Jamie is married with six children and works 37.5 hours per week. His oldest two children still live at home, although Jamie receives no child benefit or child tax credits for them anymore. Jamie has four children still at school, two of whom are twins. While Jamie works full-time his income is low and, although he receives full working tax credits and child tax credits, he receives no state support with the costs of schooling, which he finds very difficult. There are times when choices have to me made about whether his children can participate in activities with their school friends.
When asked how he was coping on his current income, Jamie replied, ‘it's tough, it is, it's tough’. ‘It's tougher than it has been previously. You're trying to make less money stretch further. If you are doing simple things like school dinners and things like that, is £2.50 per day or something like that.’ Jamie said that he has asked the school whether they would be eligible for free school dinners but that they are not because he works full time. As regards the cost of school lunches, Jamie says ‘straight away there, if you take into account the two wee ones, they’re at primary school, and the two older ones at secondary school, you're talking, just for their lunches, about 50 quid a week’. ’Even if you go down the packed lunch route it's still close to 50 quid a week for the four of them. Then you got bus fares and things like that as well’. ‘I don't think they take stuff like that (expenditure) into account’.
As well as feeling he would benefit with help for school lunches, Jamie also feels that he would benefit from help with uniform costs: ‘Having a bit of a discount would help, on things like school uniform and that because the two oldest ones, they have to wear school uniforms, so they have to have trousers, shirt and tie, skirts, whatever, they cannae just... the primary school kids you can throw on joggers and a black sweatshirt and they'll go to school quite happily, but the older ones, it has to look nice... (so they don't) get slagged off by their pals (for not having the right clothes), so it’s the higher-end stuff, to fit in with everyone else, so ... I suppose things like that could be a bit cheaper’.
When asked about school trips, Jamie said ‘we've got a problem with them going on camps. For example, the twins I've got that are at high school, when they were leaving primary seven, and there's a P7 camp, and there was no discount for the fact that we've got two children, so I think for both of them to go it would have cost us about four hundred and odd pounds so it ended up I think, in truth, that the two of them kidded on (pretended) they didn't want to go, because they knew how expensive it was going to be for us. We basically just couldn't afford to send two of them. So they missed out on that. We asked the school could they no... we weren’t asking for one for free but is there no chance of a discount or anything. We even suggested that the school tried to do some kind of car boot sale or anything like that to raise funds so that everybody got it cheaper, because it's not just us in that position. They said they'd take out ideas on board but they never did anything about it. So, it's tough when it comes to things like that as well, trips and things.’ Jamie was asked how he thinks the twins felt about it, he said ‘like I say, they made out they were all right about it but they were more gutted when their pals come back and started telling them the stories of things they got up to and things like that and they weren’t able to go. But they weren't the only ones’.
When asked whether Jamie thinks there has been a health effect on him or his wife of living on a low income he said: ‘there's definitely an added stress, to try to keep her head above water kind of thing. That brings stresses and strains. When the kids, like at high school, they need extra money for home economics for cooking and things like that, so they come in and say, because there twins they both come in and say “I need six pounds for cooking”, so suddenly there's £12, which doesn't sound a lot but I mean, that's a couple days’ worth of electricity. I think my wife gets more stress than me, but that's just the kind of nature I've got, I just let most things slide and deal with it... My wife gets stressed out with it.’
Names have been changed to protect anonymity and photos of models are courtesy of © NHS Scotland 2011.