Being left to look after my brother-in-law has crippled us financially

1. Could you tell me a bit about you?

I’m in my thirties and live with my other half. When we were dating, we were both very open about not envisioning children in our future. We both had difficult childhoods and I spent years as a sole live-in carer for a family member, trying to work alongside it where I could, to bring in some money (carer’s allowance is a pittance!). I found it fulfilling, and am glad I did it, but it was really difficult physically, mentally and financially, and I missed out on a lot of ‘typical’ experiences in my twenties, rarely went out, and didn’t make as many friends because of it. I’m still a carer for that family member, but now share the responsibility with someone else, and have good support from a paid carer.

2. What’s your earning history and what do you earn now?

When I started my first Saturday job at 16, I earned a measly £4.90 an hour. We weren’t very ‘well off’ growing up, and I have always dreamed of financial freedom. Post-college, I have worked in sales, admin and HR roles, and now I am in a management role. The jobs I’ve held have paid £15k, £19k, £24k, £33k, and most recently £39k. I’m currently looking for my next promotion. I know that my current, most recent, salary is objectively ‘decent’, but it is split to support the family member I care for. (in order to make ends meet and afford a paid carer).

Just over a year ago, my partner’s mum abandoned my brother-in-law (BiL), who is neurodivergent, and we took him in (there was no one else to support us). I earn substantially more than my partner, and so our outgoings have always been split proportionately rather than evenly, so that we both (hopefully) have something left after our rent, bills and outgoings. When we took in my BiL, my other half didn’t have much financially that he could afford so I took the biggest financial hit. In essence, I’m earning more than I ever have, but have less disposable income than ever.

3. What happened with your partner’s mums son?

My partner’s parents split up when he was little. Just over a year ago we hosted my other half’s mum and brother (who live together) for a family celebration. They had planned to stay with us for the best part of a week. We had planned activities, spent out on gifts and food and were looking forward to it. My BiL is a wonderful person and really is like a brother to me.  He is a young adult but owing to his Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder), his mental age is much younger. He is incredibly gifted, but requires a lot of support and cannot work.

The day of the celebration, my partner’s mum started chastising my BiL. My partner stepped in and asked her to stop, as it was inappropriate and hurtful. Long story short, their mum began a colossal argument, and said some incredibly cruel things that can’t be taken back (including comments on my BiL’s neurodivergence). She left without a resolution, leaving my BiL with nowhere to live. He moved in with us, and we haven’t had any further contact from their mother. To add salt to the wound, she publicly blamed us on social media for ‘abandoning her’, and has concocted stories and lies, allowing her to play the victim.

4. What has the financial impact been?

We were completely blindsided. I had just received my promotion and I was going to be earning an extra £400 a month. We were so excited about finally being able to put that extra money to create a savings account and build a deposit for a house. Overnight everything changed. Coincidentally but unrelated, our rent went up by £100/month, council tax went up, and then all of our other bills did too because we had another person to account for!). At the end of all the extra costs over the last year, we’re now in about £2k of debt, which we are slowly trying to claw our way out of. I’ve taken on a second job, and my other half is working overtime and now we barely see each other. We’ve also had to sell some of our possessions. We’ve done our best to make it work, but it’s really had a huge impact on our lives.

5. What does the future hold?

Aside from the financial hole, right now everyone is slowly rebuilding their mental health. We’re all still processing their mum’s actions. Living with my BiL comes with the normal adjustments of living with someone else, but also comes with its own challenges too, and a lot of our routines/habits have had to change. I do feel more positive about the future now than I did six months ago, but I’m also conscious that our life will likely never be the same. We’re also still supporting my relative. Financially, we are both applying for higher-paid roles. We have also explored some options for our living situation in the future that could give my BiL a bit more independence, but we will need to save for a while before we can make that happen.

6. What do you get in the way of support?

We don’t have much in the way of family support and haven’t really spoken to anyone about it because of the things that were put on their mum’s social media. In terms of support for my BiL, the situation is still fairly new, as we haven’t had to look at financial support before and it’s hard to navigate new waters! He has applied for a Personal Independence Payment (the value of which could be between £247-£395 a month). At the higher end, this wouldn’t cover his monthly living expenses, but would certainly help.

However, we are also having to manage our expectations, as whilst we were researching we found that few new PIP claimants get an award.

It makes me really conscious of parents, relatives and friends who are supporting children and adults who need care, whether that be for a physical or mental disability, neurodivergence, dementia, Alzheimer’s or for any other reason. I really hope they know that they are not alone.

7. How are you feeling about it all?

Now I have had a bit of time to reflect on it, as difficult as it has been, and as lasting an impact as it will have, I do feel proud that in a time of hardship, my other half and I together and supported my BiL. Financially, I’m still not optimistic just yet, my partner and I are both applying for second jobs to try and clear the debt and to not incur any more.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any resentment towards their mum for her actions as I know how much it’s affected my partner and BiL mentally. The things that she said and her actions have been so hurtful and can’t be taken back. I also resent the financial responsibility that fell on our shoulders (mainly mine) and that we really had no other options or support, but I don’t feel that towards anyone other than their mum. I am working on turning that resentment into acceptance and peace, but have really struggled mentally to deal with it.

As result of they way she acted towards us, all three of us are currently undergoing therapy, which is another paid expense, as the NHS services only offer a limited number of sessions, and I can’t help but feel frustrated that it’s yet another expense that was added by her without any regard for anyone else.

I’m positive that one day we’ll all move forward from this, but for right now I don’t know how long that will take.