I don't usually talk about issues like this, however I have become more aware of the benefits system over the last year with my husband getting ill. After he lost his job in the March, we had to start living on around £71 per week for the first 13 weeks. In the April I assumed as he got Epilepsy and was having seizures each day and could not work, we would get things like free school meals, and free medical treatment to help us out. Unfortunately, I was sadly mistaken.
Bearing in mind that our children used to be in full time childcare because I worked part time and studied for a degree full time, whilst my husband worked full time - seven days a week usually as he would take any overtime. We lost all that once there was only myself working. My husband was having seizures every day, and I had no childcare - when I couldn't leave him alone with the kids. My yougest was two and didn't have any childcare at all so the system made it impossible for me to work. Luckily, I teach and assess, and I was able to work from home assessing online qualifications but I do have to travel to meetings and for training, but we managed to squeeze that in. I did manage to contact my local authority and got a plfor my two year old for 15 hours each week and this was a god send.
I found this so strange, that if one of you became so ill you couldn't care for the children and the other had to work, then you couldn't claim childcare, what was that about? If you become disabled, you have to be incapacitated for over six months and then it is possible to have childcare reinstated and it also means that if you are on a low income, you are also entitled to Working Tax Credit too - something I have never been entitled to, so in the first six months of becoming disabled and incapacitated, they make your life impossible by taking this away and if your a couple, it makes it harder for your partner to maintain their employment. I wonder where the logic is here?
When I reported our loss of income, Tax Credits still 'allow' you to earn £2500 extra - they don't count this as an income drop. This put us at a huge disadvantage as I worked our new incomes more than half or our yearly earnings previously, at only £15000. This should've meant that we were entitled to free school meals and free medical treatment due to this disregard of the £2500 as although our award notice said the correct amount, the system that links to the local authorities means that we were not entitled.
I don't understand why we were forced to live in poverty. We had to borrow money from my family to survive and rely on them for childcare. We were lucky, what about people who aren't as lucky as we are?
My husband is still ill and has even more health conditions, but we are determined he will get better. I know and understand that there are some people on benefits that don't deserve it but in 13 years of being together, this was the only time we had to claim anything, apart from assistance towards childcare. I do find it hard to comprehend that the benefit system seems to punish those who need it and when you have worked so hard, and are then treat like you don't deserve it, it's not fair. I agree there are lots of arguments about benefits, and who gets or deserves them and I was always aware that there was problems within the system, but who makes it harder for someone to work by taking childcare help away. This is about how people who have worked hard are punished because they get a medical condition or become disabled. It's not people who have worked for many years and need a helping hand whilst in recovery that the DWP/HMRC should be concerned with!
Do you have a good or bad experience of the benefits system? Do you think that hard working families should be punished because one of them becomes disabled? What about if this was a single parent who became ill - with no family support, how would they have survived?
I have no idea who comes up with these idealistic benefit policies, but they want to try and look at some of the personal circumstances here and live through it!
We survive, and we manage our money well. I know we will get through it and that things will look up. Health is the most important thing to us right now, and let's not forget that I have maintained working myself, even though it was made so difficult and we have kept our benefits to a minimum. As my husband has been unemployed for over a year now, I can claim childcare if I need to, and I now get a small amount of Working Tax Credit. We are living on a lot less, but I know there are people a lot more worse off than what we are.
My aim was to bring attention to the fact that if you develop a disability, you do suffer discrimination from HMRC. I hope that this is something neither you or I, will have to experience again!