Who Benefits? is looking for stories from anyone who has ever received working-age benefits support, such as:
The campaign is not about pensions or other retirement-age benefits.
I've needed support from benefits because I was out of work for two years. I've worked all my life apart from then and was applying for jobs all that time – everything from admin roles to basic manual jobs – but it was extremely difficult to get anything.
The flat I was living in was mostly being paid for by housing benefit but I had to top the rent up from my Jobseekers' Allowance. After bills I didn't have much left to live off. Eventually I had to move out and live on a bed settee in a friend's office.
Without this support I would be on the streets. During those two years I relied on benefits, but I can't say it fulfilled all my needs. It's alarming to think where I'd be without it though.
Fortunately, I am now working in a mail sorting office.
I've needed support from benefits because, as a mother of four, daily life can be a real struggle. Before we received support, I was forced to borrow from family and friends. I'm a full-time mum, and my husband has been working as a full-time mechanic for six years. It annoys me when I read how families who receive benefits are being labelled as ‘shirkers', ‘scroungers' or ‘work-shy'. Receiving support from Child Tax Credits is not a lifestyle choice for me – it's a necessity. It helps me to put food on the table for my family, buy clothes and school uniforms for my children and prevent the gas and electricity from being cut off. Without this support I don't know how we would survive.
I've needed support from benefits because when I was first diagnosed with bipolar the shifts in mood were so extreme I couldn't hold down a full time job. The stress was causing me to end up in hospital regularly. Benefits helped me cope with everyday living. Without this support I don't think my ongoing recovery would be as good as it is. I hope one day to be able to support myself as my condition becomes more manageable. But for now benefits make my life more bearable and through the darkest of times at least my basic needs are met.
I've needed support from benefits because when my husband left and I was made redundant from the job I'd had for more than six years – both in the space of just a few months – mine and my daughter's lives were turned upside down. I couldn't afford to keep the family house we'd been renting anymore, but benefits helped us find a new home. Without this support I would not have been able to get us back on our feet and get myself onto a teaching course. I'm studying to become a science teacher, a career that will allow me to fulfil my potential and provide for my daughter.
I am single parent to my nine year old son and I work in a children's centre part-time. When I became pregnant with my son, my partner left and shortly afterwards I lost my job. It was devastating.
Even once my son started school, I struggled to find work. Not only were few jobs offering the part-time hours I needed to balance work and caring for my son, there was a severe shortage of childcare in the city we live in. It was a very difficult time. I am very grateful for the support from benefits we had while I was out of work, and for the continued support we get now, to help pay the essential food, housing and energy bills that my salary just doesn't cover alone. It is still a struggle, but I hate to think where we'd be without the support we've had.
My family was on benefits for most of my childhood. My parents divorced, leaving my mum caring for me and my brother, who had chronic asthma and often needed time off school. Mum had a hard time finding an understanding employer.
We were poor but benefits kept a decent roof over our heads, fed us and clothed us until, step by step, mum could return to work. Benefits enabled my family to live with dignity through a time of crisis. Today, my mum loves her full-time job, my brother is a personal trainer, and I am finishing a PhD. We’re not embarrassed that we needed a helping hand to get here and we support the families who still need it.
I needed support from benefits when my life abruptly changed in 2006 after an accident at home while doing repairs. I sustained a burst fracture of the lumber spine and needed surgery and stabilization with metal rods. As someone who hardly missed a day off work in 17 years I suddenly found myself with an acquired disability and not a clue where to turn to. I've had to fight very hard for disability living allowance and the stresses and strains of being out of work, and depression led to the break-up of my 15 year marriage.
With kids involved, this added more stresses and in 2010 I tried to take my own life. I am currently still out of work. Still mobility disabled and chronically depressed. However without the help of benefits, I don't think I would be here to tell the tale.
I needed support from benefits when I underwent chemotherapy, having been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Within the space of four weeks, I was also made redundant from my job as an electrician contract manager.
Without benefits I could not have survived. My mortgage would have been foreclosed, a healthy diet unaffordable and travel costs beyond reach. It’s imperative that the benefits system is in place to protect people like me when we are unable to work. The last thing you want to be worrying about when you’re ill is money. The only fight you should have to take on is to get better. Five years ago I was given the all-clear and am now back at work. I no longer claim benefits and have paid off all my debt.