Benefit families speak out

Tins, gas, money, electricity

The Welfare Reform Bill goes back before MPs on Tuesday amid wrangling over the detail. The Bill will impose a cap of £26,000 on the amount of benefits that households can claim.

At the beginning of February, we looked at how jobless Raymond and his family of seven in north Wales managed on annual benefits totalling £30,284.80.

Among the many website readers who wrote in after the article was published was 45-year-old Ade, from Bedfordshire.

He wrote: "I had sympathy for this family until I read in detail what they spend their money on. I believe that a cutback on booze and tobacco products is a must. Then unsubscribe to Sky... you should be thankful for what you get and adjust your lifestyle accordingly."

Start Quote

We are reaping benefits of a good society and I see no problem with that”

End Quote Ade

Father-of-five Ade, like Raymond, is happy to detail his income and expenditure. But unlike unemployed Raymond, who has not worked for more than a decade, Ade works as a full-time systems analyst, on take-home pay of £20,592.

But because he and his wife Chris have a large family, including a child with autism, the couple are also entitled to a range of benefits that boosts their income to £40,874 a year.

Like millions of other British families they fund their lifestyle on a mixture of wages and benefits. And that means - despite Ade's relatively modest income (just above the UK median salary) - they are able to run two cars and take a low-cost annual holiday with their children.

Ade says: "We live a very easy life. We are pretty happy with what we have."

Here we break down the income Ade and his family receive - and detail where the money goes. Click on the grey boxes to see what Ade says about the family's outgoings

Clickable flowchart of a families income and outgoings on benefits
  • Annual breakdown
  • Salary (after tax) £20,592

    Benefits £20,282

    Total £40,874

    *Disability Living Allowance. Families entitled to DLA will not have their benefits capped

Child tax credit £218

'One of our sons is autistic, so we get extra payments'

Disability Living Allowance £49.00

'Our son qualifies for the medium rate. We spend the extra money on a special diet to reduce the symptoms of autism'

Carer's Allowance £55.00

'We use this money on things like nappies for our son, who still needs them even though he is four'

Weekly shopping £150

'We are members of a membership warehouse retailer and we do our shopping once a month in bulk to save money'

Entertainment/going out £40

'Although Chris and I might go to a restaurant, we'll often just buy a DVD and watch a movie with the children'

Car costs £75

'We need two cars because we are members of a home schooling network, so we have to take the children to events and outings'

Mobiles £15

'My wife and I have mobile telephones. The children are much too young to have them'

Energy bills £40

'We pay our gas and electricity bills by direct debit, so to be honest I haven't noticed the cost going up that much'

Mortgage & home insurance £250

'I don't begrudge the money I spend on the mortgage because one day we will own the house outright. We are making extra payments to pay the house off earlier'

Church tithes and offerings £115

'The church we belong to has given us a lot of support over our autistic son. Giving the money is the right thing to do'

The family's biggest outgoing is the mortgage on their home, a three-bedroom end-of-terrace. But, says Ade: "One day we will own it outright so it's not wasted money."

The couple do not smoke or drink. Nor do they subscribe to a TV satellite channel. They say their children - aged 12, nine, seven, four and one, are too young for mobile telephones.

Chris schools her children at home, so there are no uniforms to buy. Yet books and other teaching materials must be purchased, and she needs a second car to drive her children to events and outings.

And, unlike Raymond, who faces a cut in his benefits under government plans to slash the welfare bill, Ade and Chris's annual benefit entitlement of £20,282 falls well under the proposed £26,000 cap.

Ade says he has no problem at all with claiming benefits that almost double his salary.


  • 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 average household income 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 are reaping benefits of a good society and I see no problem with that," he says. "Benefits are a good thing, and if society can afford it, they should be paid."

"But benefits should encourage people to work - they should not be something in place of work."

Ade used to work for the Benefits Agency in London and handled dozens of claims every year.

"Once I handled a claim from someone who had not worked in 18 years. It was then I decided to leave the agency," he says.

"Benefits are there to help people who are genuinely in need, and they should be a tool to encourage people to work hard," he says.

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