I first met Colin when he was living with Claire in his old house. They were in a loose relationship, which kind of suited them both. Colin has two children, Kayleigh 14 and Scott 13, and they now live with him in the flat below Claire.
Colin’s ex-wife initially looked after the children when their marriage ended several years ago but because they were often not attending school (Scott especially), they moved back to Blackpool to live with Colin. He managed to get them back on track, but they still go through phases of non-attendance. Scott says he finds school boring and pointless. When I met up with the family at the flat, Scott wasn’t going to school again and Kayleigh only went occasionally.
Colin really struggles to make ends meet. He has to work occasional nights in an Indian restaurant, into the small hours. It’s very tiring work and he sleeps in the front room so as not to disturb the kids when he gets back. He helps Claire out with Ellie-May and they have a close and loving relationship. Colin just survives because of his job, but his conditions are not good. Talking to him, this seems fairly normal for Blackpool.
Colin and Claire at there previous rental house in Blackpool
“Hiya. It's Colin and I'm 51, living in Blackpool now. I've got two of my kids living with me, marriage all split up and everything...”
“But we're struggling nowadays…”
“Universal Credit has really got us, no chance of ever having any spare money…”
“It's just a case of get it once a month, spend it and then suffer for the rest of the month. Part-time working keeps us alive just…”
“Pays for the kids' bus fares and stuff like that. During the 90s, the naughts, I made a lot of money working in a cafe which I went to, made a lot more money then…”
Colin in his new flat. His children, Kayleigh and Scott, now live with him. They sleep in the bedroom and Colin sleeps on the living room floor.
“But it all shut down, and we ended up with nothing…”
“So nowadays, we just battle on full time, just trying to wait for the next money to come in, whatever we can earn, earn as I go. Life is ridiculous, really, compared to what they say it's supposed to be…”
Scott, Colin’s son, watching Kayleigh and Millie play fighting.
“You read about Universal Credit, they say it's bad, but being on it is a lot worse than what you read…”
“There's no help out there, there's no interest from the people that are supposed to care…”
Kayleigh and Millie (Rose’s daughter) outside the flat.
“They tell you this is going to happen, then a week later they change it and tell you something else is happening. They've just given me council tax benefits. It's taken two and a half years to realise I was allowed it even though I kept saying it…”
“And after four weeks of having it, they now said they've been overpaying it for three weeks.”
“So no idea what really, where they're going or what's gonna happen with it all, but it's crippling us as I said…”
“I used to have a brilliant life, and nowadays it's just scraping and scrimping whatever we can get, whenever we can find it. Yeah jobs here, jobs there, whatever you can earn…”
“Yeah, plenty of problems with the kids. First one is she goes to school regular, not a proper school because of her arguments with anybody and everybody…”
“She regularly gets kicked into HD, which is an exclusion lesson. Then they'll shove her out to another school for three or four days to see if that works…”
Kayleigh in her bedroom with Millie.
“And then she comes back with lots of apologies and all the teachers are happy, and two days later it all happens again…”
“Job Centre staff haven't got a clue what you're talking about when you ask them a question, even though they say they're trained to do it all…”
“Social services were involved. They used to try and come and get him up in the morning…”
Scott playing Fortnight In the living room
“Scott, my son, he was living with his mom, and just couldn't be bothered to go to school, didn't want to go, preferred the X-Box…”
Colin visiting Claires flat. Claire lives in the flat above Colin.
“He'd just tell them fuck off and ‘I'm not getting out of bed’ and there's nothing they could do about it so they'd leave him…”
“So now he lives with me. We managed to get him in there now every day. A few days he's been late when he refused to get up. But he always gets up in the end now and goes…”
“He doesn't like PE but he did it last week so we're getting there on that one…”
“Like I say, I can't do a lot. I can only persuade him…”
“Social services, they haven't got a chance. There's nothing they can do, they know it, and they'll say it themselves…”