I used to be a pub landlady in Merseyside, and I was living above a pub until 2014 when the economy took a hit and we had to leave.
I asked the council for help, but they said I would have to declare myself homeless in order to qualify for council housing. And even then, the only available unit was on an abandoned street near a prison.
So I moved back in with my mum, dad, sister and their dogs instead, bringing my son with me.
Instead of losing heart, I saw this as a sign to follow my other passion – health care – and so I decided to return to university. Now I’m working as a nurse practitioner at a walk-in centre in Liverpool.
Things were great at first. I worked as a health care assistant and started on the path to becoming a registered nurse. But, I was disappointed to learn the only difference between the salary I was on before registration and after registration was 30p a hour.
Living at home wasn’t awful but it became quite crowded. I decided my son and I would really need our own space as he got older.
The first step towards respecting our profession is offering us fair pay
After my bad experience with council housing, I looked into a couple of options. I decided that shared ownership seemed like it could be a good idea because I have a stable job.
However, when I contacted a mortgage broker, he might as well have laughed in my face. He said the only way I could afford a semi-detached house as a single person would be to save up £4,000. I had no idea how I could get that much. I was supporting my retired parents alongside raising my son, and I didn’t have any money to spare.
Still determined to move out on my own, I took a second job as a sessional lecturer teaching basic life support to health care students at a university to earn money to put towards a deposit. However, the pandemic changed things and it became even harder to manage on top of my clinical work.
What really irritated me about explaining my problems to the mortgage brokers was that they would often say they were more used to dealing with professionals, and not people on low incomes. As a nurse, I consider myself to be a professional. I have a degree and a complex skillset.
People respect me when I’m in my uniform, when I’m caring for them and their loved ones, but that respect doesn’t seem to count where it matters most.
The first step towards respecting our profession is offering us fair pay in recognition of the work we do. The 1% pay rise the government has muted demonstrates it doesn’t value the nursing profession at all. It’s not for my neighbours, who came out to clap every Thursday, to decide how much to pay me and my colleagues – it’s the government who makes that decision.