Solo mum feeding kids on just $81/wk opens her books

PEOPLE are offering gestures of support to the solo mother of three who's opened up her books to financial scrutiny - including one generous $1000 donation from someone living in Japan.

Charity KidsCan confirmed it had received a message from a donor, in Japan, who wanted to help alleviate the Auckland mother's financial burdens.

Ebony Andrews, who after expenses was left with $80 a week to buy food for her family, spoke to NZME to highlight just how tough it can be for some families.

She said the tight budget made it difficult to make ends meet for her and three daughters.

Andrews wanted to dispel some of the myths around child poverty that insinuated those who sent their kids to school without lunch must be wasting their money, not work, or are poor at budgeting.

The learning support teacher said all anyone had to do was look at her income and outgoings to see that the small amount left over wasn't because of wastage.

"You've seen my budget. I can't waste. I think they are just assuming, they don't see it in real life how we run our own budgets."

The West Auckland mother spoke to NZME to dispel some of the myths around poverty that families that send their kids to school without lunch must be wasting their money, not work or are poor at budgeting.

Many others on social media spoke of their own struggles juggling the books in a city where the cost of living was going up exponentially.

One spoke of how the continually rising rents, in a climate where wages stayed largely stagnant, made it harder for families to make ends meet.

Others gave her kudos for making things work on a tight budget.

"What a wonderful caring mum," one reader said. "She's doing all she can do, do the best for her girls."

Ms Andrews' weekly income, which includes her own wage, Working for Families assistance, accommodation supplement and child support, totals $968.80. But after paying rent, utilities, phone and internet, car expenses, insurance and a small school fee, which adds up to $887.50, there is only $81.30 left for food and anything else.

Her weekly food budget is split, on average, between $9.20 worth of milk, $10 for bread, $1.50 for margarine, $10 for spreads, $1.75 for cheese, $35 worth of fruit, and $12.55 for vegetables and meat.

She said the budget didn't allow for any treats and the last time she took her three daughters to the movies was four years ago.

However, even working to a very strict budget she ran out of money some weeks, especially if un-budgeted items such as clothes were needed.

"I mean shoes, especially when they have to be all black or partially black, can be $60 upwards for one pair and I've got three girls and that would blow my budget sky high."

Andrews, whose ex-partner sometimes looks after the children at her house, is one of thousands of Kiwi parents who sometimes called on charity KidsCan to provide food, clothing and shoes when their budget is lacking.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said there was a misconception that people struggling did not work, whereas the latest child poverty monitor figures showed 40 per cent of children in poverty had at least one parent in work.

"I can put my hand on my heart and say that the majority of parents I see are not doing drugs, they're not doing alcohol, in fact they have very little money to be able to afford those things. People need to understand that parents really do love their kids and quite frankly they're embarrassed that they can't provide for them, so for us it's about giving them a hand up so they can get to school in a position to learn and do the best they can."

KidsCan is raising money to help 1374 children from 14 low decile schools who are living in hardship.

Chapman said since the news came out of Ebony's plight the charity had received a number of offers of support for the children on the waiting list.

Twenty-five had so far been sponsored - with one anonymous donor volunteering to sponsor 10 of these - at a total cost of $150 a month.

She said every $15 donated gave a child food at school, shoes, two pairs of socks and health and hygiene items.

"It's very heartening, the response has been amazing."

Acting Social Development Minister Hekia Parata said she hadn't been briefed on the circumstances of the family but the Government has "delivered on a promise to help those most in need".

From April 1, main benefit rates had increased for the first time in 43 years, alongside increases to Working for Families rates.

"We've served more than seven million breakfasts since the KickStart breakfast programme was expanded so that it's available to any school that wants or needs it," Parata said.

"We provide free GP visits for under-13s and fund KidsCan to provide raincoats and shoes for kids, and to deliver the Nitbusters programme.

"We're also redesigning budgeting services to increase people's financial capability.

"Anyone who is in need should contact Work and Income to make sure they are getting everything they are eligible for."


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