Police Federation

I seriously considered giving up my baby for adoption at birth as I did not have the financial strength to be a mother

A Met police officer talks about her struggles because of poor pay and the rising cost of living in one of the most candid interviews. 

21 June 2023


I am a single mother, a daughter, and a response officer in London with four years of service.

I come from a policing family, and I became a police officer because I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my grandparents and great-grandparents. I am aware that many of my colleagues are struggling in the same way as I am due to the brutal onslaught of the rising cost of living.

It is frustrating that the Government does not value us at all and refuses to recognise and compensate for the unique role of police officers in society. I decided to speak to the Federation, our Federation, about my struggles and this is my story.


  • How is your day-to-day life at home?

Busy now – rest days are fully occupied with a one-year-old trying to run around.  Every few weeks there are hospital appointments due to something that was discovered after birth, but overall, the child is healthy and a happy little soul who thankfully loves nap time and good food.

  • How has the cost-of-living crisis, combined with years of pay cuts, affected you and your family?

It has had a huge impact. It has affected living standards and mental health. It has led to a constant unbearable stress about how precarious things are financially because of the low pay even as prices of basic necessities skyrocket.  We live under constant overwhelming fear of how close we may be to losing the roof over our heads.

Unfortunately, I am now a lone parent and find myself in circumstances I would never have wanted to be in.  I am the only earning member of the household and find my police pay alarmingly low. Each month I struggle to cover payments for the mortgage, council tax, utilities, and other unavoidable bills such as insurance and building service charge (which has almost tripled in the past few months). It is increasingly difficult to try to save for emergencies and/or essential repairs that are needed in our tiny home.

We have unfixed broken windows that are single-glazed and more ineffective because of a broken heating system. The bathroom sink is coming off the wall; the front door has broken after the letterbox was ripped off. There is no spare income to manage these basic but essential home safety maintenance issues. There is no family to help DIY or lend money, and no social housing company to call.

A baby was not part of my plan and I had goals and hopes for months and a couple of years ahead after a really difficult period. After discovering I was pregnant (with twins) and the accompanying hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) making me constantly sick every single day right up to the birth, I was terrified I simply could not afford to be a mum. I was also petrified that I would be made to quit if I stayed off sick, so I struggled and tried to hide the pregnancy. I was not financially in any position to raise a family and knew I would be on my own with no family in the UK or support network. After losing one of the twins, I expected to lose the other baby and I would not have to deal with being a mum. Childcare is cripplingly unaffordable. But reducing hours at work comes with a reduction in already unacceptably low pay, and the mortgage and bills wouldn’t be covered on half the pay of what is already barely helping make ends meet.

The options were to give up work, join a housing list and wait for a council property, and become entirely dependent on benefits as soon as every last penny of very small savings was spent and then raise a child with no job or another job I didn’t need when I already have a perfectly good job right now. 

The other options were rather than to bring my child up with a struggle, never be able to own my own home again to pass on to, no option to work extra hours to pay for things my child may need as they get older. There was one more option – to give my baby up for adoption so that they can be raised by a family who could provide everything: stability, a safe secure home, and “parents” who were prepared and financially ready for a child. I told the midwife that is what I needed to do, and a social worker was assigned to me. Meetings were set up with adoption services in the area. I had to make birth plans, decide whether I wanted to see and say goodbye to the baby, or have them taken away straightaway and just go home with no contact or no involvement, and whether or not I wanted a memory box from the hospital. We discussed whether I would be prepared for open adoption and have some part to play in the baby’s life or completely no contact until the baby tried to look for me at 18, if at all.

The discussions were brutal. I was riddled with guilt that I would leave a child potentially growing up questioning why they had been “abandoned” or “unwanted” when they actually were not being rejected. It felt like a punishment – a 1950s punishment for being an unmarried mother. The reality was I am a grown adult, who did not ever want to be in the situation I was in (but having escaped domestic abuse and violence, I’m not beating myself up anymore), with a demanding, difficult job I am good at and love doing, paying my way in life, doing everything “right”, except I am not married to or living with someone providing a good second back-up income. What a ludicrous thing that I cannot afford to keep my own child as a working adult, because pay is simply flatlined/cut, and our politicians are so out of touch with reality. I essentially felt forced to go along with giving the baby up at birth to be raised by others who are “good parents” because they are richer and/or paid more. Yet, I am doing a job that holds so much responsibility and I am expected to hold other people’s lives in my hands at times.

A support worker from Barnado’s also spoke to me to help me go through the adoption process and be sure it was the right thing for me. They tried to reassure me that I should not feel guilt and suggested how to deal with feelings of regret. But my one thought was that after the complicated journey – I was finally doing my dream job, I had taken a pay cut from my previous job, and was prepared to do overtime, save up, and work my way up the pay scales (I had not considered there would be a new cost-of-living crisis and pay actually would not be rising, not when deductions outstrip any increase in the first few years). Maybe having a baby would not be a life-devastating event. For some people, it is not possible at all and they make choices they have to because they do not or cannot be a parent, but to have to lose your baby just because you are “poor”, in a first-world country, when you have a serious fulltime job – one of the toughest jobs out there such as response policing in London? It is pretty appalling.

I am not asking for a huge pay-out every month, but just pay that reflects the work we do, in the city we do it, for the hours and demands it asks of us. Income that does not just about cover the cheapest estimate of oversimplified costs (normally based on a very average man; expenses for basic female needs are not cheap), but that accounts for the most likely realistic costs, and is enough so I can afford to “treat” my child to new shoes when needed, or a day out or an ice cream because we have gone to the beach for a day. I am working, I am earning, I am taking responsibility, and want to save for those inevitable rainy days. No one makes a serious career in a job that matters by taking home barely the minimum wage. 

There is an element of working to live a reasonable quality of life in the 21st century, not working to struggle and ultimately fail because the income is outstripped by outgoings you have no control over. That is ludicrous. I cannot downsize, I do not have luxuries or anything excessive to cut out. They are raising the pension age and then complain about the declining birth rate impacting our future while making it impossible for women who work to have and raise children. But if you quit your job, they will be fast enough to criticise you for not taking responsibility and becoming a burden to other taxpayers.

  • Do you ever have to rely on overtime to keep yourself afloat?

I do try and work bank holidays as the extra little bit helps. Though I cannot really do OT. I now have some support with childcare from my elderly mother whom social services had to approach, but it is too much to ask her to watch a toddler so much and I just cannot afford paid childcare.

  • How has this uncertainty and insecurity affected your well-being?

There has been a huge impact. I know the feeling of being so overwhelmed and the heavy cloud over us that I might not keep us afloat financially and could end up having to give up our home. I cannot downsize from a one-bedroom property with a child now; it definitely impacts me. I can feel it distracting me from being the mum I want to be to my baby. I am often lost in a world of frantic, desperate planning and panic to keep making ends meet when I would like to be enjoying raising my little one and making memories in this short time while the baby is just a baby.

The heating system broke last winter just before the baby was born. I could not afford repairs. I came home from the hospital completely alone with a newborn, after a C-section, with barely anything. I had not planned to come home with a newborn and only had an electric oil heater to heat the flat. The heater began leaking oil and we were without any heating as I could not lift it or get it to the shop to replace it. Social services supported me with a food shop/nappy shop to keep me going the first couple of weeks. During that time I was unable to drive. The baby and I both were ill with Covid and back in the hospital, and I was worrying massively about coping financially and physically – even right now I am unable to pay for a taxi back home. Obviously, baby goods are not cheap, not even essentials such as steriliser/bottles/ nappies/bedding. I was still wondering why I had changed my mind in the days before going into the hospital and agreed to bring the baby home. Because when the maternity leave was over, I absolutely had no way to save for or enough pay each month for any sort of childcare. And all I had done was become a working mum. There is still a social stigma about lone mums. Lone dads are heroes, lone mums are still frowned upon; even if we do work full-time or do everything we can to provide for our family.

  • As an officer with four years of experience, how does the erosion of pay make you feel?

Completely undervalued. It feels like not taken seriously at all despite what our job entails and the risks we face every day and are expected to assist with even off duty. The fact they know we cannot strike means to them that they can demean and ignore us. They are wilfully ignorant of our struggles. We are working a difficult job, difficult hours, difficult climate, and difficult locations under enormous scrutiny and, somehow, we are the only key emergency service workers not worthy of a pay rise of at least the same value as other emergency service workers such as NHS workers.

  • Do you feel valued by the Government?

Not at all. The reality of what we do for them and their voters day in, night out is of no interest to them. The police are a punching bag and a scapegoat for many of their poor decisions and huge failings.

Pay is simply inadequate and unfair. We are overlooked as compared to the fire service, who have plenty of scope for profitable second jobs as they do not face the same regular risks of cancelled rest days, random aid warnings, or force mobilisations, and are provided with sleeping accommodations, kitchens, gyms, and parking. These are additional expenses for police officers and they are never factored in. Why aren’t we at least getting the same pay rise, if not more? I did not do this job to become a millionaire but did expect, morally and logically, that they would know the pay should reflect the seriousness, importance, and risk the job carries.

  • Have you faced any particularly dangerous moments in your career, or been assaulted?

I have been assaulted. I have even had a roll around during an arrest in early pregnancy before I told anyone. Like many of my colleagues, I have faced violence with inadequate Personal Protection Equipment and had to manage and hope today is not the day it goes terribly wrong. Something I fear more now as I am a mother and I do not want to leave my child alone.

  • You and your colleagues face these risks and more. Do you feel your pay reflects this?

The reality is that of course it does not. Not when prices are rising so rapidly – mortgages and bills skyrocketed as did travel and food costs.  None of these things are optional. When people are actually working for their money, taking responsibility, and are employed to pay their way and for their families, it is categorically immoral and wrong that we are left to trail behind and struggle because of a twist of a perverse law made years ago. The mentality of “do more overtime” is great if you have no family to raise and no preferred way to spend your spare time, but raising children is not optional for parents. It is where you want to be and need to be on your rest days. Rest days are not actually an extra luxury. Overtime is not a simple solution, nor should it be when you have already worked a very physically and mentally demanding week; at times carrying home work-related trauma while raising a family.

  • What is the overall feeling amongst your colleagues?

We love the job, but many of us are very disillusioned and frustrated. So many of my peers have left the job. I am so saddened to see some really excellent officers, who were exactly what the Met was crying out for and what London wanted and needed, leave because they could not afford to live on police pay. 

  • Has it impacted your morale?

I feel it is in my DNA to do this job, so I love what I do. It has really kept me going during some of the darkest days because I am doing something very important. I am often doing it with really good people who, for that shift, are as close as family.  But the weight of the fear and trepidation caused because of a combination of struggles does make it feel like my morale is close to teetering over the edge. It is like carrying several tonnes of sand in my vest’s pockets; I cannot ever take it off and release that burden.

  • Do you know of anyone who has left because of pay?

Not everyone has a family or a home with a second income to share the increase in the cost of living. So many of the officers I joined with have left. They could not afford the city they grew up in, or moved to, and worked in, on the prevailing police pay. Other jobs do pay better for less stress, less demand on private lives, and less trauma and grief. On top of it, we must endure intense negativity and hate directed at policing. For many of us, the cost/benefit weighed heavily on the side of too big a cost to carry on; it was not worth the struggle to make ends meet whilst facing the worst and most extreme treatment of society.


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