High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare (HMRC)

Further to yesterday’s post, my call to HMRC this morning left me with no other choice but to quit my job. It is not until something is taken away that you begin to realise how much it is appreciated in your life. This is the case with my job. I have been with the company for 4 years, enjoy working with the team, the variety of the workload and the work environment. The simple fact is i can no longer ‘afford’ to work there. Now HMRC have said our joint  income is  over the threshold, they will no longer contribute towards my childcare costs. My salary only exceeds my childcare costs by £50 and that is before fuel, so i would effectively be paying to go to work. It seems it is a luxury if you are a working mum earning less than £15 per hour to keep the wheels of your career turning, if you want o work before your child is at school and your husband earns at least 20k. In other words, unless you are earning megabucks, the Government want you to be a good wife and stay at home with the children.

As much as i love baby boy, i also enjoy some time at work and I am not altogether thrilled at the prospect of being at home 5 daus a week, but i have done it before when my daughter was my som’s age, so he may as well get the same level of attention. Some people would argue, ‘if you dont want to look after them full-time, why bother having kids’? Which has an element of truth, in an ideal world i would share this responsibility with my husband but  i can only justifiably do this if i can match his salary or exceed it. This is tricky when my CV already has gaps from previous spells of ull-time parenting.

I have just got to do what most mums have to do and ‘suck it up’ , whatever ‘it’ is. This scenario goes to show that Kirstie Allsopp’s view that young women are better getting married and having children in their twenties makes far more sense than spending years getting qualified, only for it to all fall by the wayside once children come along – because to work is a lifestyle choice, only worthwhile for Mums in the top income brackets.

Now…..where is my pinny?

The only Mums who can work are the HMRC – High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare

This blog is for Unicef – thanks for reading

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HMRC or Sherriff of Nottingham?

Since I have returned to work after having my son in 2012, i have been relying on HMRC’s childcare element of working tax credit to assist with childcare costs. If I didn’t have this assistance it would be completely pointless to work as my childcare costs would cancel out my earnings. Every time i receive my annual tax credits award, it feels like i am reading some complicated general ledger. For Part 2 you have been awarded £xx, part 3 you have been awarded £0.0 and then at the end of this complicated list of sums and numbers, i read that i actually owe HMRC £6,000. “What!” i scream to an empty room. I then dog put all my previous awards notices to see if i can locate the logic of this total but to no avail.

I dont trust their judgement. They tried to claim £3000 crom my husband recently for the tax year 2012. My husband was confused so he contacted his accontant and rang our old bank to get bank statements and sure enough we had paid ir years ago, it had just hot lost in HMRC’s system and they couldnt be bothered to check it for themselves.  I am hoping it is poor admin that hasled to this bizarre request for money.

I will look forward to sitting on hold for 30 mins before i get through to someone.

Regardless of the outcome, HMRC paperwork would not win awards from the plain English campaign. Yet this is one of the most important national forms of communications – supporting millions of people at all levels of society with their means of earning a living, but what you are entitled to and why is indecipherable. It is almost as if the complexity of the literature they send is deliberate. At least i only have to try and get help with childcare, god knows what it must be like if you are claiming other benefits or allowances. It is so complicated that I believe most people would need the assistance of an accountant to work it out and also establish where HMRC have hone wrong. But most people cant afford accountants fees.

HMRC are there to help the nation, but why do i get the impression that they are more like the Sherriff of Nottingham. In which case we need a modern day Robin Hood, especially under this Government.

I missed a post yesterday so a pound in the pot to Unicef.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

The rutting season

I could barely walk this morning. Yesterday i powerhooped, jogged, rode and jumped my way through the day and paid for it today – i was all out of high-kicks.

I swam during my lunch-break, which felt good although i do find it frustrating. Swimming is one of the few sports where the more effort you put in, the less progress you make, hence the frustration. It is not about effort, but technique. I have a friend who seems to effortlessly glide and tumble turn through her lengths, while i am gasping for breath at each end. If i attempt a tumble-turn, i always end up in a different direction of travel. So i do what i do in most situations, i try harder, which only serves to slow me down more aarrgh!

My husband’s career is a bit like swimming. He has tried to work harder to get better qualifications but so far he isnt even getting job interviews, let alone jobs. He is trying to switch jobs, albeit in the same industry but having worked as a tree surgeon for 20 years, employers cant see him as anything but a tree surgeon.

For me, in my existing career, i have all the qualifications and experience i need o progress, but having a family and taking a couple of years off for children has stalled my earning potential. I have had at least 2 potential employers turn me down simply because my current salary doesnt look good, despite my skills and experience. They find it difficult to take me seriously, hence the dead-endedness of my job.

As for ambitions to be a social worker…still waiting for that 1 year magic conversion course o materialise. Until then i will carry on ploughing this furrow (albeit not a bad one as furrows go).

With the boot on the other foot, we had a few job application forms to sift through for my colleague’s maternity cover. For some reason i honed in on the birth-date and my boss questioned short-listing someone in their early 60s arguing that they would not have enough knowledge of social media. On paper this particular person seemed o be the most experienced of the lot of them, so i am interviewing her. This remark comes from the same boss who asked me in my interview if i was going to have more children…..

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

 

Experienced to a degree

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My husband is trying to change his career. He wants to remain in arboriculture but do more walking, less climbing, more talking, less sawing and more pen-pushing, less grafting.

For him to do this he needs qualifications and some of these qualifications are hard to acquire. He has just found out he has failed one of his courses and i am trying to prop up his self-esteem and confidence, encouraging him to keep n going because his current job will have him slumped in a wheelchair by the time he is 55. Like many who have had to return back to education to improve career prospects, he is regretting not concentrating more at school.

Frustratingly, many of the jobs he is looking at want more than just qualifications, they want a degree. Why do so many jobs request this?

Now the Government has made it harder to afford higher education, so where does that leave society? The well-paid getting their offspring jobs, but your average family struggling to get past first base because of employers wanting degrees left, right and centre?

Employers need to stop requesting degrees for so many jobs at varying levels across industries. When this happens the job-market will become more accessible, less people will be on benefits and there won’t be  this glut of graduates ever year who start life in debt but unable to get a job, when they could have been building up 3 years work experience.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Coconut & Kitsch

I have just drunk a cup of coffee mixed with coconut milk and it tasted good. I am also wearing a small Jack Russell porcelain ornament on a necklace around my neck on an impulse buy this morning – it is a strange mixture of cute and bad taste, I suppose you would describe it as ‘kitsch’. However as I passed it dangling in the shop window it pulled me like a magnet because it looked like one of my dogs when she was a puppy. However, the way it is assembled looks as if the dog is literally hanging from its neck ie being hung, or it is playfully dangling – I see it in different lights according to my mood. It was relatively cheap (funny that) so it is not as if I spent a fortune on something whimsical  – I am a fan of spending money for better causes.

Nethertheless, like the bag I have covered in boats, it was something that ‘I had to have in my life’. My husband succumbs to these temptations too but they tend to be a lot bigger budget (machines mainly). I knew he would grumble at my hung dog so I decided not to mention it, despite the fact that it is dangling around my neck – he hasnt noticed it yet – shows how often he looks at my chest…

This is a short one today as I have had my head in a computer for long enough already filling out another job application. In an ideal world I would be a social worker, but until they bring back the one year degree conversion training, I will plough on through my existing ditch, in an effort to avoid the dead-end that is looming.

I think the message from today’s post is try something different if your gut says go with it, even if its coconut milk and porcelain miniature dogs on chains.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Kirstie Allsopp and nesting

Finally a woman has had the balls to say women should not be expected to do everything and this is from a feminist standpoint.

Kirstie Allsopp’s views have divided opinion, like all views on life choices, there is not ‘the best’ choice and KA is by no means suggesting that women should give up entirely on higher education, it is simply a matter of priorities and like it or loathe it, most women would like to have children so why not do it earlier rather than later? Why should we bust a gut getting qualifications, salaries and everything else ticked off before children? Only to then exist on an endless and exhausting merry-go-round of work deadlines, bedtime routines and house-work, by which time we are too tired (and a bit too long in the tooth) to enjoy any of it?

In an ideal world, men would also carry babies and deliver them so partners could play swapsies with career progression and childcare. However we still live in a society where it is less acceptable by men to take a break from work and look after children, therefore women take up this role in the majority of cases. I believe being a mum is the best job in the world, but it also helps to have a bit of money coming in, not lots, just enough to pay the food bills and mortgage and enjoy  the occasional break and holiday. Not many couples can afford to do this on a single income. To get a job that pays 20k plus, most employers require a degree, so then we are back to square one again.

Hopefully degrees will not be such a pre-requisite for high-paying jobs and the value of experience, on the job training and apprenticeship schemes will once again come to the fore. This approach will help people who are young and unsure which career to follow. So many are under pressure to make these decisions at 17, work hard to get a degree in the relevant subject, only to be completely disenchanted when they enter the world of work.

I think my advice to my daughter and son would be to do what they enjoy and work and careers will come and find them . As for relationships and babies, i think these are better left unplanned because none of us ever start life knowing when we will meet the right person or whether we can have children, so to start life expecting to have this ‘ticked off’ by a certain stage in life is doomed to disappoint. If it happens, it happens.

If you make plans in life, God laughs.

Just like the Mummy and Daddy bluebird who returned home tonight to find their Oak tree gone and their nest full of babies gone with it. My husband thought he had checked the dead Oak before he felled it, but obviously not close enough. As he glanced down he saw a nest and three babies on the ground, one dead the others still alive. Cursing their misfortune and blaming himself, he moved the nest to the nearest safe place. Life happens and rarely in the way you had hoped or expected.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

the people’s fashionista

I am a big fan of social enterprises, those that benefit other people and support fair trade as well as the bottom line.

I received some combat trousers from Next the other day and was shocked at how appallingly made they were. The stitching was all jagged and frayed and the material was flimsy to say the least, you could almost picture the sweat shop that it came from somewhere in Asia. When you hear on the news that they are making record-breaking profits, you have to wonder about their profit margins.

People Tree is a company that offers fair trade fashion. It is obviously more expensive than Next but the cotton it uses is thicker and softer, the quality vastly superior and their ethical credentials excellent. Their catalogues feature pictures of the people in India who make the clothing and how People Tree are ensuring they get a fair deal and work in good conditions. It is not just marketing spiel, they really do care. However, their designs are just not for me. I have tried to wear a few of their dresses and they just make me feel fat and old – never a good combo. So I tend to stick to their two piece sets as I find these more flattering. I wish they did shoes, as I have yet to find a good fair trade shoe label.

Children’s clothing is slightly better with the range of fair trade brands, with Frugi being my favourite. From time to time Marks and Spencer sell products using Fair trade cotton, but this doesn’t extend across their range.

I think fashion still has a long way to go on ethical trading, which is why I am more comfortable hunting for items in charity shops than flicking through the sale rail of a high street brand.

Kate Middleton has been commended for supporting the British high street but I would like to see her using her profile to raise awareness of fair trade and wear brands that promote the social enterprise business model. She would be doing far more good this way – Baby George should be dressed ethically too.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – cluck here if you can support the campaign.

Thanks for reading.