Letter to the Tories who tell me to ‘work hard and strive’

Dear Public School Boys,

My five brothers and sisters and I worked harder in our first 16 years of life than you have your whole life through.

I then trained as a nurse. It was hard physical grind. Once I left home there was nowhere to go back to and, in my case, no loving supportive family to provide comfort, finance or any other support.

I discovered I had a congenital spinal problem so looked to find something less arduous as a job. I took A-levels by correspondence course getting an A and C and managed to get a place at a Polytechnic to take a degree, thinking I could use it to get into a more theoretical side of nursing. I became the first graduate in my family’s history.

I later became a single parent just as Thatcher’s original reforms came in and found myself with a six month old baby and £7.25 a week to feed us both on.

I struggled alone with my daughter with no support from anyone in an overpriced private flat unable to work to earn enough to live on although I have always worked when I could.

I managed to get her through to University and now she works very hard and has built a decent life for herself.

Me? I have fought a constant battle against penury, recurring depressive illness and ignorant people through my life.

I became increasingly tired and disabled as have many other members of my family, we started working hard and striving much earlier than you and your friends and without your taken for granted comforts.

I was due to retire next year at 60 but you have moved the goalposts and I have to seek work for another five years despite being disabled.

I have worked whenever I could, often part-time to fit with childrearing, most recently in 2010 I was on a zero-hours contract and the hours dried up plunging me into an anxiety disorder. Now again my disability benefit is up for review next month.

Don’t talk to me about striving and hard work!

Teresa Stuart, Plymouth