Jane is a young widow with three children. Her husband was killed two years ago, and she was left to cope with a two-year old and two school-age children, together with three dogs and a cat. The only money she has is from State Benefits, totalling a little under £250 a week.
When her husband was alive, he registered with the Job Centre and was led to believe that they would pay his gas bill with British Gas. It was a mistake and Jane was eventually faced with a debt of about £4,000, which she has managed to bring down to £2,500.
In the colder months her gas charges are £70 a week, including a £10 debt repayment. Being in debt to British Gas she is on the highest tariff and unable to switch to a cheaper supplier.
She spent many hours and a lot of money trying to speak to someone in British Gas about the problem, calling their premium rate number and hanging on interminably.
Eventually they noticed and called her to set up the repayment scheme.
On the second anniversary of her husband’s killing she had absolutely no money, not even a penny, and therefore could not buy even the smallest bunch of flowers for his grave.
Jane, and probably thousands like her, are suffering from the tyranny of poverty. When you have no money, you cannot easily sort out problems like the one with British Gas, you cannot assert your rights, you cannot deal with the obstructive bureaucracy and mini hitlers that make life even more difficult.
Perhaps the worst consequence of having no money is the effect on your morale. The self-employed will have some understanding of this. When times are hard, as at present, and orders dry up, the dwindling bank balance can be dispiriting and cause a person to lose the confidence to go looking for business. It affects your self esteem when you can no longer afford the things you used to buy without a second thought.
Jane has long since passed that point. She is scratching around to survive and to provide the occasional treat for her children, often compounding her debts in the process.
There are days when she wonders if it’s worth carrying on. So how does she cope? Anti-depressants.
That’s the tyranny of poverty.