One of the biggest bonuses of being in UNISON is that I’ve made such good friends – I’ve met people I wouldn’t normally have been friends with because we’ve got a common interest.
I never thought I’d one day end up affecting government policy… The issue of losing my tax credits was keeping me awake at night. As a single mum I didn’t know how I was going to provide for my family without them. And it wasn’t just going to affect me – it had such severe consequences for my friends, some of my colleagues, members of my family.
It really started to get to me. Then UNISON started a big campaign about it. They discovered that 71 Tory MPs, including 23 new ones were in marginal seats. Their majorities were smaller than the number of families in their constituencies who were going to lose their tax credits.
I’m already young members’ officer in my branch and I’m on the regional and national young members’ forum, so they asked me if I’d do some press interviews about it. I didn’t hesitate, I was so passionate about it, I said, “yeah, I will tell them how I feel!”
So I went on BBC 5 Live and gave my personal story to a panel which had several MPs on it. It was a bit intimidating. I just said that without tax credits I wouldn’t be able to afford to work any more. It was as simple as that. Already with tax credits, last summer I had to take a month’s unpaid leave from work to cover the summer holidays. I only get five weeks’ annual leave and if I had to pay for both my daughters to be at nursery all day, five days a week for six weeks… Well, that costs more than I can earn.
I knew that the MPs were listening to what I said because they referred back to it afterwards. That was an amazing feeling. I did lots of other interviews as well, I was quoted in the Guardian and the Daily Mirror. My kids were saying, “You’re famous mum!” They got quite used to seeing me in the media.
I suppose it was about putting a human face to it. The MPs wouldn’t know what it’s like to be an ordinary working person, because they’re all in the 40% tax bracket. So you just have to try to be you, and get your point across as honestly and clearly as you can.
I do get a bit of a kick out of it. When chancellor George Osborne announced that they were going to keep tax credits I had a feeling of pride, that I’m helping to make a difference. It’s the same with all union work – you’re helping people.
I’d never have had the chance to affect legislation without my union. I’m helping to make these changes now so that when my children go to work, it’ll make things easier for them.
So if you ask me what my union’s done for me, I’d say it’s saved me from having my tax credits cut, which in itself has saved me from losing my job, my home, my whole way of life.
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