Freelance transport accessibility consultant Hussein tells us how he’s navigating the cost-of-living crisis and the feelings of anxiety triggered by the uncertainty of the benefits system.
The 36-year-old Aberdonian has lived with visual impairment since birth and is registered blind. He relies on benefits, including tax credits and disability allowance, to supplement his freelance income.
Hussein is a member of our Diverse Experiences Advisory Panel (DEAP) which makes recommendations to the Scottish Government on how public policy can help to reduce inequalities and support more people to experience good mental health.
Working as a freelancer to provide expert advice to transportation companies about disability access, my monthly income can be unreliable. In the last few years, the pandemic affected the amount of work I was getting and now, with the cost-of-living crisis, it is difficult trying to balance my finances each month.
It’s a constant worry. I spend so much time researching the best deals to make sure I can save as much money as possible. At night, I’ll be reading articles which can sometimes offer conflicting advice, causing further anxiety. Services to offer advice and support are so busy that it can be impossible to reach them on the phone. The money worries are on my mind all the time – it’s relentless. At the same time, I will often feel guilty if I hear of other’s people situations that are far worse than my own.
I receive benefits that top up my income, and while it’s a relief to know that these will be deposited each month, it’s not a stress-free process. Disability allowances are no longer awarded for life, and I will have to undergo assessments again to ensure I still receive it. Meanwhile, the government wants to replace tax credits with universal credit which is a difficult system to work through. The uncertainty of this takes a mental toll as I feel anxiety about the future.
Over the winter months, I was doing what I could to keep energy bills down including sleeping in a sleeping bag for additional warmth. It’s particularly difficult as I live with my mum who has health conditions, so I need to make sure she has what she needs to stay well. I’ve been saving what I can and cutting back on things like meeting friends for lunch and Netflix. Other things, like travel by taxi, I can’t give up as it’s necessary for me due to my visual impairment, but the costs are continuing to rise.
I am grateful for the assistance from the government and the support offered by community organisations, but there isn’t a very joined-up approach to make sure that people are getting all the help they need. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to squeeze every penny and do my best to stretch my income to cover my living essentials in the coming months.
To help my anxiety and help me relax, I listen to country music or audiobooks as I like getting lost in another world, especially when I can’t sleep at night. I also enjoy acoustic rifle shooting for the blind, a sport I’ve been doing since 1997. I find the mental focus and discipline required for the sport is excellent at casting all my other thoughts and worries to the side.
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