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‘I’m stuck in limbo’: Carla’s job fears are shared by thousands of Brits

The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance was launched to help people like Carla. The mum-of-two college kitchen worker is facing an anxious wait to learn if she’ll be made redundant

“I haven’t spoken to the children about my situation because I don’t want to worry them any more. They’re anxious enough as it is at the moment,” says single mum of two Carla Hewitson.

The 35-year-old is in a predicament that thousands of people in the UK are facing at the moment. A life of relative security that offered steady work and time with her children, Morgan, 10, and Lacey, five, is under threat due to Covid-19.

Through no fault of her own, she is now being pitted against 15 colleagues for just five jobs, her performance rated on a points system to decide who will continue at the college in Swindon where she has worked for two years. The 11 people who do not succeed face redundancy and the uncertainty of the process is making life even more difficult.

This is why The Big Issue launched the Ride Out Recession Alliance: To protect jobs and battle against the mental anguish that comes with the threat of the floor disappearing from under you.

“It’s pretty stressful with everything going on with Covid anyway and then there is the added stress of not knowing what is going on with my job,” says Hewitson.

“We’re just stuck in limbo. I feel a bit uneasy because no one knows if they’ve got a job. Trying to plan stuff for Christmas and things like that – I don’t know money-wise if I should panic-buy presents now knowing that I might not have a job in the future. It’s just the uncertainty of not knowing if you’ve got the job or not. It’s a bit rubbish.”

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The pandemic may have caused huge disruption for pupils and students in recent months, but the “new normal” means education workers are still being affected.

Hewitson worked in the kitchen and on the counter making sure kids were fed at the college. With fewer students going back following the extended Covid-19 break – whether because their courses are now delivered virtually or they only attend every second week – there is reduced demand for staff to serve them.

She accepts that redundancies are inevitable but the financial implications and the challenge of finding a job that let her look after her children in an increasingly tough jobs market make things an “absolute nightmare”.

And even though she is one of four colleagues to have restarted work at the college, it offers no guarantee that she will get one of the five jobs as she anxiously awaits her fate.

“It would be quite bad if I didn’t get one of these jobs,” she says. “My hours between 9.30 am and 2.30 pm are perfect at the moment. I take my kids to school and then I go to work and then I pick my kids straight up. And my job at the moment is term-time only so it’s ideal.

“If I was to lose this job I understand that they are doing redundancies everywhere so to get those hours again is going to be an absolute nightmare.

“The childcare comes into it again and I can’t afford it. If you have to fork out for childcare then it defeats the object of you working because you are paying out more than you’re making. I usually take home around £600 a month. And while I haven’t looked at childcare, a friend of mine is paying her childminder £10 an hour. When we’re on minimum wage, it is well over what I earn.”

We’re just stuck in limbo. I feel a bit uneasy because no one knows if they’ve got a job

The Big Issue is working with a whole host of experts to come up with solutions to the scores of redundancies and job losses that are following in the wake of Covid-19’s financial fallout.

It’s a complex issue but we are determined to fix the situation because, as Carla notes, the consequences for thousands of workers across the country are devastating.

“I really don’t know what help I would want from the government if I was made redundant,” she adds. “But I just think that there must be so many people in my position. I just know that it will be difficult for parents who do have children to try and find those hours without paying an arm and a leg in childcare.”

The Big Issue is working alongside RORA partners Shelter, Nationwide Foundation, Unilever and many more to come up with plans to keep people like Carla in work. We need your ideas too. Tell us your experiences, ideas and plans at rora@bigissue.com.