, I’m going to suggest something that may be totally daft but with all your experience, have you thought about care work? The reason I have suggested that is because I am still doing paid care work which I started when I was a carer but am working with a lady who is a mum and like you she can only work once she has finished the school run and term times only. She works for the same company as me but only a very few selected hours- better than nothing. You would still get the Carers allowance but I’m not sure about the 16 hours bit for other benefits, others may be able to advise.
Are there any special needs day centre type places looking for carers - zero hour contracts are not all bad, it so much depends on your other circumstances.

Hi Nadine

I’m wondering if some sort of self-employment/freelance work might be a good option here? Is there anything you’re good at that you might be able to turn into a business venture, for example - possibly in conjunction with someone else? Maybe you’re good with your hands, or something. I have various contacts who do things like typing, editing, translation and so on, precisely because they can set their own working conditions/times and fit it round their childcare responsibilities. This wouldn’t entirely solve your problem, as it sounds to me as if you need to get out of the house and meet people as well, but it might at least give a boost to your self-esteem.

Down my way, there are several support groups for women who run their own businesses which meet up mid-morning precisely because it fits in with their childcare schedules. I can’t speak for all of them, but as far as the one I’ve attended goes I could imagine myself, in your shoes, just going in there and briefly explaining your situation and that you’re wanting to work if you can find something that fits around your responsibilities, and see if anyone has any suggestions. They might even know someone who knows someone who … sometimes these things take time.

Other things which occur to me are:

  • places like supermarkets are apparently quite childcare-friendly: I believe my local Sainsbury’s operates a system whereby parents with school-age children work during term-time and then are replaced by students etc. during school holidays.
  • I know we tend to treat them as the Devil’s own spawn, but zero-hours contracts, if managed properly, do seem to work successfully for some people precisely because they can set their own working hours.
  • volunteering. I know you’re really looking for paid employment (not sure how many charities actually pay their casual workers), but again getting out and meeting people might be of benefit.
  • Don’t forget those transferable skills you’ve acquired through being the carer for your son, too!

But whatever you do, do make sure that you can keep it within its bounds. If it starts to spill over into the time you need to be with your son it will become intensely stressful, so make sure you factor in plenty of leeway between the two.

All the best!

Hi Nadine,

I totally understand your feelings, as my son was brain damaged when he was born and life changed forever.
I’m OK now, it’s been a long journey! When he was about 10 years old, I found a degree course for mature students, one day a week, studying at home. I’m not sure if it was a real challenge or pure escapism, but I was so proud to get an Honours degree in Business Studies.

When did your son last have a Needs Assessment, and you, a Carers Assessment, from Social Services? Supposed to be updated annually.

Have you ever been given the opportunity of talking seriously about your son’s post education future? I would strongly recommend finding a residential course that leads to supported living. It will take ages to find and plan, so don’t think it’s too early to start finding out more. It isn’t!!

A variety of suggestions here, and I do hope that one/some are possibles for you.

However, I just wanted to pick up on your point that you said you felt bad that people ‘look down’ on you for being on benefits.

NEVER NEVER NEVER let them say that or think that!

You are NOT ‘living on benefits’…you are in fact being ‘paid a pittance’ for being a full-time carer for a child with special needs!

The implication that you’re lounging around at home, smoking fags and knocking back booze, because you’re a malingering layabout is utterly utterly NOT TRUE.

Your life is LOADS AND LOADS harder than most of us will ever ever know!

You are NOT on a ‘benefit’ - you are on an appallingly low ‘wage’ from a government that is saving thousands and thousands of pounds by expecting families to do caring for a pittance.

If YOU were not looking after your son, he would be costing the state a FORTUNE in a specialist care home! Even ‘well’ children in care cost FAR FAR FAR more than any tax credits or housing benefits that parents can claim etc etc etc. Taking a child into care is MASSIVELY expensive.

So, NEVER felt ‘put down’ for doing for a pittance what it would cost the state a fortune to do otherwise!!!