Tag Archives: trap


It is all change here again.

The husband has found a job.  I still haven't.  It isn't a full-time job but it is just enough hours to get a little bit in terms of Working Tax Credits (although given how much they overpaid us last year I am not sure how much).

We have only been getting full benefits for a couple of months, we waited until I had been out of a job myself for a month because, you know, no one really wants to have to ask for help to support their family.  At least most people want to support themselves despite what the Daily Mail *spits* would have you believe.  We waited until we were down to pennies in the bank and my aunt gave me a stern talking to, including an apology that she couldn't help, not that we were asking for her to!

So now he has a job.  We are chuffed by this.

So today we spent hours on the telephone calling the various agencies; HMRC, the Job Centre, the Council.

The husband needs some money in order to be able to travel to work, whether by bus or by getting his bicycle repaired so he can cycle, it is too far to walk, especially when you consider at least once, maybe twice a week he will be on a split shift, such is the hospitality industry.

So imagine our surprise when he was told that his final JSA payment could take up to a week to be awarded.  Granted, we got one last week so the next one is not due for a week anyway but we are crap with money so we shop for food and all other necessities on a fortnightly basis.  Basically, if we have money in the bank account, we are likely to spend it.  So our bills, food, nappies (for H obviously, not us) are bought and paid for once the JSA comes in.  Not that all the bills are covered by it but that is another post entirely.  A couple of calls and hours of pleading later and they have agreed to fast track it.  *relief*

Another surprise came when I called the council to inform them of our change in circumstances.  I understand they have to suspend our housing benefit claim until we can show proof of the husband's earnings.  I understand that will slow things down, what with him being paid four-weekly in arrears and the housing benefit being paid fortnightly in arrears.  What I don't understand is this new revelation.  Apparently, if we had been claiming for over six months they would continue paying our housing benefit for a further six weeks?!  I don't really understand that, it kind of feels like we are being punished for the husband getting a job?

Our only hope for the next 4 weeks until he gets paid is that somehow the tax credits, along with the housing benefit arrears we are owed will be enough to cover the rent and all the other things we need to live on but somehow I doubt it!

We hated being on benefits, it really is not a pleasant feeling for us, nor for the vast majority but you know, actually, I am beginning to understand what is referred to as the "Benefit Trap" and that is without having to come up with the ridiculous childcare fees in advance (which we will have to try to find if I ever manage to find a job myself).

*Disclaimer* I would like to assure you dear reader I am eternally grateful for the welfare system we have and wouldn't be so naive to think that there can ever be a perfect system but my goodness it is slightly screwed at the moment!


Overhaul the benefits system, says David Cameron

 Image credit The Telegraph

So, Mr Cameron has announced a whole raft of ideas to cut an extra £10 billion from welfare.  You can read them here.

Whilst I agree with a lot of the ideas, such as banning school leavers from going straight onto benefits and introducing a regional benefit linked to cost of living, I am not at all comfortable with the idea of removing access to Housing Benefit for 16-24 year olds.  Let me give you a bit of background to my story and hopefully you may see where I am coming from.

By the time I was 18, living at home (with my Mum, brother and two sisters) was becoming unbearable.  Largely because I didn't get along with my brother or my mum.  There were arguments and door slamming several times a day, not a good environment for a 3-year-old and 7-year-old I am sure you would agree.  As the eldest, my Mum felt she had little choice but to kick me out.  Originally I moved in with a couple from the Church we were attending but after 6 months they needed to downsize and got a very quick sale, I wasn't able to move with them.  Despite working full-time, I couldn't afford to rent a flat and I couldn't find a room in a shared house, all the ads were either for language students or people simply didn't want an 18-year-old living with them.  For a short time I crashed with friends who were living at home and unfortunately my contract came to an end.  I turned to the local housing charity who put me into a hostel for Under 25s.  Having already had a taste of freedom this was far from ideal as it was staffed 24/7 and there was a curfew of 11pm but I was grateful for my own room and a roof over my head.  The staffed helped me to access housing benefit, JSA and council tax benefit.  Out of the JSA of around £50 a week, £12 a week of that had to be paid to the hostel for service charge, washing was £1 a load, electricity about £8 a week and I had to buy my own food, needed money for bus fares to job hunt etc.  I took temporary jobs and couldn't get a permanent one as I didn't have the experience.  There were several times during that period when I needed to claim benefits and I hated it each time.

Three months after I turned 21, my mum died suddenly.  My Dad had long since stopped supporting my mum or us and at that time was unemployed, living hundreds of miles away in Newcastle in a bed sit.  He couldn't have taken his 3 children in even if he wanted to.

My youngest sister's Dad was an alcoholic and had always contributed financially.

My brother was approaching 20 and was living at home and working.

Thankfully for my sisters, my Uncle (mum's brother) and Aunt stepped up, despite me saying I wanted to move back into the family home to care for them, they were adamant that they wanted me to continue to live my life, find something I was good at etc; the chances of that happening whilst bringing up my sisters was nigh on impossible.  Is Cameron seriously suggesting that my Uncle should have taken in my brother and myself as well?  Bearing in mind he had two sons of his own from a previous marriage and his new wife (they'd been married for little over 6 months) pregnant.

Of course I imagine there would be exceptions to the proposals for those who find themselves in situations similar to mine, or fleeing violence and, presumably, those that fall pregnant which then pushes the family home into over-crowding.  Between the husband and myself, we have clocked up 6 years in supported young persons hostels.  Neither of us have ever come across a single person who is there simply seeking independence from their family which is what Cameron seems to suggest most young people do.  Neither of us were in a position to return to the family home for various reasons.  Neither of us wanted to turn to benefits or a housing charity.

I owe a lot to the workers at the hostel were I lived.  Shortly after my mum's death I was moved into a shared flat, managed by them with fortnightly visits and where I met my now husband.

Housing charities are struggling as it is.  In fact the one that helped me were struggling 10 years ago when I first went to them!

A sixth of Under 25s who claim Housing Benefit are actually working, those that are lucky enough to find and keep a job at the moment of course.  Perhaps something needs to also be done about high rents and low wages?

What do you make of Cameron's most recent ideas?