The course reminded me of the skills I have

Posted 3 October 2017

Rachel is 41 and has two children, Nancy (20) and Xander (6). She started the Horizons programme – a training programme run by Gingerbread and Barclaycard to help single parents takes steps towards a brighter future – when she lived in Enfield, and then switched to the programme in Northampton when she moved there to be closer to her family. She has been in her new job as a social support worker for a month and is really enjoying it.

An ideal candidate

You always know that being a single parent is going to be hard work. I became a single parent after irreconcilable differences caused me and my partner to split. I’ve worked part time since having my daughter Nancy, but nothing with huge commitments attached to it. My son was really poorly when he was little so I had to stay at home and look after him.

The Jobcentre introduced me to the Barclaycard Horizons programme. I met up with Chloe from Gingerbread who said I was an ideal candidate.

Growing in confidence

Starting the programme, it was a bit strange at first being in a room with a group of random people I didn’t know. But I did my work experience for a few days and soon enough was asked what I’d like to do next. I was put in the Southgate College in their admin department. They were so accommodating it made me think…ooh, I can actually do this!

You do worry whether you’ll lose out financially returning to work and I won’t lie, it’s a long month till you get paid. But I can honestly say that the system has worked with me every step of the way. The Jobcentre helped me to work out that I’d be better off and it’s just all fallen into place.

Horizons helps you to believe that putting ‘mum’ on your CV isn’t a bad thing. The work placement was such a good confidence builder and I wish there were more of them. Another great part of the course was that they could give me a reference. Often that’s the problem when you haven’t been working. You go for a job but you’re in a ‘Catch 22’ situation because you haven’t got the reference to back you up. That wasn’t an issue anymore.

Moving on up

After completing the course, I moved to Northampton to be closer to my family. They’ve been so supportive of me – I don’t think I could have done it without them. That said, I was really worried when I moved to Northampton that I’d have to move off the Horizons programme. It was really great when I found out they had one here too. I got back in touch with Chloe at Gingerbread and got the first job I applied for. I’m now a support worker for people who need different kinds of support, some with mental health problems and some with physical issues.

All my benefits overlapped while I got back into work. Before, I was on income support and child tax credit for my little boy, housing benefit, council tax benefit and child benefit. Now I have a paid job I still get a bit of help with my rent, and I also now receive working tax credit and some child tax credit. For coming off income support you also get a one off payment of £250 and for the first year the system gives you £40 a week which isn’t taken into account with any of their other calculations.

Know your value

I really feel I wouldn’t have got the job without going on the Horizons course. I was asked to sum up my job recently. I said it was like being a mum to everyone – not judging what they can and can’t do, just supporting them to be their best.

The main thing I’d say to other single parents trying to get back into work is that getting a bit of help with your CV is vital. Don’t be afraid to put running your home as a reason for not working. Being a single parent means you have to have good time management, good financial management – these are all really worthwhile skills. I learned that on the programme and I think it’s really good advice.

For detailed step-by-step advice on everything from benefits and tax credits to childcare and your wellbeing, read our guide to starting work.