Tenants, parents and business owners have had a tough time in the last couple of months, but for one British single mother living in Malta who’s all three, it’s been an uphill struggle with no end in sight.
Jade Handford, 29, moved to Malta with her nine-year-old daughter three years ago, with no family to rely on and receiving no maintenance from her young girl’s father.
“What I earn is what we have,” Jade tells Lovin Malta.
Opening a barbershop just over a year ago, Jade hasn’t had enough time to save up too much money, saying she made very little during her business’ first days. Despite having a number of odds stacked up against her, though, she’s been paying all her taxes and National Insurance for over three years, never claiming benefits or expecting hand-outs.
“I chose to live here, so it wasn’t my intention to expect the government to support me. I came here to contribute to the place, not take from it.”
Without warning, however, everything changed with the arrival of COVID-19 on our shores and the halting of all businesses for weeks on end.
Suddenly, Jade found herself with no income and no way to pay rent, so she applied for Malta’s Parent COVID Benefit. Three months later, she’s still stuck in limbo, feeling “abandoned and alone”.
“When I applied back in March, I received a letter stating that because I’ve never claimed Children’s Allowance, I wouldn’t be awarded, as they don’t know for sure whether I have custody of my daughter,” Jade said. “My daughter is registered as living at my address and I have had sole custody of her since birth, which I was obviously able to prove. She’s also been attending school here, so they know she exists and is living with me.”
“After weeks of being passed from pillar to post and being put on hold and passed to another department and another advisor and even being put through to the Pensions Department at one stage, I was still no further on and nobody seemed to know what to tell me.”
“I was told to make the claim for Children’s Allowance for my parent benefit to be revised,” Jade continued. “So I made the application on 5th May, sending all the relevant proof of my daughter being mine, with copies of our passports, her school reports from all the way back in 2017 and anything else I could think of to eliminate any doubt.”
“I was told by an advisor, ‘Well, you haven’t helped yourself, because you should have claimed child allowance after being here for three months’, which is totally insensitive and unhelpful.”
“Like I’ve said before, it was my choice to move here, and I didn’t come here expecting the government to support me, so I didn’t claim any benefits,” she stressed. “But now there’s a pandemic, and I understandably need that help.”
“After hearing nothing back and now three months in without income, I sent numerous emails addressing the urgency and trying to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” Jade continued. “I was asked to apply again, and that this will take six weeks and that I am not helping myself by sending emails ‘all of a sundry’. Again, totally insensitive.”
Facing red tape after red tape every step of the way, Jade is now “stuck between a rock and a hard place”… and suddenly three months behind on her rent.
“After all that, I’m suddenly told I need to make an eID to apply all over again,” she said, now visibly frusrated. “I tried to make the eID… only to be told that I can’t without a Maltese ID.”
“I had always used my passport and tax number before as an alternative to the Maltese ID, and I had been waiting for a new passport to make the application for a Maltese ID,” Jade explained. “Then Brexit happened, then COVID, and I was never able to get it in time.”
“I have not paid my rent in three months. My landlord is a very patient man, but he is not a charity, and now he needs paying.”
“My daughter and I cannot live on fresh air and I have accumulated debt over these three months in order to survive in the hopes that when I received the COVID benefit, I could pay it back,” the young mother continued.
As of yesterday, Jade could start operating her barbershop again… but even that hasn’t come without its own set of costs. And that’s something she still doesn’t have a solution to.
“I’m now faced with new regulations and expenses to pay to be able to reopen my business and finally earn again, but how can I do that without money?” she asked. “So I need money to make money, but they haven’t given me anything, so what do they expect me to do?”
“I am never later paying my NI or taxes, but if I was a day late, I would have to pay a penalty,” Jade finished. “The system has been quick enough to take my money, but now when I need them, I am abandoned with a daughter and alone. Where can I go from here?”