When you get injured at work, it can bring into acute focus how tight finances are. Working Dads spoke to a jobseeker experiencing just that.
Andrew, 58, is an HGV driver who lives in East Yorkshire with his wife. They have four adult children, the youngest of whom still lives with them and is about to start his first job.
Andrew had a well-paid job and has worked for the same company for 20 years, but he has been unable to work since late June 2021 after an accident at work left him with serious shoulder injuries, a head injury and a back injury. He is now ready to return to work, after several operations, although it isn’t clear yet exactly what role or hours he will do.
“It’s been a nightmare, really,” he says. “At this point, I’m thinking about how will we cover this month’s bills. It’s not good.”
Andrew and his wife have been struggling more and more as prices have risen. Andrew has drawn down chunks of his pension early to help cover costs. His wife, who works in an NHS managerial role, has done the same.
“The trouble is, you sort of penalise yourself,” he admits. “Because you don’t get as much tax relief, if you then put money back into your pension and try to top up what you’ve taken out, you don’t get quite the same amount of tax relief on it.”
He continues, ““People are doing it…but it actually handicaps them and further down the line. A lot of people are doing this sort of thing to try and keep [afloat], even people who are still in work. I’ve got one or two friends who, like us, have a kid or two kids at university and it’s not cheap.”
The couple are buying less food and having baths less often – they don’t have a shower fitted as Andrew had been in the process of redoing their bathroom himself when he had his accident, and they now can’t afford to buy an electric shower as they’d planned. Andrew gave up his personal van when it needed repairs and they’re now down to one car, which will be hard when he returns to work.
Andrew says NHS backlogs have made his situation far worse. His doctors hoped he would have a crucial operation on his shoulder at the end of 2021, but this only took place in August 2022.
“If everything had been going [as it should], whether it be from GP appointments, to going into the hospital, I probably would have been fixed up within six months and been back at work before my salary went down to almost zero,” he says.
“During that time, on top of the obvious psychological trauma of a head injury, it exacerbates [things] because you feel like you’re totally useless. I’ve always been doing at least one or two jobs, I’ve always been very busy. And then to come to a situation where you just feel like you’re worthless…I don’t want to be a burden on society.”
He has now been off work for over 16 months, with his employer paying him a third of his salary for a year after the accident. He was also diagnosed with bladder cancer in the spring but this was treated fairly rapidly.
“What I’ve experienced in the last 17 months has been, you know, I’m surprised I’m still standing sometimes,” he says. “It’s been difficult because it’s just one thing after another…it causes an awful lot of stress for all of us and it’s been very, very difficult.”
“So much is uncertain, where before it all looked quite rosy and mapped out. And obviously I worry about supporting the kids if they ever need anything. That’s a major concern. They might have good jobs now, but it doesn’t mean they’ll have good jobs tomorrow.”