Back to Work – Universal Credit V’s Salary

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  • #62106 Report


    Hi all, new to this forum. Just trying to see if anyone can shed some light on what salary is needed to live a half ‘decent’ life.

    I was widowed in February and I have a 2.5 year old son. I’ve been in receipt of Universal Credit since May and as part of that I get the single person allowance, housing benefit and child support. My monthly claim is £1081. I also get a Bereavement Support Payment of £350 per month and Child Benefit of £84.60 per month. After rent, bills and nursery fees (my son goes 2 days per week but I get 15 hours free) I come out with £335 per month for food etc.

    I feel ready to get back to work and have had a job offer. The salary is generous but it is pro-rata on however many days I work, so I am trying to weigh up time with my little boy Vs money coming in (and nursery fees!). My question is – as solo/single parents, what salary or income do you need to live comfortably? e.g. afford to buy clothes, go on holiday once a year, not feel like you’re on the breadline!

    I live in North England so things are a bit cheaper here than say London, but I am clueless as to what is considered a decent wage for a single parent and what disposable income I should have at the end of the month. Any insights much appreciated!

    Thanks all

    #62118 Report

    Andrew uk

    You could contact Turn 2 Us or the local CAB.

    I’m struggling at the moment and I’m currently not seeing my kids but the money never seems to stretch!

    Have you done a budget-plan? I didn’t but then I did and even just seeing it written down helps.

    The utilities seem to be understanding about struggling to pay. You can get support for Gas and Electricity and Council Tax. Of course they don’t volunteer the information!

    I’m on approximately a thousand a month and I’m spending a thousand a month!

    #62122 Report


    It would depend on what the take home pay each month is.

    Universal credit may still be paid and may pay up to 85% of childcare costs above the free entitlement so will be worth doing the calculator. I work and still get universal credit to supplement my wage. It fluctuates each month as although my hours are the same some months have more days so I earn more and take less uc but it evens out. Do the calculator and figure it out.  We are not well off but by budgeting and not wasting money we can still afford the odd day out, clothes and a holiday, Christmas, birthdays etc… Also up north

    It may also be worth looking into when they hit the term after there 3rd birthday you may get 30 hours instead of 15 funded if you are working over a certain amount of hours per week which may help.



    #62231 Report

    Greenfinch Bird

    I was working full time& not claiming anything then I reduced my hours due to Covid & a friend told me to see if I could claim UC…so I did – I now work 32 hours a week & come out with £1300 a month my universal credit is between £400 &£480 depending on the extra payments been getting for covid.  I also get child benefit & £40 a week from my ex as child maintenance.  I pay for after school club at £4.50 a day & my boy goes to a holiday club at half term which is £27 a day then I claim back 85% through UC.  I am frugal with my money & boost my income through eBay/selling on fb marketplace.  This allows us to live reasonably ok & we have two holidays a year.  Hope this helps x

    #62397 Report


    I agree with Andrew, draw up a budget! ‘A decent income’ is really different for different people. Split your budget out into essential/desirable (i.e. what you could give up temporarily in a crisis).

    I’ve always erred on the side of earning less and having as much time with my kids as possible. I’m happy with that choice and so are they! We wouldn’t change it for the world.

    That said, living this way means any instability in my finances can be very stressful, so I try to keep 3months essential outgoings in an instant access savings account. That makes me a little calmer! You might not have the money straight away, but if you make a discipline to build that up before booking your annual holiday, you will feel more secure with less income.

    #62409 Report

    I needaliein

    Hi, a budget definitely good idea, and having a regular salary coming in rather than 0 hrs contract with variable rates each week/month…UC can help with childcare fees BUT you have to pay them up front 1st. Also having a small amount of savings/access to low cost credit for short term cash flow problems can be a godsend.

    Pre covid I worked 3 jobs (2 employed term time, 1 self employed) and scraped by on @£1000 a month BUT I had a good network of informal free childcare to facilitate this…and relatively low housing costs. Food shop Aldi 3 out of 4 times, nearly new sales/charity shops for many clothes except school uniform. But, still managed to run (old) car, camping hols, trips out and some hobbies/clubs for offspring…

    Since covid had to claim UC as didn’t fit the profile to get self employed grants…actually am better off on it- I still work 2 jobs but UC ‘tops up’ my income to about £1200 in total a month. I also bit the bullet and sorted a small amount of maintenance from the ex. I still have to be careful and organised (eg. Taking packed lunches on day trips/long journeys so don’t end up spending loads on overpriced food and drinks) but UC has taken some of the pressure off. I am actually trying to look for a regular salaried part time/flexible job now to replace my random combination of 0 hrs employed contract plus self employed work…it is much more difficult to claim UC when your income is not PAYE or varies wildly from.month to month for reasons beyond your control!

    My only other thought is be kind to yourself, the days are long but the years are short.

    I do regret working so much when my offspring was pre school, at the time it felt like I had no choice, but you don’t get that time with them back. I didn’t want to be a single parent and I have been fortunate never having had to claim benefits before covid. I do want to work, but have come to the realisation lately that running myself ragged trying to cram full time work and sole parenting into each day means I just feel like I’m doing everything badly.

    Anyway, all I’m attempting to say is, take your time, give the job a try if it feels like the right time, but don’t get sucked into feeling like you have to be all things to all people. It is enough right now just to be you and be a good mum to your son, anything more than that is a bonus 🙂 Wishing you much luck with your decision.

    #62439 Report


    I have a child the same age and I would also suggest you use the benefit calculators online as they’re really helpful. I spent a long time doing that and working it all out.

    For me, I work 18 hours a week and take home about £1090 after tax. £84 child benefit and £200 child support from the sperm donor (sometimes). UC covers my rent and council tax but nothing more. It’s definitely worth working part-time for me, I think I’d be £400 a month worse off without working, not to mention no pension contributions. Currently I get 15 hours of childcare free a week which I use for a childminder then I’m lucky that my parents are nearby and they look after her one day a week as well. I am careful with money. I don’t drink or smoke or buy much for myself. I food shop from Aldi or go to community larder type places. I get a lot of her toys and clothes second-hand whilst she’s young. But, as a result, I can always feed her, I run a car, I can take her out on trips, we can go on a holiday each year etc So I don’t feel like I’m struggling, I just feel like I’m being sensible with money which I naturally am anyway.

    They do want us single parents to be in work and, if you work out how to make the system help, it is better to be in at least part-time work I found.

    #62440 Report

    Andrew uk

    Dannii, nice to hear things are working out for you.

    #62442 Report


    Wow – thanks everyone for your messages and advice. It’s great to get some insight into figures too. I particularly loved your post “I needaliein” as you’re right – I don’t want to feel like I’m spread to thinly to enjoy life and time with my little boy. That’s one huge lesson I’ve already learned that time is your biggest asset.

    I’ve done several calculations on the benefits calculator and I think I have worked out that I can safely commit to part-time hours of max 22.5 per week (3 days) I’ll come out just short of £30K per annum (take home pay £2005 per month) and hopefully UC will still cover some of my childcare and housing costs. I ‘think’ (hope / pray!) I’ve done the sums right and I will be much better off working financially. Also hoping 3 days will give me a good work/life balance to ensure I spend quality time with my little boy. And this will work out well when he qualifies for ’30 hours free’. I’ve worked my entire life, since I was 13, so this is the first time I’ve had to rely on any benefits and it can be daunting not wanting to shoot yourself in the foot.

    I LOVE spending time with my son but as I was a full time carer for my husband for a year, and on maternity leave before then, I honestly miss work and using my brain. I think about our future and how different it will be from what I had imagined. If I can do the best for us both, while having a good balance of time together (and a little pocket money to enjoy life) then I guess that’s all I hope for.

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