Teachers on charity: ‘It was humbling. I never thought it would happen to me’

Natalie Goodman, a teaching assistant, had been struggling to buy food for more than a month by the time someone at her school noticed. “I couldn’t afford to eat. I didn’t have money for food. I would come home from school and sit in my flat and worry about paying my rent.” The Guardian reports.

It was her sudden weight loss – more than a stone in four weeks – that prompted a colleague to ask whether she was OK. Her landlord had sent her an eviction letter to leave the flat that had been her home for 19 years.

The council, she discovered, had miscalculated her entitlement to housing benefit, overpaid her and then clawed back the money from her landlord. Overnight, she was £1,500 in rent arrears, on a salary of just £13,000 a year.

Goodman’s colleague told her about a small charity, Education Support Partnership (ESP), which supports teachers and teaching staff in financial difficulties.

“It meant a lot to know that someone out there understood my story and acknowledged what I was going through,” she said. “I was able to hold my head up and breathe again.”

Goodman is one of a growing number of teachers and teaching assistants who are turning to charity for help in financial circumstances that would once have been unimaginable. In April 2018, ESP received 85 applications from education staff in need of urgent financial support – the highest number of monthly applications in its 141-year history. That represents a 157% increase compared with the same month last year.

Since ESP awarded Goodman a grant, her landlord has put her rent up by more than a third, to 60% of her take-home pay. The only way she can afford to remain in her home is by going part-time, so that she will be entitled to higher benefit payments.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to remain in education long-term. There’s no chance of training or career progression, and I can’t earn enough as a teaching assistant to pay my rent,” she says.

Read more stories of teachers in financial difficulty Teachers on charity: ‘It was humbling. I never thought it would happen to me’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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