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Global Recession: street paper vendor Adrianna (35), Scotland

 INSP 30 July 2019

After the factory she worked at shut down, Adrianna saw no future for herself or her family in job-deprived Romania. With her husband, she travelled to Britain in search of work and the hope of ensuring a good education for her teenage sons. As Romanians face restrictions to work in EU countries until 2014, selling The Big Issue has provided Adrianna with an invaluable source of income. But with the recession affecting her sales and livelihood, 2014 still feels a long way off. (1488 Words) - By Laura Smith

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As Romanians face restrictions to working in EU countries until 2014, selling The Big Issue in Glasgow has provided Adrianna with an invaluable source of income. But with the recession affecting her sales and livelihood, 2014 still feels a long way off.Photo: Laura Smith

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As Romanians face restrictions to working in EU countries until 2014, selling The Big Issue in Glasgow has provided Adrianna with an invaluable source of income. But with the recession affecting her sales and livelihood, 2014 still feels a long way off.Photo: Laura Smith

INSP_Scotland 3

As Romanians face restrictions to working in EU countries until 2014, selling The Big Issue in Glasgow has provided Adrianna with an invaluable source of income. But with the recession affecting her sales and livelihood, 2014 still feels a long way off.Photo: Laura Smith

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Adrianna lives in a small one bedroomed flat in Glasgow's southside with her husband and two sons: "We really need a two bedroom flat but we can barely afford living where we are."Photo: Laura Smith

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Adrianna lives in a small one bedroomed flat in Glasgow's southside with her husband and two sons: "We really need a two bedroom flat but we can barely afford living where we are."Photo: Laura Smith


"I'm originally from Socodor, a small village in Romania close to the Hungary border. We left in 2009, when someone we knew from our village, who had already found work in the UK, asked my husband Aurel if he could bring his car over for him.

Aurel had only been in the UK two weeks when the factory where I was working shut down. I was a team leader, working 12 hours a day, six days a week. I was only earning £200 a month even though the prices in Romania are quite similar to Britain. Everything was getting more expensive over there and having two teenage sons to support was very hard. I couldn't get another job. I wanted a better life for my children but couldn't afford to send them to be educated in another country. Then I thought, what is between us and the UK? The schools are better and in Romania, a British education is respected, so they would have a better chance in life.

Initially, I came to the UK to join Aurel without my children, Alexander and Gabriel, as I didn't want to take them out of school. School is everything in Romania - if you don't have a good education you are nothing. Here in the UK you have a chance. If you have a little money you can start a business here, you can do whatever you want but in Romania the small businesses do not survive. In Romania there is a lot of bureaucracy. We are a young country, just 20 years after the revolution. There are either very poor people or very rich people; it very hard to be in the middle class. People are struggling with everything. My mother is a teacher, she has 30 years' experience and must retire next year. She is so scared about what's going to happen as the retirement wage in Romania is incredibly low. So that's why I said: for a good chance for my children, I need to take this step.

We have been living in Scotland for almost three years now and we are still struggling. We heard about The Big Issue from the man from our village, so on our second day in UK we were in the Big Issue office. We slowly started to earn money but in the beginning I found it tough because I was coming from a high position [in the factory]. I was used to giving orders and instructions to 150 people. I knew starting again would be hard, but I didn't imagine it would be this hard.

EU work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens

Until 1st January 2014, people from Romania and Bulgaria coming to EU countries, including Britain, face restrictions when seeking employment. Rules vary per country. In the UK, under some circumstances they are eligible to work on a  self-employed basis,  but they require a accession worker card and a work permit must be obtained by their employers before they can be employed.

For more infortmation on EU working restrictions see here and here.

After eight months I missed my children like crazy and wanted to go back home to them. They were staying with my father-in-law in Socodor. By this time we were living in a two bed flat in Govanhill and we could barely afford the rent, so I started doing the odd bit of cleaning for a man my landlord knew. His wife had left him and she had taken his two daughters with her. He was crazy about his daughters. On my second day working for him, he asked me about my family and I started to cry. I missed my children so much. I explained to him that my children were in Romania and I could not afford the £300 it would take to bring them to Scotland. He said, 'for £300 you are crying?' And I said yes because I don't have that kind of money. Later he was at the computer and called me over. There on the screen were the booked flights. He had bought the tickets for me. That is how I brought my children here. It was so generous, I still can't believe it. I had only known him for two days.

After I brought my children here we got them into Hollyrood high school right beside our flat where we lived for one year. We applied for child benefit which we received for 3 or 4 months. But it took six months for me to get my national insurance number because of an error at the job centre and then we were refused tax credits. At this time, we were behind in our rent and had to leave the flat. I went to the Housing Association and said, 'I have two children and nowhere to go - I will sleep outside on the street until you give me something.'

In the end I got this flat in Govan. It is just one bedroom so with me, my husband and two children it is quite cramped. The flat was completely empty and it took three months for me to buy white goods for the kitchen and some mismatched furniture from charity shops. We still have no carpet, no doors on the rooms, or paint on the walls but it's better than nothing at all. The second week we were staying here we heard a man going down our street shouting 'drugs for sale' and I was so worried. It is a little dangerous here. We really need a two bedroom flat but we can barely afford it, so for now we are staying where we are.

Thankfully we are not out on the street but I'm still worried about how we can survive. I'm working six hours a week cleaning and the rest of the time I am selling The Big Issue. My husband only works 16 hours a week. We have two children and need to pay rent and council tax. We are not eligible for Tax Credit or Housing Benefit, no kind of benefit except child benefit, which is £130 per month. We are in debt and it feels like I'm sinking in quicksand. It doesn't matter what I do: I feel like I'm going down and down and down. I pray to get a job, but 2014 is a long time to wait.

With the economy the way it is, selling The Big Issue is becoming very tough. I was selling today from my pitch in Shawlands and only sold three magazines. People will chat to me for a few minutes and try to help me by giving me a little money - 50p or £1, they say hello and ask how I am. These are hard times for everyone. I can't complain too much. I am not the kind of person who would beg someone for money; I am too proud for that. But each day I must make at least £5 so my children can travel to school and have lunch.

Selling The Big Issue is ok, I feel like it is a proper job - but according to people at Tax Credits, it isn't. The general attitude in this country is that no one perceives selling a street paper as a proper job but we have code of conduct, we have targets we must make - we must sell these magazines, so for us, it is.

We are coming here and we have big dreams, very big dreams but they are fading fast. In Romania I worked under mental stress but now there's also physical stress. While selling The Big Issue I'm standing in -7 degrees in the same place for 4 to 8 hours and after a while it feels like it is -20 degrees! But I do it for my children. My eldest, Alexander is 16 and has one more year in school, after that he can go to college and get a job. If I take them back to Romania now, their unfinished education will count for nothing. That can't happen as they are doing so well - in three years they have learned to speak perfect English. They are always correcting my mistakes. We are happy that the children are going to school even though it is so hard for us to afford to stay here. But we know that if we go back, they would lose everything they have worked for these last three years.

In Romania, you are on your own. For child benefit I would get £10 for both my children: there are no social services. Sometimes I do really miss home though: it is a love/hate relationship. We are a young country and are making some mistakes, but they are trying. I hope one day it will be different there, but Scotland is my home for now."

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