However when her husband walked out her, she found it impossible to find a job that worked around her childcare responsibilities.
Weeks out of work turned into months, and months to years.
Suddenly, she realised it was coming up for a decade since she had last earned a wage.
Tracy, 46, said: “I could not bear being out of work. I felt horrible every time I had to sign on. The longer it went on, the more depressed and useless I felt.
“It wasn’t for lack of trying but nobody would give me a chance. I think they thought, here we go, a single mum, she’ll want time off every time one her children is ill.
“I was putting in eight or nine job applications per day and not even getting ‘thanks, but no thanks’ feedback. It was like I didn’t exist. The longer it went on, the less likely I thought it was that someone would give me a job.
“My confidence went through the floor. If people started taking about work I changed the subject, I was so ashamed of being on benefits. Then I stopped going out altogether because I just couldn’t face the world.”
To make matters worse, she picked up a conviction for drink driving which she felt held her back even more.
It was only when she was referred to the Government’s Work Programme in our Warrington office, that she finally got the support she needed to get back into employment.
After help to rebuild her shattered confidence, her PeoplePlus advisor put through a pre-employment training course, directed her to the Money Advice service to sort out her finances, and put her up for a cleaning job at a new restaurant. Not only did she get the job, she was soon promoted to supervisor, and now manages five cleaners – including three of her daughters.
She said: “I was so glad when I was put on the Work Programme. I thought, help, at last. I loved going in and I felt they genuinely cared. I could ring my advisor any time for help or just a chat. I started to believe in myself again because they did.
“My advisor told me to be honest in the interview about my conviction. I was and they appreciated that.
“When they told me I had the job I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like my life was about to start again.
“I didn’t sleep for two nights before my first day. I felt like a kid again, I was so excited. I felt the same when I came off benefits. On my first payday, I went to the cashpoint and there was £104 in my account. That might not sound like much but that was money I had earned. I felt like I was floating.
“I’ve been working a year now and I’ve even been able to buy a car. I love going to work and I’m a different person for it. I am proud to say I am head of housekeeping at a restaurant.”