I met Claire five years ago in Keighley, Yorkshire. She and her long-term partner Sean had many drug related issues. Claire had just given birth to Ellie-May, her seventh child. The other five (one was still-born) were taken by Social Services either at birth or soon after. Social Services worked very hard to enable Claire to keep Elie-May and were very supportive.
I formed a close relationship with Claire and Sean and visited them several times while they were in Keighley. Sean was a great guy and we’d have many discussions covering everything from politics to quantum physics, in which he had a keen interest and knowledge. Things were going well for them until Shaun lost his struggle to keep off drugs. Social services found out and told Claire she had to leave him or they would take Ellie-May from her. She left Keighley to stay in a women’s hostel and then resettled in Blackpool. It was all too much for Sean. He hung himself three months later.
Since moving to Blackpool, Claire has focused very much on doing right for Ellie-May who is now a very bubbly and confident five-year-old. Claire met Colin and they briefly had a relationship and remain friends. I visited them in 2015 when they were living together. They split up the following year and Claire and Ellie-May moved into a flat a mile further out of town. When Colin got evicted, Claire helped him to find a new flat directly below hers.
Claire is now struggling to survive on Universal Credit (UC), which was rolled out in Blackpool in December 2018. Since its introduction Claire struggles to have enough money for food, heating and electricity, and lives from hand to mouth. At one point Claire had her UC suspended for two months, which is a ridiculous thing to do to a single mum with no other source of income. She told me she was asked to attend a meeting with the UC office, but it clashed with a parents evening. She asked and was given permission to not attend the meeting. She went in the next day to re-arrange a time with UC and was now told that the meeting had been a mandatory one and therefore her UC was suspended as a punishment. When this happens, claimants have nothing to live on and have to beg for loans from the Benefits Office. It’s very demeaning and designed to make people feel worthless.
Claire has never stopped talking about Sean and misses him dearly.