I’m on benefits and I’m not proud to be on them…

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Zoe Rooney

 
I am 35 living in Somerset, working voluntarily within my community. I have two children and one has special needs. I suffer with mental health but do not see that as a barrier to achieve.

I am on benefits and I am not proud to be on them, but I also acknowledge they are a support for which I am thankful for. There may be many who abuse the system but isn’t that the way of life? A few give the majority a bad name. The vast majority of people on benefits are in low paid work or retired. I never expected to be on benefits for so long, nor did I expect to find that I was unable to work due to health issues. I had worked for many years, in good positions, but overnight that all changed. If it weren’t for our country’s safety net, I hate to think where I would have ended up.

I try to give back and do voluntary work to justify earning the ‘wage’ that my community pays into. However, I refuse to be seen as a scrounger or a leech on society. Iain Duncan Smith announced his idea of prepaid benefits cards. I really question why the people with all the money decide what is best for those who have nothing. Have they ever had to wonder where the next meal is coming from? Had to make the choice to eat or heat? Searching for pennies to buy bare essentials? While the prepaid cards seem a good idea in regards to helping those with addictions, what of the thousands that do not have addictions and are forced into the same bracket?

The theory being that without cash, drugs cannot be bought… well I hate to burst your bubble Mr Smith but surely those with addictions can easily buy a product and sell it cheaper to get some quick cash? So now they are receiving less benefit money as they are trading down. So what happens next? How long before petty theft increases as they try to feed their habit? If you give me all my money on a prepaid card then how am I to pay for a loaf of bread? Give the children a couple of quid pocket money? My children do not take cards. All this is going to do is once again take more ownership of their lives away. We already have a nanny state and the whole premise in the last few years, with Universal Credit, is to give power back to the people and encourage them to manage themselves, so why now are we back tracking? Give with one hand and take with the other? Is there going to be a minimum spend in shops for these cards? What if a card is lost?

Those with mental health problems struggle at the best of times but giving them a card that is so easily abused is simply farcical. When will the government come down out off the pedestals and hit the streets and really see what is happening? Food banks are being accessed more than ever. Children are going to school hungry and relying on funded dinners. Parents choose to go without meals in order to provide for their loved ones. “This is a change for those families that we as a Conservative government will be proud of.” I am sorry but I do not need you to feel proud of me… I need you to be realistic when you decide these short sighted changes. The bedroom tax is forcing families out of their homes where generations have grown up. I understand the housing shortage but perhaps if the government gave housing associations more money and backing to build new homes, which in turn would put money back into the economy, then a start would be made to really changing lives for the better. Why is the housing crisis not significant in any party’s main pledges?

Maybe the way the housing shortage will be resolved is to have more desperate people sent to prison, as they steal to feed habits or feed their family. Funding is being taken from all NHS budgets, including mental health. Beds are so few and far between. With the poorest in society already being stretched to their limit, when they are forced into depression and despair, there will be no where for them to go for help. We need greater opportunities, a decent living wage, adequate pension provision and more affordable housing for all of society, not just a select few.

Gary Orr (Chief Executive of Yarlington Housing Group) has ideals that sound far superior to the damage control being ploughed out by the government- “an affordable warm home in a community that offers opportunity for people to realise their hopes and dreams, for themselves and their children is a fundamental right. Today too many are excluded that’s why we must back the Campaign to build more homes and create opportunity for those that face our nation’s housing crisis. Yarlington, like many other organisations, provide a raft of employment, training & education services to actively assist local citizens. We are in the residents’ corner; we are on the side of the vulnerable; we demonstrate our independence by championing our residents rights.

For me we need a welfare system that is on your side, that starts from the premise that you have hopes and dreams and recognises that you are not the problem but an opportunity in what is a challenging and competitive environment ” This kind of opinion on a political stage would get my vote. Forget the way you pay people and provide more housing and better facilities and funding for mental health. In my opinion the major problem is that those at the top of the food chain, have forgotten those who are going to food banks to survive.

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4 thoughts on “I’m on benefits and I’m not proud to be on them…

  1. Well done. Hey, we use plastic cards to distribute food benefits in the States. We used to use paper coupons. No matter what distribution system’s used, people who want to trade food benefits for “whatever” manage to find a way. Sometimes it’s benign, like “I’ll buy you a beef roast if you buy me toilet paper.” Sometimes, of course, it’s not.

  2. Samantha says:

    I couldn’t agree anymore if I tried with this…. I live in the South west in Dartmouth… Not by choice, I was placed here by council when we had no other option, one of the most expensive places to live, for someone on benefits like myself, and I have a 3yr old lol girl, and a disabled mother who lives with me!! We have to drive at least 40mins to get anywhere, or pay £9 for a return on the ferry!! It ridiculous!!! I couldn’t agree you with you more though Hun, something has to be done about the ones who are forgotten!!!!

  3. Mossy Taylor says:

    Well said Zoe. I’m 51 and for the first time in my life I have had to come out of work on medical grounds. I have worked, by the way, for 36 years with 2 existing disabilities. I applied for PIP in July 2013, and I am still to receive a decision. I have been refused ESA on the grounds that I am £20 a week better off on Working Tax Credit. However I am not working at the moment, so can’t claim Working Tax Credit. I am applying for jobs even though I would be going against medical advice (as well as my existing disabilities I have a dislocated right ankle which I have had for 6 years and I was told for 4 of them that “it’s a bit of arthritis.” I am listed for surgery but my doctors are doing their best to save money by leaving me with a mobility impairment) I am going for interviews but as soon as the interviewer sees the limp and the stick they go into auto-pilot to get the interview out of the way. I never get the jobs in spite of great experience and qualifications. I’m currently living on food parcels. I only get Housing Benefit, and I am not getting the amount I should get, which is £105 less than my monthly rent. Really can’t see a way out of this. Previously in bad times I could have got a second job and worked my way through it, this time I can’t get arrested never mind employed. The problem with the people in the driving seat is that they have come straight out of university into politics having never done a day’s manual work and who certainly have no experience of single mums, social housing, or other problems faced by the forgotten majority. I don’t particularly want to claim benefits but I have no family to help. I’m used to being independent, this is a terrible situation. Why did I bother paying tax and National Insurance?

  4. Benefits are simply support for those not in work or in work but paid so low they need benefits to compensate for a poor wage. Compensation for a system that has failed them. They are not a lifestyle choice. most people aren’t in work because for most of them, there are no jobs given that there are 10 times more unemployed people that there are jobs for them and even many of these jobs are either part time, zero hour etc. Additionally it has to be noted that most jobs go to people already in work and not to the unemployed. As a result for most unemployed there are no jobs. i know no people who are proud to be on benefits but whether you are or not, do not take the blame for it. Unemployment is a national problem and the unemployed are the victims of it. It’s the government’s job to fix national problems, not ours. that’s why we pay taxes in from what i’ve seen the present “administration” haven’t created any jobs.

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