A single mother wrote a powerful open letter to the government in 2016 highlighting the ways in which it has failed her and her young son.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, lived in Galway, just 15 minutes from then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny. She had grievances regarding the lack of support she had received with her health, education and accommodation. She intended to raise these issues with canvassing politicians ahead of the General Election of 2016, but as she said ‘I have yet to meet any politician at my door’.
So to give a real insight into the problems that are faced by people living on the poverty line, she wrote this open letter.
As I type this, I am wearing gloves, earmuffs and a scarf inside my house waiting for the first candidate in the county to knock on my door to try to win my vote. I have yet to meet any politician at my door.
I have maybe four teabags in my cupboard and no coffee, so I hope if someone comes they will be content to drink tap water while I show them how the tagline “Let’s Keep the Recovery Going” is simply a fantasy for those living on the poverty line.
I will tell them how my young child went to bed last night with two pairs of socks on and a hat; while I wore my scarf under a hoody because we had no oil or coal to heat the house. I will show them how draughty my rented accommodation is and let them see their own breath as fog as they speak to me.
I will tell them how I’ve been juggling single motherhood and my education for the last seven years and how I am now qualified with a C.V. packed with voluntary work and community involvement.
I’ll show them my awards and professional references to prove that I am not the ‘lazy, single mother’ the media paints us as when discussing welfare.
I will them tell them how the years of pressure to juggle the maintenance of a household on an allowance which has been consistently cut during the austerity measures, with rising costs of childcare and increasing pressure to gain an education for employability; eventually caught up on me.
I will outline how I would stay awake until daylight calculating how I would make 217.80 stretch far enough to pay rent, childcare, petrol costs, heating, food and bills. It never did.
So I spent further time making negotiations over the phone with Electric Ireland begging them not to cut me off. I’ll tell them how I also begged the welfare office to help me with subsidising childcare during the academic term and how I was refused rent supplement due to the fact that I had moved away from home for college.
I’ll tell them how those barriers and slammed doors, caused so much stress and pressure that I inevitably had a mental breakdown and fell into a state of immobilisation and minimum functioning.
I will tell then tell them how the mental health system failed me over and over again refusing to acknowledge my immediate need for talk therapy and practical support. I will tell them how the health professionals simply prescribed medication for ‘depression and anxiety’ and placed me on all sorts of waiting lists (that I still have yet thear from a year later).
I will recall a time twelve months ago when I began to truly believe I was a failure as a mother and an overall human and thus believed my child would thrive better without me.
I believed what the government, the media and the internet trolls were saying. I believed I was a drain on society and that I was “a waste of space and taxpayers money”. In my medicated state, I decided the best thing to do was die and get out of everyone’s way. And so I tried that.
Luckily I was unsuccessful in my attempt and brought to the local hospital by college staff.
I will then tell the local candidate, how I was left on a trolley in a corridor in May General Hospital for hours, going in and out of consciousness, only to be sent wobbling out the door late that night and told not to do it again.
I will explain that I am recovering now and doing so much better but that I have to make a serious effort to travel to Galway for the support I need, because the services in our own constituency do not have the funding to reduce their waiting lists to see me.
I’ll explain that this is why the house is cold today and why they can hear my stomach rumbling.
Because this week I had to pay to travel to another county to get the support I need to maintain wellbeing and thus have to go without basic heat and food.
I’ll show them the pile of unpaid bills and open my purse to show them the forty cent to get me to the end of the week.
Then I will tell them about a new, even scarier problem.
I will tell them about how my child is now also starting to show signs of mental unrest as he struggles to come to terms with the father’s abandonment and continuous absence. I will tell them how my beautiful, sweet, intelligent child has begun to blame himself for a decision made by a grown man to ignore his existence. He is angry and sad and confused about all the overwhelming feelings and worries that he is ‘going black on the inside’.
I’ll tell them that our GP has identified a need for him to speak to a professional regarding his feelings immediately for effective early intervention, but that the public system again has long waiting lists for his age.
I’ll tell them that I have rang over twenty private practitioners in the county and how each of them charge amounts that I can certainly not afford while living on the poverty-line. And that in order for us to do so, we will have to cut our grocery shopping costs in half and say goodbye to heat entirely.
I’ll then ask them to explain to me how the slogan “Let’s Keep the Recovery Going” is justifiable when the people on the ground in the Taoiseach’s own constituent are being denied access to basic heath recovery.
But then again. Will anyone even knock at all?”
The letter was published online by several mainstream newspapers and caused heated debate about whether the government is doing enough to assist single parents and people on low income.