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Debt, benefits & retraining

LadyGagarin
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Debt, benefits & retraining

#77425

Postby LadyGagarin » August 27th, 2017, 8:45 pm

Apologies if this is not the right board but not sure where else to ask.

I have been for many years a working single parent, claiming tax credits and Housing Benefit.

My daughter is nearly 15 now. For various reasons, I want to retrain. The profession I am considering would necessitate 3+ years of study financed by student - tuition & maintenance - loans topped up by tax credits and benefits. However according to a number of sources, if I report a change of circumstances I will have to make a whole new - and presumably onerous, involving being spoken to as a pseudo-criminal - application for the dreaded Universal Credit.

I am still several thousand pounds in debt, living hand-to-mouth and sick of doing a poorly-paid 9 - 5 admin job that means little to me and barely covers the bills. But I hesitate to try and retrain in case I make matters worse. I can't afford to be without any income for weeks while it gets sorted and don't have a lot of fight in me at the minute. I just need to get a job I am good at, go to work and rely on earning my pay.

What would you do?

LadyG

Loup321
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#77683

Postby Loup321 » August 29th, 2017, 1:47 pm

You are not a single person (you have a child to support), so you only have to apply for Universal Credit if you live in one of the areas listed at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/jobcentres-where-you-can-claim-universal-credit Have you checked that list?

I'm not sure that a change in circumstances would necessitate a new claim. That would mean that anyone doing different shifts each week who has to take in payslips each week would need to make a new claim. As far as I am aware (from speaking with the lady down the road, so not first hand) any change in income is a "change in circumstances", so when her husband's shifts change it all gets complicated and they have a month or two when they don't get their Housing Benefit on time and she is down the Council offices once a week.

I don't have first hand experience, but I don't think you will be spoken to as a pseudo-criminal. If that happens, complain. It may be onerous to do the application (if you have to), but you have a right to be treated with respect. If that is not happening at any point, remind them they have to treat you with respect and you will be making a complaint, and if it doesn't change instantly, then leave or end the phone call (and make the complaint). If you are organized, with all your facts straight and all your documentation available and easy to find, you should have the confidence to answer any questions and not feel like they are looking down on you.

I don't know whether you have to worry about applying for Universal Credit (almost certainly not unless you live in an affected area, and probably not elsewhere), but your worry about your money being stopped while they assess your changes in your claim are real.

What would I do? I would sit down with a spreadsheet, and work out where I would be in 6 years (3 years of retraining and 3 years of new job), and work out what my financial situation would be. Make plenty of best case and worst case guesses, and assume that all the benefits will be paid (even if lots come in late, list them as being paid on time and assume that you will be able to cope with the stress). Use all the calculators to see what benefits, grants and loans you would be entitled to with a range of circumstances (and include when your daughter leaves school in the calculations). With that information, you should be able to see from the financial perspective what the correct path to follow will be. If that is to follow your dream, then go for it. If the financially correct path over 6 years is to stay as you are, but over X years time it would be to change direction, change direction depending on how big X is relative to your age and all the other factors you know are important in your life. If it makes no financial sense to change because your income will be so much lower while you're retraining and you're getting yourself into even worse debt, then you know you have to stay where you are.

amh4
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#77687

Postby amh4 » August 29th, 2017, 2:09 pm

Lady G

I do not know specifically how to advise, but I would imagine that your local college could advise you of the finanical aspects of everything. Or possibly the CAB, but they do seem so very busy nowadays, you might have a long wait for an appointment.

Alternatively, there seems to be much encouragement with large companies and local authorities to fund employees with long distance learning for a degree or qualification; I know of a couple of people who are studying this way. Yes it is hard, but it is definitely a huge step forward.

Other than that, will it be too late to follow your dream once your daughter has left school? As long as you keep the dream alive, tiny steps will suffice. In the meantime, keep on asking - I find most people are happy to help us when we ask.

Best of luck with whatever path you decide to take - do you utmost to keep that dream alive, it will repay you many times over.

Anne-Marie

melonfool
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#78604

Postby melonfool » September 2nd, 2017, 11:55 am

Well, you asked 'what would I do?'

I would get a better paid job NOW (or as soon as possible) and THEN start to think about retraining.

It's an admin job, it must be possible to get a better paid one. And, it doesn't matter how much you might hate it - you're not that bothered about the current one, it doesn't pay well, and you want to train to do something else anyway, so work towards another job now.

Target yourself to apply for two jobs a week, get someone to check your CV for you. How far can you travel for work? Can you move (I know your DD is at school but it is still possible and might need to be considered seriously - or at least aim to move after her GCSEs?).

I know a better paid job would probably reduce your benefits but gradually it is worth it, you'll get pay increases beyond any benefit increases and more opportunities, not to mention self-worth etc.

Mel

manzanilla
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#78636

Postby manzanilla » September 2nd, 2017, 1:28 pm

I agree with Mel.

Retraining may be good, but you have to really want to do three years studying. And i think if you did, you would have written something rather different, looking for ways to make it work.

midnightcatprowl
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#78652

Postby midnightcatprowl » September 2nd, 2017, 2:47 pm

Are you able to share a little about the sort of career you hope to train for? I think this is relevant to the questions you are asking.

LadyGagarin
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#79413

Postby LadyGagarin » September 5th, 2017, 7:15 pm

Apologies for not answering sooner - thought I had done, but the internet seems to have eaten my post!

I want to retrain as an Occupational Therapist. I've encountered OTs through my work so had some idea of what the job entails and have done some further research to try and find out if is for me. I plan to ask if I can spend some time shadowing one, difficult to arrange but vital to do this.

The bad news is, this has to be done full time - a substantial part of the training is on placement, so studying at weekends/evenings is out of the question.

The very good news is that they offer this course at my local uni(I can't afford to move, so this is a big plus point). I'm more than willing to put in the necessary study but my primary concern has to be whether I can support my family hence the focus of my post on solely financial matters. There isn't much point setting my heart on a career that is out of reach, practically speaking. :/

In the meantime though, I now have the chance to gain a qualification that's relevant to my current job. I have signed up as it will help me increase my income, enhance my CV and hopefully provide evidence that my study skills haven't gone completely rusty (which I will need for applications).

I have taken on board the advice about increasing my income now and have started applying for better-paying admin jobs again. Thanks again for your comments.

midnightcatprowl
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#79597

Postby midnightcatprowl » September 6th, 2017, 10:02 pm

OT is a really interesting job and one which is very valuable both to clients and to society as a whole.

I think that 'shadowing' someone is important if you can possibly arrange it as jobs like this often have aspects to them which are not obvious from the job description. For example if you are trying to work with an adult or a child you may discover that your expert help is countered by the strongly stated opinion of the client's second cousin twice removed who thinks that putting crystals round the client's neck or whacking them over the head with a board will actually produce a better outcome. Dealing with this sort of thing is often not mentioned in job descriptions! (N.B. I'm an ex educational psychologist so I've been there myself - the neighbour three doors along often knows so much better than you do!).

Have you been able to delve into employment prospects? There is a distinction between how many OTs are 'needed' and how many anyone/any organisation/any government is likely to fund. I'm sure you are aware of this already but when I was an Ed Psych I frequently had people coming to see me to discuss that career and found that a goodly proportion did not distinguish between 'need for a profession' and anybody actually paying someone to do the job. There are always of course endless opportunities to work for free or for starvation wages but that isn't really what you are trying to achieve!

Another issue about employment and I'll use the example of Ed Psychs again. I can't remember any time going right back to the 1970s and up to the present when there wasn't nationally a shortage of EPs. The catch was that trained EPs tended to cluster geographically around institutions which provided the training so there tended to be high levels of unemployment (well not actually unemployment because EPs have to be trained and experienced teachers and are often heads of department/deputy heads/headteachers before embarking on EP training so despite the national shortage of EPs many trained EPs are not employed as EPs but get absorbed back into the teaching profession, sometimes by choice of course, but sometimes not). The jobs were usually there but the trained people were not necessarily in a position to move to where those jobs were for a whole variety of reasons including partners needing to stay in an area because of their own employment, the needs of children (including adult children who don't find it so easy to fly the nest these days), the prospective needs of elderly parents and so on and so forth.

I'm absolutely not trying to put you off no matter how it might sound. Not just earning enough but having a satisfying job is something almost beyond price. But I think you do have to address certain issues. 'Training rates' via universities and other educational institutions are not usually really related in any way to the actual prospect of getting employment especially within striking distance of the training institution. I know you can't afford to move now but could you summon up the cash, and the determination, and the firmness maybe with nearest and dearest, for that one move which might be necessary to get your first job as an OT once you are trained?

I'm really glad to hear that you've found and are taking on a new opportunity in your current employment. I hope you do move forward in due course into OT training (if the shadowing doesn't put you off of course).

LadyGagarin
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Re: Debt, benefits & retraining

#80049

Postby LadyGagarin » September 9th, 2017, 5:59 am

Thanks MCP. Yes, I thought family involvement might be an issue - it certainly is in care homes, so a very valid point. I suspect many of the daily frustrations of an OT will be of a similar nature.

Moving for work when my daughter is older may be a possibility but I can't really plan to save a specific amount until I know what my income for the next few years is likely to be. (As always, it comes back to money!) That would certainly widen my opportunities.


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