Families forced to make do as the squeeze takes hold
By Leek Post and Times | Wednesday, July 06, 2011, 09:00
KARREN and Kenny Dunn-Fox have five children admit they are constantly "robbing Peter to pay Paul" to ensure they can maintain their household.
From the left, parent Kelly Bloor, Haregate Residents' Association chairman Alan Scragg and councillor Steve Povey.
The couple – parents to Connor, aged 10, Olivia, aged eight, Willy, aged seven, Joel, aged five and three-year-old Laila – live off £560 a fortnight child tax credits, income support and incapacity benefits.
The family, of Buxton Road, Leek, spend £600 a fortnight and rely on family support, hand-me-downs and loans to get by. Kenny is unable to work and receives incapacity benefits.
Karren, aged 40, who has two grown-up children from a previous relationship, said: "Having five children means they constantly need shoes, uniforms, and clothing because they grow so fast. Thank God for eBay.
"Luckily my brother and sister-in-law have children of a similar age and they pass on clothes they've grown out of to us, which helps a lot.
"Sometimes we have to borrow money from family for things like school trips and we had a computer given to us so the kids could have the internet for their homework. We're lucky to have a big family to help us."
The family do not have holidays, Karren and Kenny do not smoke or drink, and they only use the family car when it is absolutely necessary.
Karren said: "We walk instead of using the car unless it's raining or we really need to because of the cost of petrol and car parking has gone up.
"The Government's on about increasing tax on people carriers, but that's targeting families who are already struggling.
"It's why I haven't passed my driving test because I can't afford to."
Despite admitting that life is hard, Karren said the family and children have learned to adapt.
She insisted there was "no excuse" for families to live in squalor as there is always help available.
She added: "It's not like when I was young when we lived in hand-me downs and knitted cardigans.
"There's no reason for people to say they don't get this and that because they have a far better deal nowadays.
"It can feel like you're given it in one hand and it's taken from another, but it is certainly no excuse for anyone to be living in squalor.
"It's the older generation I feel for because of rising gas and electricity costs.
"The problem is with these young girls having children to stop them going out to work. I have worked and haven't always been like this."
Karren is a qualified hairdresser, but after leaving work 16 years ago to raise her family, she now needs to re-qualify to get up-to-date on the latest trends, which she cannot afford.
She had been hoping to go into adult learning when Laila goes to school next year, but is hampered after leaving school with only an art qualification.
She added: "I'd have to start from scratch but my age goes against me.
"It's a catch-22 situation and there's no middle ground.
"I can't find the money to fund it and qualifications are changing all the time.
"It's harder for women anyway getting a job because they have to look after the house and children and child care fees are extortionate.
"I suffer really badly with a lack of confidence having been stuck at home for so long and because I was married once before and suffered domestic violence."
Single mother-of-five Kelly Bloor, formerly of Leek but now of Biddulph, said buying the necessities took up most of her income.
The 24-year-old is a full-time mum to Caitlin, aged eight, Chelsea, aged seven, Leo, aged five, Levi, aged four, and two-year-old Lewis.
She said: "It costs me about £200 a month on nappies, baby wipes, and clothing, another £50 on bills and £100 on food shopping.
"It's tight but I manage. I have to limit what I buy for birthdays and Christmas, we don't have holidays, I buy the cheapest options, and have to be strict with my budget. It is hard."
"More people will be struggling with all of the costs going up.
"If my gas and electric go up any more I don't know how I'll afford it."
Haregate is statistically one of the poorest estates in the Moorlands.
Alan Scragg, chairman of Haregate Residents' Association, said: "I'm shocked that such a figure exists in this day and age.
"I will be bringing this up at our next meeting."
County and district councillor Steve Povey said he had a lot of sympathy for families who live had to mouth.
Mr Povey said: "I am a governor at a school and I know a lot of children have school dinners which indicates there is obviously a problem.
"We have somehow got to make sure that disadvantaged children do not suffer – it is something the Government and local authorities have to solve."
Councillor Linda Malyon, who represents Ipstones, said times were tough for families in rural areas.
She added: "These figures are terrible and action is urgently required.
"People living in the country area need their cars for essential travel like doctors, dentist and shopping, but the high costs of fuel were causing problems for all residents."