It’s People like Heather Frost That Give the Benefits System a Bad Name.

Pocket Money 2After reading about Heather Frost today, I felt the need to write this post.

I started work at the age of 17. I had a summer job which lead on to another job which lead on to another and so on. I did well with my career in Relocation. I paid my NI and I paid my taxes. In my mid-20s I had two jobs. My week day office work and then, the weekends were spent in a record store aiding my passion of music. I contributed even more by paying emergency tax on my second job and, despite the fact that I worked all the hours god sent, I didn’t have tonnes of money to show for it. But I did have my self-worth.

Roll on a few more years and I qualified as a driving instructor. I was self-employed and worked 7 days a week starting at 7.30/8am and finishing around 7.30pm. I carried on contributing to the system,paying my taxes and NI and continued with this job for 4 years.

Reaching my mid-30s everything changed. I had Grace. I became a single Mum. The Legal Aid system let me down. I had no money. I received no child support. Thank goodness for my Mum who gave Grace and I a home. Despite my embarrassment, the government encouraged me to claim income support and I had numerous interviews with the job centre explaining my position, promising that I would get back to work after I had started to cope with the fall-out of the domestic abuse I had been through. They were understanding and kind.

Then came the time where I needed to leave my Mums. I hadn’t fully realised until that point the stigma that was put on people receiving benefits. Getting a place to live wasn’t easy when I said I would be on housing benefit. I was lucky to find an understanding Letting Agent, sympathetic Landlord and lovely flat in a great village.  But, later, getting a job in an Estate Agents meant I had to continuously hear Landlords slating ‘benefits scum’ who ‘would probably wreck the place they were renting and stick up a giant plasma TV with the money the scum received from the taxes their wages paid for’.

I felt I had to continually justify my position and explain why I received benefits. Even typing that now makes me feel like dirt. But why should it?! I paid into a system for nearly 20 years for the possibility that, one day, I may need help back. That the system I had been working to help support and pay into may, one day, help me in return. After all, isn’t that what it’s there for?

Then I see people like Heather Frost. Is it any wonder many have this view of people on benefits. Why should she get everything and expect to give nothing. Why should she – despite the fact that she has 11 children – feel that this country ‘owes’ her. And what sort of example is she setting to her children? Already the two eldest are on benefits as well. Then, to add insult to injury, she admits that gets things off of local shoplifters.  This woman is appalling. She says that there is no law on how many children she has. Heather, no there isn’t, but there is a law on how you fund your child’s upbringing and ‘stealing’ other peoples hard earned wages isn’t it, nor is liaising with local criminals.

I come from a large family of 7 children and, whatever I may feel about my father, he worked damned hard to make sure that we had a decent place to live, food to eat, holidays and presents for birthdays and Christmas. Then, when he and my Mum split up, she needed to use the system but she never took advantage and was always careful trying hard to save money and live an honest life. As a result, all 7 of us are hard-working, honest, decent people.

When I converted from being on full income support to going back to work, I couldn’t wait to get rid of the stigma. I did it gradually and, as I increased my hours so the benefits decreased but they still made sure that, as a single working parent, they catered for me so that I didn’t get into financial difficulty. I still got some housing benefit, reduced council tax and my income support turned into working and child tax credit. My dignity and self-worth returned but, most importantly of all, I was setting my daughter the example that to get what you want in this life, you need to earn it.

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14 Comments

  1. October 14, 2013 / 10:32 pm

    I don’t normally comment on benefit posts but I like the way you have explained things here. It’s so true how there are people who exploit the system and makes it look really bad for those who are in desperate need. Like you I’ve done both, worked hard (which is particularly hard as a single parent) and have had to claim benefits, but I have never thought of benefits as my given right, or that I was owed.
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  2. October 14, 2013 / 10:25 pm

    Hear hear, very well written, and what stands out in all of this is your values in life – and that is what our job as parents should be, to bring our children up to want to work, to understand that nobody really gives things out on a plate for free. Even if it may seem as if this ‘lady’ is getting just that, it’s true that we don’t know the whole story and that the media sadly thrive on stirring things up a bit. I always used to envy people who had a job they loved when I was younger – whilst I didn’t dislike any of mine exactly, I certainly didn’t love them. I suspect at least 80% of the population feel that way about working though, that it’s necessary to make ends meet, or necessary to be able to fund a better lifestyle for yourself. I’m not sure there are loads of people out there who think having 11 children is an easy lifestyle choice – though maybe it is if you’re not putting the effort in teaching them good values and how to stay on the right side of the law?

  3. Mrs Teepot
    October 14, 2013 / 2:36 pm

    Excellent post. So many people work very hard before they fall on hard times and have to accept benefits. I think the proportion of people who really do exploit the system is very small.
    My personal experience with benefits was that they were actually incredibly hard to access and even harder to stay on, and even with them it was still difficult to live on them.
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  4. October 13, 2013 / 11:06 pm

    I’m so with you. This government has tried to tackle the ‘scroungers’ who kept having kids to get more money, bigger house or whatever by introducing the benefit cap. Which is good but I always wonder about those poor people who like you, suddenly find themselves in a horrible situation and need help, who aren’t scroungers but may have a few children – I hope they still get everything they need! Great post and so happy you turned things around for yourself! xx
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  5. Anna (@FamRoundabout)
    October 13, 2013 / 6:38 pm

    As you really clearly explain, it’s all about attitude. Some people feel that they are owed a living, that they can choose that way of life. It shouldn’t be a choice. And for a lot of people, it isn’t. You’ve made me feel angry, moved and proud all at once.

  6. October 13, 2013 / 4:23 pm

    You have an amazing and inspiring story. I agree with you on every word, and am happy for you that you could write it. I think it is so important that people understand and actually SEE the people behind the stigma. It is the same with so many cases of prejudice and stigma, and is so wrong. I guess it might be naive, but I think the more of us who tries to set the record straight there are out there, the better society and the system will be.
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  7. October 13, 2013 / 3:23 am

    This is a brilliant post with some very important and ‘touchy’ issues for some. One thing that really struck me was how you said that you want to set an example to your daughter and this Heather Frost’s older two were already on benefits. My American father came from a very poor working class background and worked his way out. Because of him, even when we were well off when I was young, I always had two or three part time jobs – or more – as a student because of the work ethic he instilled in me. I only stopped working after 20 years when I had my twins. I do though think the benefit system is an incredibly important as a safety net.
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  8. October 12, 2013 / 7:50 pm

    I think unfortunately it has become a choice for some people and unfortunately their children are seeing this and ‘choosing’ this lifestyle once they finish education. It shouldn’t be a choice it should be there for people, like you, who need it at the time as a last resort. Things need to change in the way benefits are given in this country but until then people like this will continue to get away with it and give genuine people who need benefits a bad name x
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  9. October 12, 2013 / 4:05 pm

    Great post! I wish that all those people who rant on about the benefits system and those who claim benefits paid attention to all the different reasons why people claim benefits and what they’ve been through. I recently read a good article that compared British attitudes to benefit claimants and the Royal Family. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/02/kate-middleton-benefit-scrounging-mother-moves-palace-taxpayers-expense
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  10. October 12, 2013 / 12:21 pm

    Really interesting take on this, I can’t decide how I feel about it all – perhaps because we are currently surviving on benefits and I’m well aware of the stigma and the struggle.
    There’s a lot of information that just hasn’t been reported; why doesn’t she work? Surely there must be a legitimate reason or she wouldn’t be able to claim at all. The system is HARD to exploit (it’s hard enough to legitimately claim), no matter how many people tar all ‘benefit scroungers’ with the same brush.
    A lot of the total figure of her monthly income will be housing benefit which is paid directly to the council so actually once omitted would lower the total a lot.
    As for buying things from shoplifters, is that because she is ‘bad’ and disrespectful of the law OR is it because that is simply the only way that she can survive, even though it is wrong.
    There is a lot in the news at the moment seemingly vilifying those on benefits but only telling half of the story and I think it’s so dangerous.

  11. Stephanie
    October 12, 2013 / 7:52 am

    Your story is amazing! That is why I hate benefit bashing, we never really know the full story. I don’t get mad at individual stories, I know they are designed by the media and our current government to stir up hate. I know it may well be me next in the hate list. Or single mothers, or the disabled, or asylum seekers or some other vulnerable member of our society. The only thing that makes me mad is our disgusting press and vile government who work very hard to keep us fighting with others so we don’t notice the appalling things they are doing.
    Stephanie recently posted..Perfection V’s DeliveringMy Profile

  12. October 12, 2013 / 6:36 am

    I agree with everything you have said, the current system makes it far too easy for people to have multiple children with no intention of working. I’m of the opinion that unless you have paid into the system at some point you shouldn’t be able to claim any help, I also think it’s wrong that people claiming benefits can ‘earn’ the same amount of money as someone who works as it gives no incentive to go back into the workplace. We have friends who claim the same amount of money as they would earn on minimum wage in a job and it’s wrong.
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  13. October 11, 2013 / 11:39 pm

    Well said!! after going through almost identical situations i too felt the same!! my personal opinion is that while the system allows people to take advantage of the system people like her will continue to abuse it! xx
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