When I was 17 and a new mother, I lived with my partner who did not work... I knew I wanted more for my life. I knew I wanted to show people that I had a brain. I wanted to be a good role model for my son. I wanted to be part of the world that everyone else was part of. I didn't want to get left behind. Even though my partner was against it, I continued at college to complete my A-levels so that I could go to university the next year. He told me I was selfish, and that A-levels were useless for people like us. But I did it anyway. We lived on income support, then a university grant, topped up with my part time work. After uni, as a single mum I wanted to be independent...but it took time. I was lucky that I was able to live with my parents for a couple of years. I was lucky that I could apply for working tax credits (or family credit as it was then) to allow me to work on a low wage until I could earn enough to support my family on my own. It took time and luck and support but I got there eventually.... For the last 10 years I've worked full time and not had to rely on anyone else financially. I don't often talk about the time I lived off benefits.... Sometimes I try to erase that little blip in my life... I was a teen mum on benefits living on a council estate....Its not a great image... but it is part of my story, and many other successful young mums who now have amazing careers spent their early years receiving benefits.

It makes my blood boil when I hear the assumption that teen mums spend a 'lifetime' on benefits...While we may rely on them in the early years when everything is bit unsettled (which, if you've ever found yourself pregnant at 16, you'll know this is an understatement!), if the support is right, and our health is good, and the jobs/childcare are there, then the additional income we need to support our families should decrease over time and its more than likely we will spend a long, long time paying back into the system as our children grow up and of course also contributing to society by bringing up fantastic human beings (which is much more important in my view!)  - Unfortunately this government are promoting an image of lazy workshy under 25s who need their benefits cut to motivate them to go out a get a job - While this may work for a few people, it doesn't help young mums when they are already stigmatised enough!  Yes, we should support young people to find work, but for young parents particularly, we need to support them in their long term goals....and sometimes this just requires a bit of patience. The government's proposal to cut benefits for under 25s ignores the transitions that young parents make TOWARDS independence, not away from it. To assume that over 25s are somehow more deserving of benefits is discrimination towards young parents, at the time when they most need support.

Not all teen mums are on benefits and not everyone on benefits is a teen mum!....But for those who are... or have been, there should be no shame in this part of your journey.... #WeAllBenefit