COVID-19: The key worker diaries - Charlotte

25th Jun 2020

Charlotte, a school cook, has been working reduced hours while her husband’s hours have been halved. Being swept into poverty has meant facing the injustice of receiving food bank donations.

Lockdown has brought new financial pressure to Charlotte’s family, and she has been through the process of applying for Universal Credit. The start of lockdown meant Charlotte faced home schooling her two children, who are 8 and 11. The family lives in Blackpool, where Charlotte works at a school which caters for a wide range of learning needs. Her partner Justin (35), is an air conditioning engineer.

Diary

Monday 6th April

We’ve told the children they will be going back to school and they jumped for joy. Last week, the school said Justin was not classed as a key worker as he works for an air conditioning company but I rang the headteacher Mrs Smith and told her that he now does all the units in Aldi so, therefore, he is classed as one.

It’s such a relief. We have been doing our best with home learning. Justin has been out at work so I did what I could but it’s very hard for me as I’m not academic. Also, both our children have a phone but we don’t have a computer which is tricky for some projects. Our WiFi isn’t brilliant either.

Some days I’ve been close to tears because I don’t understand the work that has been set. I can’t cope with it, I just don’t have the knowledge. It takes me a whole day to do two pieces of work.

Last week, I’m ashamed to say I got so frustrated with a project my daughter needed to do on extinct animals that I stormed off like a 10-year-old. And as for fractions, it’s like a foreign language to me.

Tuesday 7th April

I’ve been in work today from 10.30am until 1.45pm preparing meals. 12 children and 3 staff members were fed.

I’m so relieved I’m at work knowing the children are back in school, where teachers can help them to learn. They were so excited to see some of their friends and relieved not to be stuck at home with mum. I do worry about all the kids who aren’t in school.

When I got home I washed and cleaned the house before preparing tea for the children. I’m so grateful to the school for opening and glad to be able to get back to work. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some mixed emotions about their safety in relation to the virus at school. They are safe in school, but safer at home. But both Justin and I need to work - there is no option.

Thursday 9th April

I had another attempt at getting through to Universal Credit today. I don't have a computer so I need to speak to someone on the phone and it’s a nightmare.

I’ve been ringing around 2 or 3 times a week and holding for an hour and a half before needing to ring off to attend to the kids. Oh my God! Why can’t someone just answer the phone? I get really stressed and shaky which can trigger my stammer. We just need to know if we are entitled to some more support during this period. Neither Justin nor I have been able to sign new contracts and everything feels unstable. It would be good to have this safety net even for a few weeks.

Our kids have always been able to go to the fridge and get what they want but during the last couple of weeks we’ve had to tell them to slow down. It’s a sign that things are getting harder for us financially and so it’s essential we keep working.

There is a food bank at my children’s school and this afternoon I took some bread, oatcakes and fresh fruit. This is a huge help to us and we are very grateful.

Friday 10th April

It’s been confirmed that the school where I work is opening over Easter and putting staff on shifts. The head thinks we will only have 5 children in which makes me worry about all the others at home. Are they receiving proper care? How are they doing? They are on my mind a lot.

Justin has been out shopping. He has bought two goldfish as a surprise for the kids. They are being so good and we want to let them know we appreciate them.

The kids love them. We’ve decided to call them Boris (after the prime minister) and Doris (because it rhymes). My son thinks the Prime Minister is funny because of his hair. Boris is now out of intensive care so let’s hope he and the fish enjoy a long life. I did feel sad when he got taken into hospital because I knew his partner was pregnant and really felt for her.

Sunday 12th April

As a family, we normally go camping in Scarborough over the Easter weekend to see my dad, so we decided to camp in the garden instead! My son and Justin set up the tent and my daughter thought it would be a good idea to bring her whole bedroom down including most of her toys. It’s one of those days we’ll all remember.

We woke up in the morning and felt like we'd had some time away from ‘lockdown world’ which was so good but I will be glad to sleep in my bed again tonight.

I spent the afternoon preparing food for us. I’ve got a monthly budget of £100 and spend an extra £10 a week on weekly top-ups. I’m using a lot of mince now because it can go a long way. So we’re having things like bolognaise and mince and onion with mash.

Later, there was a knock at the door and a package on the doorstep. My children attend a local youth project called the Boat House and today the staff dropped off activity packages for the kids and food for all of us.

I’m so grateful but it’s another new experience that I need to get used to. The only other time I have ever been off work is when I was on maternity leave. I’ve always worked and I always will. Being in this situation where I am more dependent and vulnerable feels hard.

Wednesday 15th April

I’ve started to feel really lonely at work now because only one cook is allowed in the kitchen. I put the radio on and have my own sing song to see the day through.

When I get home I think what a beautiful day it would be to have a party in the garden. I’ve got a few bits of food to use up in the freezer. I’m trying to ration our supplies but sometimes it’s hard to make it work.

Friday 17th April

I went to Stanley Park Sports Club today to help pack food into bags for free school meals and family packs. We all stood 2-metres apart and wore gloves and masks. I really enjoyed it, knowing that I was helping the community. But it also made me feel worried about all the families who are really struggling right now. Lots of people have lost their jobs and still have children at home to feed.

Later, I went home and took all my frustrations out on the tree we are digging out in the garden to make way for a pond.

The kids have been making some dance videos and I tried my hand at some home-made weights. It made me smile.

This Covid-19 has really got me thinking about life. I will just keep trying to do my best for my children. I think that’s what matters the most.