Natasha’s Story: The sole provider for her family at age 15

Natasha in 2015 Photo Credit: Natasha

‘I couldn’t save any money because I had to pay for bills, rent and Christmas presents for my family’

‘I remember bringing home my wages for the first time in brand new white envelope and I was so excited, but my mum told me she needed my help, and all my money went on electricity for the week; I knew from then I was going to be the one who earned for my family’, Natasha tells Child Poverty Awareness.

After just one week of part-time work at 15, she knew she was never going to be able to save her hard-earned money.

This is the story of a young girl from Swansea who has lived in relative poverty since the age of 8, and became the sole provider
for her family at just 15; she is now a Leeds University graduate and aspiring career woman.

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A council estate block near Natasha’s home in Swansea Photo Credit: Rachel Myles

Natasha’s intuitions about money became reality and she bore the burden of being the sole provider for her family for a long time.

‘My mum lost her job a few years after her and my father divorced, she became depressed and withdrawn and ever since I’ve had my first job I’ve had to help out, even though we received benefits. I’ve paid for new clothes for my little sister, for shopping trips, bills, rent and even Christmas presents before. All the responsibility for caring for our family fell onto me, I was the parent.’

Now 23, Natasha she recalls some parts her earlier life and the hardships of always living without the luxuries other people had.

‘We never went to birthday parties because we couldn’t afford a gift, even then I knew we were different’

‘In 2002 we became a single parent family living off my mum’s part-time cleaners wage and things got hard. We went from always having hot school meals to packed lunches, mum had to sell her car, we couldn’t go to birthday parties anymore because we couldn’t afford gifts or cards, and we had to get food from the friends or charity at times. I knew then we were different to other people and even at a young age it felt lonely.’

Natasha’s financial situation didn’t improve during her teenage years as she remembers some of the harder parts of her high school days.

‘I would often get teased in school about not having the latest things. I was the last person to get a mobile phone, I never had an iPod or even new school shoes- it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I was always jealous of my wealthier friends, and with some of them it created resentment and tension to the point we ended up not being

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A lovely red brick building at the University of Leeds Photo Credit: Rachel Myles

friends. It always felt as though we were from two different worlds, and I didn’t fit in.’

Despite not having the easiest upbringing, Natasha excelled in education and always put in the work with a particular passion for writing, ‘I tried really hard in school and went to university to study my degree thanks to the system of student loans and grants, graduating with a 2.1 and honours in English from Leeds University and I’m planning to go back and study for my Masters next year, all whilst working.’

‘I was worried all the time when I was at university about my younger brother and sister as they didn’t have the same motivation as me- I would send little bits of pocket money I earned from my retail supervisor job to them so they could have some of things I didn’t growing up. Unfortunately, they

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The University of Leeds primary building Photo Credit: Rachel Myles

haven’t found their passions in life yet as I did, and currently neither of them have qualifications past GCSE level and are both unemployed; but I’m hopeful they can still turn things around.’

I asked Natasha what advice she could give to any young person dealing with the emotional, physical and psychological issues that being in poverty and supporting those you love can cause.

‘My advice would be to find an outlet, a healthy one- school, sports, dance, gymnastics or anything that is good for you and keeps you happy; even when things are bad. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t found my love of the English language.’

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