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."

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

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.

"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.