Benefit families speak out

Mobile phone, tinned food, housing, gas

As MPs resume their debate on the Welfare Reform Bill - the government wants to cap benefits claimed by families to £26,000 a year - we look at one family that may be affected by the changes.

Unemployed father-of-seven Raymond (not his real name) and his family rent a former council house on a social housing estate in north Wales. They do not own a car or take a regular annual holiday.

Start Quote

I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating”

End Quote Raymond

Raymond, a former educational software writer, has been jobless since 2001. His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is unable to work.

Ray says: "The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago - there's a total lack of work in my area of expertise."

The couple share their home with six of their children - their five-year-old son, Raymond's twin girls from his first marriage, and three of his wife's four children from an earlier relationship.

Here we break down the benefits Raymond and his family receive - and detail where the money goes. Click on the grey boxes to see what Raymond says about their outgoings.

Clickable flowchart of a families income and outgoings on benefits
  • Living on benefits
  • Weekly income and outgoings for a family of eight in north Wales
  • Child Benefit £87.30
  • Child Tax Credit £301.10
  • Jobseekers Allowance £100.00
  • Council Tax Benefit £18.00
  • Housing Benefit £76.00
  • Total: £582.40
  • Annual breakdown
  • Benefits: £30,284.80
  • Proposed cap: £26,000*
  • Difference: £4,284.80
  • *If Lords amendments are overturned

Other outgoings £91

'There are four children to supply school uniforms - including gym kits - each year. The school trips aren't days out to Alton Towers - they're educational trips for several of the courses, like history, geography and media studies, that the school tells us will form an important part of their course. Then there are seven birthdays a year, and seven children to make Christmas happen for each year.'

Entertainment £20

'I go out once a week, on a Friday night. I meet up with my mates in the pub and have three or four pints.'

Sky TV £15

'We get the Sky Movies package because we're stuck in the house all week - otherwise we wouldn't have any entertainment.'

Public transport £30

'Most of this goes on our eldest son's bus fares to college and back. For me, if it's less than five miles, I'll walk.'

Mobiles £32

'My wife and I have mobile phones, and so do all of the teenage children. You try telling teenagers they're going to have to do without their mobiles and there'll be hell to pay.'

Energy bill £38

'Gas and electricity bills have gone up massively over the last couple of years - two years ago we were paying £20 a week. If they do cut our benefit we are going to have to choose between eating and heating the house properly.'

Rent £76

'This is social housing in Wales, so the rent is hardly massive. If we rented privately in this area, then the cost would be four or five times as much.'

Weekly shopping £240

'Our biggest expense. We do all our shopping at Tesco or Morrisons in one big go. Mostly we buy the "value" range - tinned meatballs, baked beans etc. On the cigarettes, my wife tried to give up, but she missed one appointment on the course and they threw her off it.'

Ray, 45, says: "I would love to be able to say that we are living in one of these eight-bedroom mansions that everyone is up in arms about, but no, we are stuck in a three-up, two-down house that has external measurements of barely 19ft by 25ft.


  • From April 2013, household benefits capped so out-of-work families do not receive more than the average household weekly income.
  • Limit set at £26,000 a year - equivalent to household wage of £500 a week after tax
  • Includes Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit
  • Exemptions for households in receipt of Working Tax Credit, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, Constant Attendance Allowance and war widows/widowers
  • Welfare Reform Bill applies to England, Scotland and Wales

"We have three teenage boys living in one room that barely fits their bunks and a chair-bed in it and two teenage daughters in a smaller room that barely fits their bunks in it.

"In the third bedroom we have ourselves and a five-year-old boy."

The family receive a total of £30,284.80 a year in benefits - well over the £26,000 cap proposed by the government. But, says Raymond, "If these proposals go through we will take a massive hit to our finances - and it's not as if we could move into a smaller or cheaper premises.

"I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating."



This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    See the opportunity for a world record - rating here. So here goes.

    For gods sake think of the children!

    Give the guy a break.

    He deserves it.

    Its Maggies Fault.

    Fill yer boots one and all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    As £388 pw is generated by the children it is clear see this is a family that has turned making kids into a profession. If the wife is bipolar she also should not be claiming JSA anyhow. Sadly this family has suffered misfortune but taken easy benefits allowed under Labour to dig itself into the mire further and to mispend what it has. Curbing benefits will correct this attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    can someone tell me how i can claim, last years earnings was 16500 before tax and i have 3500 tax to pay, others seem to be able to claim for all sorts yet i get nothing, what am i doing wrong ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    "there's a total lack of work in my area of expertise" - This is the same for lots of people, but they get what jobs they can. My area is conservation genetics but I don't sit around moping about how I can't get funding, I got a job in a gift shop. People aren't willing to do more manual or 'working class' jobs... and then they claim benefits. It's not right and needs fixing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Obvious reaction is they could save about 100 pounds on shopping without cigs, tobacco and beer. Don't know what they buy foodwise but there are loads of economical meals to be made and as they're not working they have time to search them out and put some positivity in their life. I agree with jon - can Raymond not retrain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Well done BBC, Highlight a case with too many children and irresponsible spending of their money, that will get people angry. Whilst there are undoubtedly people like this, there are many more on benefits who aren't. How about a bit of balance, maybe tomorrow a breakdown of the spending of a small family that don't smoke. Your bias reporting is just fuelling the myth that all benefits=scrounger

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    This is what happens when the govenment sell off essential services to the private sector and allow the rich to pay less tax than the ordinary worker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Aside from the very predictable (and largely justifiable) scorn aimed at Raymond, I find it incredibly sad to read the list of items regarded as essential in this family's life. As pointed out by many, taking out the fags, tobacco, booze, Sky and mobiles (£32 a week!!) alone would more than cover the potential deficit. The sooner benefits are paid in vouchers - for REAL essentials - the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    They really need to put up an example of someone who will genuinely suffer as a result of these changes. Like most of us I think, I'm not against supporting truly vulnerable people and I don't want them to suffer even at my expense. But its the spongers like our Ray, and the system that props him up, that ruin it for everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Get off your backside and retrain. Or get a job in a call centre or a supermarket or a cleaning job or start your own business or learn bookkeeping. I won't even mention the fags and booze. Maybe a choice between heating and cancer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    The good news Raymond is that with a few sensible economies you will be left no worse off after the essential cuts than now looking at your expenses, lucky escape I should say then. As for being unemployed for a decade or more, this is just plain idle, I suggest you retrain because if you think this is the end of the cuts I suspect you may be living more in hope than reality. Good Luck

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    If my calculations are correct, this guy's paying £780 a year for Sky TV. I agree, the benefit changes are ill-thought-out and will harm loads of families like this. Factor out the Sky and he'll still be left unable to pay for basic things that they need. But still- £780 for a couple of extra channels? Madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    So we are funding:

    Sky TV at £60 a month, £20 "Entertainment", £32 per week phone bills!!!
    Weekly Shopping Includes 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large
    pouch of tobacco.
    etc, etc.

    So that is where all of my hard earned wages are going. I now feel very sick. I've never been so outraged in my life to hear what my money is being spent on by people who don't even work. Disgusting

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    OK, so a family of 7 will suffer. Can we take it then that a family of 6 or 5 will be ok on this cap? In other words, 99% of families? Do we really want to encourage unemployed (and based on your article unemployable) people to have so many children? And why should hard-working taxpayers pay for them?
    PS. Saying you have bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder sounds like a massive dodge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    This proves exactly why a cap should be put on, they can save the 4 odd grand by cutting out cigarettes, alcohol and sky - life's luxuries. Easily money saved and he can't sit around watching Sky TV anymore boredom will force him to get any job. I fear after 10 years unemployment this guy simply does not want to work. I wish we had life that easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Raymond doesn't actually have an issue if they amendment comes in. If he gives up the cigs, lager + Sky by a rough calc he won't be any worse off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    I like how this artical is forming a lynch mob mentality and yet it hides the name of the person it's protecting. My guess is that this is THE most extreme situation where the system has failed. it seems to me that this artical serves 1 purpose. to rile up the public and win support for the conservatives. well it's worked. CAP THE BENEFITS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    these comments aren't "judgemental, spiteful and mean" this man and many like him are spending our money that we worked hard to earn on his sky tv, cigs and beer. this is called being angry as we have all been mugged every month, and the worst part is this legal theft will strike again next month and every month until someone stops this ridiculous culture of benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    200+ comments and it's a full house so far, 100% of respondents think this family are getting too much in benefits.

    Thank goodness this government has woken up and is smelling the coffee. Bring on the benefits cap - the sooner the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    I think we are being a bit unfair here, as I am sure that a little bit was missed off the end of the piece. What he surely meant to say was "I see eight people here having to choose between eating, heating, or smoking."


Page 53 of 64


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.