On Benefits & Proud

On Benefits & Proud

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With a fifth of every pound we pay in tax going directly to support benefit claimants, not everyone is happy with who gets what.

Mum of 11 Heather, 37, has been branded one of Britain's biggest benefits scroungers. Heather and her supersized family live in two knocked-through council houses on the outskirts of Gloucester. Her income on benefits is double what most people in Britain earn – in fact, you would need a £60k+ a year job to match it. Heather has never worked and believes it is her right to have as many children as she wants, whatever the cost. Her jobless kids are now having kids and homes of their own, so the benefits bill for the family is increasing. So too is the controversy that surrounds her, with the news that her local council are building her a brand new six-bedroom house. But not everything goes to plan.

In Liverpool, newlyweds Julie and Vinnie have not worked for six years. Julie is 44 and has six grown up children all on benefits. She does not believe that a job is worthwhile unless she can have £500 a week left after paying tax and bills. Her 38-year-old husband Vinnie does not believe that there are any jobs out there so doesn’t even bother looking. The couple get everything they need paid for in benefits – including their cable TV package. Taking into account the home paid for by housing benefit, their joint income on benefits is roughly the same as the minimum wage.

Jobs in Liverpool may not be plentiful, but houses are. In areas of the city dominated by private landlords and low-quality housing, you can move at the drop of a hat and even increase your benefits if you know how to work the system.

In London, rent is sky-high, especially in the most sought-after boroughs. Camden is home to single mums Emma and Sophie, both on benefits with their rent paid. As their rent is more than £1,200 a month, their benefits bill exceeds most, but Emma and Sophie do not think they should have to move out of central London. Emma has four kids by the same dad, but he has a place of his own, leaving the state to pick up the tab. Emma says she could work but would need to earn around £30,000 a year to make it worth her while. Both Emma and Sophie came to London as teenagers and both have been on benefits since becoming mums. Sophie wants a well-paid position too. Despite having no qualifications, she is not prepared to take just any job. She wants the state to fund further education, but only when her daughter has left state-funded nursery...