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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Should parents stay on welfare?
Parents who find work and come off welfare may be more likely to be worse off.

A major study by the Save The Children of 4,000 of the UK's poorest children has found they can end up living in worse conditions than those whose parents are constantly out of work.

Parents in short-term work suffered a dramatic fall in income - and a delay in benefits - once that job ended.

The report also found that the constant job switching affected children's confidence, they were more likely to be bullied, miss out on activities others took for granted, and may go without basics such as warm winter coats and shoes and proper meals.

Does coming off state benefits make children poorer?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

You need a job which provides enough for you to be able to live
Anti-Capitalist, England
People have lost sight of why jobs are needed. It's to provide the money to be able to live. With this in mind, it's no good just having a job. You need a job which provides enough for you to be able to live. Being in work might make the government's employment figures look good, but it does not stop the landlord wanting £200 in rent. If you only earn £199, clearly this is no good. Given that in a modern first world nation, there is more than enough to provide a basic standard of living for everyone, would someone in the CBI answer me a simple question? Why are so many people living in poverty, in the UK? a) Wages are too low. b) Living costs are too high. c) Both.
Anti-Capitalist, England

Apparently we live in a very selfish society where childless people should not have to pay for the children of others. If that is so I assume they will not be expecting a pension when they retire because there will be no one to pay it. There are fundamental problems and the government should stop encouraging businesses from paying such derisory wages. If there were a greater difference between a "living" benefit and a reasonable wage it would help solve the problem. Children are our future, no children now no future tomorrow.
Terry, France (ex UK)

I often ask myself "why do I bother working when others manage to wriggle their way out of it". In the UK, it pays to be lazy.
Gavin, Wales

This doesn't just happen to parents who are on benefits. After redundancy my sister had several short term temporary jobs with welfare in between before finding something permanent. Her reward was to be hounded by the benefits office, being called in for endless "interviews" while people who never went near the Job Centre were sent their Giro without question. If the system can't give more help to those actively trying to help themselves is it so strange that many just give up?
Ian , England

I have worked since the age of 15. I have been to university too. I never objected to my taxes being used to support people less fortunate than me. I have given birth to my own child. If I need to claim support from the welfare state in future, then I will do so without any ounce of guilt because I have paid into the system for a long time. My child is my main concern so if I need to be stay at home mum then fine. After all, it is my child who will be working in the future to ensure my generation still have access to public services like NHS.
GM, Scotland

Yet again we are smack up against those refusing to accept personal responsibility. Whilst I accept that there are those for whom personal circumstances change and therefore require help, there are far too many people indulging in satisfying their wants (in this case a child) at a point in their lives when they are clearly unable to provide for one. How about stabilising your financial situation and actually planning for your future for a change before having a child ?
Jan, UK

It is far too easy to become a parent, whether or not you are capable of looking after them
Angela, Scotland
I have always had the same opinions about having children (before and after having one myself). It is far too easy to become a parent, whether or not you are capable of looking after them. I don't see why I and other tax payers should be penalised financially in order to pay for other people's stupidity. I do accept that circumstances change, and this causes great hardship - this is the area we should concentrate on. I don't understand why those who have NEVER worked, and are already on benefit think that they are entitled to have children - and as many as they want. It's not PC to say, but if you can't pay for them yourself, don't expect others to for you, and don't have any!
Angela, Scotland

I have two points: 1) If you can't afford to have children, then don't have them. 2) As long as there is litter on the streets and graffiti on the walls there is plenty of work to be done. Why should I work so that others can sit around all day and do nothing?
Aaron, UK

If you are able to work and are on benefit for more than a fixed period of time then you are given the ultimatum of taking the first job the jobcentre offers you or having your benefit removed. This government imposed ultimatum often means you do end up employed but worse off. Of course this makes the government's employment figures look good but is detrimental to the child's welfare when there. Whether you have a child or not, you should not be forced to take a drop in your standard of living just to make the government look good.
David Howe, UK

Seems obvious to me. If you are going to have a free market then you have a free market. Interfering and meddling and distorting it with the input of benefits is always going to produce anomalies from the outset. Quite frankly I think having children should be about as difficult as passing a driving test is these days. Most parents on sink estates can't look after their children, don't really want them, and only have them as a source of benefit. As to educating them, bringing them up properly? You must be kidding!
Nick, England

I personally know single mothers who support themselves and their child or children entirely on welfare. And so I ask myself why the taxes from my hard work are supporting all these people when my own post-tax earnings leave me struggling to make ends meet? Why am I being penalised for taking care of myself? I wish I had less pride, then I could sponge off wage-earners, too!
Carl, UK

They are people doing their best to get by
Katie, UK
There are over 2 million children in this country living in poverty and not only do they experience the stigma of not having the right clothes and being unable to partake in leisure activities with their friends but they often go without food, do not have their own bed, have no heating in their homes and may never have had a new item of clothing bought just for them. This research shows that the majority of parents living in poverty will go without themselves before depriving their children, so just think how bad things must be for the children to have to go without. Please remember that these people are not visible and they are not the spongers in designer trainers (who do exist), they are people doing their best to get by.
Katie, UK

Having worked in the public sector for many years I can tell you exactly where most benefits end up going. Mr Whitbread, Mr Benson and Mr Hedges.
Tony, UK

People are commenting about others having children and getting welfare and tax credits. The ones who choose not to have children are the ones who sponge of society, taking now and not giving to the future of the country.
Neil, Scotland

Being a person that has lived outside the UK my entire adult life, it gives an appreciation of how good our welfare state is. There is most certainly a benefits trap, this is unfortunate, there are many families who just cannot afford to work. This is clearly a function of 'system'. We should not advocate reduction of benefits as a mechanism to incentivise people back into work. There are many places in this world where you would starve if you had no employment income. Quit whining, you should be proud that your taxes are being put to good use - who knows you may need to use the benefits system at some point in this uncertain world.

There is no doubt there are those who abuse the benfits system, however, these people represent the very small minority. I have read comments that suggest that some people really enjoy being on benefits - I find it incredulous that anyone would chose a life of living on benefits. We need to be supportive to these people not condescending, they are entitled to their dignity after all.
David, Indonesia/UK

You do not get any benefit or assistance for being a working parent
Jan, UK
Yes they should. You do not get any benefit or assistance for being a working parent. You can claim for your rent, council tax and also get a weekly allowance, also your child benefit too, child care etc. There has never been any incentive to be a working parent, especially if you are a single parent. Also, if you remain on benefits then for the rest of your life you do not need to worry about nursing home payments for your old age. I have worked since my daughter was 6 months old, I am a guilt ridden parent for working long hours, my daughter, however, can benefit from the fact that I have self respect, I can manage for the two of us and do not rely on government assistance. My father, who has worked all his life, is now in need of residential nursing home care and this is going to cost the best part of £1000 per month. Had we never worked, all this would be free.
Jan, UK

Reject the USA model of 'workfare' in which parents on "welfare" are treated like criminals. My own experience as a twice-divorced mom of two included providing at-home child-minding, working at employee-daycare centers, and also working at a wide variety of low-paying jobs such as waitressing, institutional care on the 'graveyard' or night-shift, and the like. My kids are grown now; both got full college scholarships & did well for themselves. I, however, have work-caused physical disabilities and a severe sleep disorder.

The entire time I dealt with USA "welfare" I was treated like a disgrace, even though I managed to complete a college degree & always had excellent work reviews. Being a parent IS work -- and should be respected and supported as such. Only filthy-rich capitalists benefit from seesaw "welfare-to-work" workfare programs such as exists here in the USA.
Alice Winfree Bowron, USA

Many of the people on benefits are not the people who traditionally have 'careers' rather than 'jobs'. They tend to be poorly educated and with no incentive to work their way up a career ladder. What we must do is pitch the benefits payments to be equivalent to a working week of minimum wage, and then there is no incentive for anyone not to work.
Louisa, UK

This always really distresses me - Its all very well saying people on benefits are lazy and unworthy but we have an inbuilt poverty trap in our economy... Benefits are not enough for a decent existence yet sometimes better to take than try and work whilst raising a family. It's not like people on benefits live the life of riley!!!! It's a grim, mortifying existence that shatters self esteem and gives rise to more family strains. Yet it can be preferential to working and still living in extreme poverty whilst having to pay someone else to look after your children. Anyone who has not been subject to this should really learn some empathy! No one would prefer to live on benefits with all the stigma attached - we really should pay better as a nation to our domestic workers and stop outsourcing our labour to Nigerian Children.
Trudy, UK

We have all heard of people who need about 30K a year to make it worth coming off benefits
Paul Matthews, UK
Having been on both sides of this issue, i.e., working for a living and spending time on benefits the problem as I see it with benefits in this country is that they are so wide ranging and plentiful for some things, for those who know how to use the system, that it pays for virtually everything. We have all heard of people who need about 30K a year to make it worth coming off benefits because they have 5 kids or something, this is known commonly as the benefits trap. Who wants to work like a dog for a pittance and be ordered about if you can lay in bed of a morning by doing nothing for the same money or more. I'm sure everyone who commutes into London and out again wouldn't mind getting off that particular treadmill in the same way !!
Paul Matthews, UK

My mother raised both my brother and I on her own following a divorce, and I have the utmost respect for her because she did so by working full time and making personal sacrifices so my brother and I were provided for, rather than relying on state benefits, even though she would have been better off financially. Far from missing out, being bullied or lacking in confidence she has in fact instilled in me a strong work ethic, which it appears these days your are penalised for. I agree that there should be some support but it shouldn't be an alternative to work.
Sofia Pope, UK

I had to claim benefit recently for a few months. It was my first foray into this strange world and I'm amazed by it. There is some truth in the assertion that people are worse off: I wanted to do any type of work whilst I was searching for the job that I really wanted and am qualified for. But if I did take any work - part time, full time, whatever, I'd lose my benefit. Because the pittance I would have been paid was so bad, I would have ended up in a worse state. I'm afraid I didn't work then - I just couldn't afford to pay the rent or eat if I did so. That's the trap. It's this trap that keeps many people like me who desperately wanted to work from going out and doing it. I also witnessed many scams and many others who don't get questioned about anything when they sign on - that's the fault of the job centres who hand out cash with no questions asked. That's a huge failing.
Janice, UK

There should be more provision for people wanting to work
Richard, UK
Yet another Govt has failed to make it worthwhile for many families to bridge the gap from having to stay on benefits to worthwhile work. The current benefits should stay but there should be more provision for people wanting to work, even on short term contracts work. An overlapping period should be in place so benefit agencies are aware the persons work may be coming to an end soon.
Richard, UK

Isn't it time that everyone recognises that children are a shared resource and our collective hope for the future? Children are not a lifestyle choice any more than tyres are a fashion accessory for cars: they're essential for the continued existence of the human race and drive us, hopefully, towards a better tomorrow. There are many reasons why people may not have children but the lifestylers who choose not to have children are as much depriving the rest of us of resources as are the benefit fraudsters. Providing childcare from the community would allow all parents to work and pursue careers to the benefit of children, parents and everyone else.
JohnM, LyneMeads,UK

JohnM, LyneMeads, UK: But children aren't a shared resource. We're not living in some wonderful Native Indian community here where the children are seen so. Remember, as well as caring for them as a community, people other than the parents can chastise them for being bad, can punish them for breaking rules, can teach them lessons when they hurt others, etc. It's all very well asking everyone else to pay for other people's children, but we're not allowed to have a say when they vandalise our cars, spit on us as we walk down the street, and beat up our teachers are we? No - the line has been drawn, so keep it consistent. Children in Britain should be nobody's responsibility but the parent's. No-one else benefits from them (quite the contrary), so let us spend our earnings on things we have responsibility for.
Robert Chadwick, UK

To Robert Chadwick: What do you mean no-one benefits from other people's children? Of course we all do. Everyone we work with today and who we need to be there to keep the economy going, care for us in old age etc are other people's children.
James, UK

Some of the people here are accusing such parents of being irresponsible for having children, however they don't realise people's circumstances change. I know someone who chose to have children whilst in a relationship and both parents were working. The relationship has since broken down and she is now a single mum to 2 pre-school kids. She would like to work but has no experience/qualifications in a career that could be combined with parenthood but yet cannot get funding to re-train. If she were to work she would have to find money for child-care, which isn't cheap, and with no experience she would struggle to get a job well enough paid to cover child care. Therefore it's very difficult for her to get out of her current situation (and she has tried).
Fiona, UK

Fiona, UK: Yes, I understand that circumstances change and the scenario you have written about. However, please explain why a group of complete strangers should go out to work and pay for your friend. If she entered a relationship with an understanding that she would not develop a career (fair enough) then the one person who should be paying for her current requirements is her husband/partner. The children are theirs, not ours, and I'm afraid it is quite simply immoral to steal from us to pay for the living expenses of others.
Catherine, UK

We are setting an example to our kids that they should work when they are older
Sarah, Scotland
I think anyone who really wants to work will. I have a career and hopefully a good future ahead and some of the tax credits paid by the government have certainly helped me achieve this. Both my partner and I work full-time. We receive a fair amount in Working Tax and Childcare credits - more so because one of our 3 children are in receipt of full Disability Living Allowance and we pay considerable childcare per week for 3 kids, 1 in nursery, 2 in after school care. If it was not for WTC we could not afford to work as childcare costs (which until my middle child of 3 went to school in Aug were almost £1000 per month) would be too much.

Getting out to work has helped both me and my partner gain personal development - myself through taking a professional qualification and my partner through training for a skill for the first time at 40 years old. We can't afford designer clothes and rarely go out but we are setting an example to our kids that they should work when they are older.
Sarah, Scotland

A message to Barry Freeman (below) and others of the same mind. I am a lone parent - a widow - and I pay taxes on my widow's benefits. I worked long and hard hours and now cannot work because I care, not only for my son, but also for my elderly parents which is saving an awful lot of taxpayers' money. How can you say that only one child is overpopulating? Would you prefer that I, my son and my elderly parents were humanely disposed of to save you taxes? What happens when it's your turn? This response is only partly tongue in cheek!!
Jennifer, UK

Parents should not be given such good welfare in the first place. Then it would be more economical for them to get back to work. People who work hard to succeed have families that lead better lives and, in turn, create young people that follow that example. That is a fact of life that those enjoying the asylum of welfare must get used to. To say that children are poorer because their parents contribute to, rather than feed off the state represents a false economy. You only get what you earn... not what you're given. It is not good that so many children live below the poverty line but it is not the children's fault. Parents who must understand their responsibilities in having kids in the first place. As an expectant father, I am clear as to the responsibilities I have ahead of me to support my wife and family and allow my wife to be a full time mother. That is a burden I must bear - NOT THE STATE!!
Philip, UK

We started work a couple of months ago and immediately got ourselves into debt
Sarah Taylor, England
I am in full time employment, having come off benefits, my partner is employed as a temp. The idea that benefits should be fazed out gradually is a good idea as we started work a couple of months ago and immediately got ourselves into debt, we are behind on our rent, council tax and childcare payments. I have no idea how we can start to get straight. We cant afford 3 meals a day, we don't even have carpets or curtains and we have been turned down by the social fund twice for this. We have a 2 year old who we struggle to buy nappies every week. I am definitely worse off for working, but now I don't have the choice as I am not entitled to benefits even if I start work. I have just got to figure out what else I will have to go without to try and get into the black. Help is drastically needed somewhere along the line.
Sarah Taylor, England

If you can't afford children then don't have them. It's simple. A lot of people on benefits are lazy and happy to sit back do nothing and scrounge for government handouts.
Paul Higgins, UK

I work part-time 5 days a week and the welfare pay me a little bit on top of what I earn each month,(which is not a lot).Even though I have income support and money coming in from a part time job, I am still finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet. I would of been better off in the long run not accepting the job and receiving the full benefit of income support. I can go out if I wanted to and find a fulltime job but with a disabled child its very hard to find someone who can care for him and attend his needs.
steph, united kingdom

Once again, it is better to sponge off the state than try to provide for oneself and one's family
Al, UK
This is a travesty. Once again, it is better to sponge off the state than try to provide for oneself and one's family. Child benefit is a major culprit - it is not means-tested and is available for each and every child. It should be 100% for child 1, 50% for child 2 and zero thereafter. Perhaps then parents would think twice before getting others to pay for their children.
Al, UK

I am a father of three, I have a well paid job and my wife works Sundays. I have never been on state benefits as i was brought up to believe there is self respect to be had in providing for yourself and your children. Also I have been fortunate enough to find constant employment. I am aware however that I might not always be that lucky. An earlier post to this forum accused child benefits to be theft. This is rubbish. All families with children in the UK get this and there is not a single adult among us whose parents weren't given this help when they were young. The other benefits are for the children who's parents can/do not provide for them. Remember that the child does not chose to be born to a single or unemployed parent and the benefits are for the Children not their parents. As a so called civilised society we have a duty to take care of our young, and all others that are not in a position to help themselves.
Mike M, UK

This isn't new. When I was a kid my mother was generally on DSS (or whatever it was called then), but she sometimes got a job doing part-time teaching. When she started the job they would cancel her benefits, in spite of her having received no money yet. Then when she was paid, a month or so later (and was back on benefits again) they would cancel them again so we would lose out totally. Eventually she gave up and didn't bother taking the work, because the stress was too much and there was no extra income from it anyway. I faced the same situation when I was out of work last year. On starting work, they cancelled my income support even though I wouldn't be paid for another 6 weeks, so I had to find 500 pounds just to be able to get to work in order to start! The system not only doesn't encourage getting back to work, it actively discourages it. And for low paid jobs it's not worth it at all, because they take money off the benefits as you earn it, pound for pound.
Chris C, England

Child Poverty is caused by mothers having children they cannot afford. Welfare is typical of socialist values in that it rewards the failure of individuals to take responsibility for their actions.
Rob Read, U.K.

I am not surprised that people stay on welfare
Kath, UK
I am not surprised that people stay on welfare with the cost of housing in this country, and then council tax on top of that. My husband and I are expecting our first baby and are not taking anything from the state at the moment, but as a result are forced to live at my parents house with 3 other people as we cannot afford to even rent a one bedroom flat. Sort out the priorities, helping people a roof over their heads without taking from the state, and they would be more willing to help themselves in other ways as well.
Kath, UK

Whilst I am in favour of lowering the tax burden and encouraging self-reliance via reductions in public spending, why is it that stories about welfare dependency always focus on the poor ? An enormous proportion of my tax money is spent subsidising large companies (either directly or via 'pork-barrel' contracts) and agricultural concerns around Europe. Just have a look at the consultancy and legal fees run up by government agencies on most projects they undertake.
Graham , UK

I come from a one parent family and my mum chose to stay at home and look after me and my sister. If my mum had been forced to work I would not be the stable person I am today. That is why society is falling apart as parents cannot chastise their children as they hardly see them. When they do see them they feel guilty about their absence and just spoil them. I am also disgusted about those who obviously know nothing about being poor bleating on that benefits should be stopped. If jobs were better paid then I am sure that more parents would take a chance to go to work. Its not that benefits are to high just that pay is extremely poor. When the govt stops encouraging businesses to subcontract duties, export work to other countries and the use of Post Fordist methods of employment so that employees no longer have long term contracts
S Barton, UK

I am sick and tired of society always supporting parents with children. As a single person, I subsidise those who stay on welfare. In addition, we have 6 billion people on this planet a great percentage of whom we cannot feed, so isn't it about time preference was given to those who do not over-populate the planet?
Barry Freeman, Netherlands

It's easy to be judgemental if you've never been poor
Vicky, UK
Gosh, it's easy to be judgemental if you've never been poor. "Children learn by example" do they? The only thing I, and several friends, learned from growing up in extreme poverty was not to do the same. No one chooses poverty ahead of affluence. And as for "why have kids if you can't afford them?" What on earth's the point in saying that - we all know it'll happen forever. By contrast, Madge lives in the real word - sounds like a very good idea.
Vicky, UK

I've struggled to stay working for a living since I left university in 1981, going through eight or more jobs in a contracting industry and two periods of compulsory redundancy which were wholly down to company financial mis-management. My reward for my hard work and years of extortionate tax-paying is to be poorer today than I've ever been in my life, with a very moderate mortgage, a colossal and rising Council Tax, and an invalid wife who is not entitled on the figures to a penny of sickness benefits. At the same time, I have to sit by and watch a variety of in-laws and casual acquaintances sponge unlawful benefits off the state and enjoy a much higher standard of illegal living than I ever have. I can understand why people sell drugs, steal cars and sponge benefits, when they are rewarded for this behaviour, and severely financially penalised for attempting to work.
Craig, England

We live in a welfare state, something intrinsic to a civilised society. Putting the boot into those at the bottom of the earnings tree doesn't help anyone. It's fine to say that lone parents on benefits were naive or plain irresponsible to get into this situation but that doesn't alter the fact that they are in this situation. It's also easy to say that people are lazy because working brings in a little less money than taking benefits. It's important to realise that this "little less" money can mean making stark choices between paying your rent, clothing your children and feeding your family. Unless there is a genuine incentive to bring more money into a household by going out to work rather than relying solely on benefits this is always going to be an issue.
Giles Clinker, UK

The fundamental problem with so many benefits is that they work on an all-or-nothing basis
Dave Tankard, UK
The fundamental problem with so many benefits is that they work on an all-or-nothing basis. Either you claim benefits (in which case rent, council tax, prescriptions etc are all free) or you work (in which case you pay for everything). There is no concept that someone on a very low wage should be encouraged out of dependency by being given some of their benefits while allowing them to keep enough of their earned money to make it worth working. If someone goes from £100 a week benefits to £75 a week then the state has gained £25. If this person is encouraged and helped to develop they will soon reduce their claim further saving the state even more money. Instead, we insist that all help is withdrawn so people stay trapped within the folds of what was supposed to be a safety net.
Dave Tankard, UK

It really amazes me that twenty years on from the initial warnings the UK government has still not even managed to comb the surface of the grinding poverty that blights millions of ordinary people. Over here in Australia poverty is managed with better housing support for low income earners and a benefits system that targets people who are more vulnerable to poverty at childhood. Is it any wonder that thousands of Brits applied to live permanently out here last year
sean, Aus(ex UK)

I think reports like this only serve to encourage sponging off the state. Having children is a choice not a right. So why should everyone else support those who don't want to work.
Ian S, UK, Birmingham

It is easy to label everyone who has kids and are claiming benefits as people who sponging off society. But not everyone has a choice, nor do they do it deliberately. My sister has three kids whom she adores, her husband had a nervous breakdown due to work stress a couple of years ago and has never been able to return to work. If my sister gets a job, not only will her children miss out on a mum, but with the loss of benefits she would be far worse off financially. I think it is wonderful that we have a system that can help people when they are down on their luck. We now need a system that encourages them to get back to work without making them worse off than before.
Mark R, UK

In response to Mark R, who is responding to my view. They are sponging off society because the system is designed that way. If a politician jumped up tomorrow and said all benefits were to be cut to those who refuse to work and all single teenage moms could no longer jump the queue for free (or cut price) housing, that would certainly eliminate the problem of a catch-24 situation. It's just a shame none of them have the clout to suggest such a scheme. Welfare should go to those who deserve it, not expect it.
Ian S, UK, Birmingham

Taxes should be reduced dramatically. The strong rises in council tax (17% in London) are a crime against the poor!
Chris, UK

Everyone has a basic "human right" to provide for their immediate families not for anyone who doesn't wish to work
Nicky Donaldson, Essex
I am a parent - I have never been on benefits and my husband and I have always worked extremely hard for what we have. It makes me so angry that parents (and non-parents) who don't work get paid for doing nothing. I would like nothing more than to be able to stay at home with my daughter. People should not have children unless they can support them and provide the necessary back-up should something go wrong. Everyone has a basic "human right" to provide for their immediate families not for anyone who doesn't wish to work.
Nicky Donaldson, Essex

The most important job in the world is bringing up children to be loved, well cared for and socially responsible. The best person to do this is a parent. In the early years the parent should be well-paid (at least to avoid poverty) by us, the state, to encourage the development of our future generation of workers. These workers will be providing products and services for most of us when we have ceased work (whether or not we have brought up children ourselves). Parents of young children should not be forced back to work.
Alistair Scammell, UK

Alistair Scammell, UK: I am totally outraged by your proposal that we should pay for you to look after your children. Your children are absolutely nothing to do with me. They are your responsibility. It was your choice to have them, it is utterly up to you to pay to bring them up. I consider Child Benefit to be immoral and a form of theft. I do not ask you to pay for my clothes, why should I pay for your children's? I am a far bigger contributor to society and the welfare of many than your children, so using your logic you should be paying for all the workers of this country. It's this kind of lack of responsibility for one's own actions and one's own unit that causes so much trouble in our society.
Sarah Fenwick, UK

I am actually now worse off on the new tax credits than I was on the working family's tax credit. Since I have returned to work after having a child and after paying out over £300 a nursery fees (which I don't get any help with through the so called improved tax credits). It works out that I am only £50 a month better off between myself and my partner. I ask myself is it worth missing out on my child growing up just for £50 a month?
Kate Dunn, Wales

My mother was a divorced single parent with little help from my father; she never received state handouts but worked. Thank you mum
carole, UK

The only way to remove the poverty trap created by various benefits is to have a citizen's income. Whatever that figure maybe it must be enough to live off. Then if people choose to work (which they will) they will be better off regardless of what hourly rate they earn. Minimum wage, housing benefit, council tax benefit, free school meals, free bus passes, old age pension, income support etc can then all be scrapped removing the humiliation of having to claim benefits. No families and children would then be caught in poverty.
Roy, London

Increase the minimum wage to a reasonable level and use our tax money to help the companies who seriously struggle to pay it. I would rather that than my money be used to support people would prefer to stay on welfare.
Chris, UK

To Rich, UK
The reason housing costs and council tax is so high is because you are paying for all those on benefits, no matter where the government says it goes.
Sherri, UK

When the government talks about 'flexibility' what it really means is accepting low pay and poor conditions
Muiris, Wales
The research shows that we are still in a low pay economy. When the government talks about 'flexibility' what it really means is accepting low pay and poor conditions. It tries to get people off benefits, but the only way will be to make it economically viable - and I don't mean by making benefits worse than they are at present, but by upping the minimum wage and making sure that we invest in skills for poor people.
Muiris, Wales

My two children and I were on Income Support for four years. During that time they always had well-fitting shoes and a winter coat and three meals a day. This involved personal sacrifices and organisation from me, such as not going out much; I never smoked and rarely drank. I bought most of my clothes in second-hand shops and was glad to accept friends hand-me-downs for the kids. Even on this level of income they went on every school trip - even the ones I had to pay for.
Child poverty, as defined in your article, is not always related to income, but to how the parents choose to spend it. Later, I met children without a winter coat and loaned them the ones my children had grown out of - the parents earned more than I do now. I must agree with the report that the loans for essentials system that then reclaims out of already stretched benefits is daft. However no questions are asked when the loans are given such as 'What happened to your last fridge (or whatever)?' I have known of this fund being used just to acquire new furniture etc.
Lyn, UK

I have never turned to welfare to support my family. I was entitled to welfare for a while but found the rules very poor and restrictive. I managed to drag myself out of the poverty trap, I did not take it as an option to depend on welfare, this does not work for every one, but welfare law needs to be updated.
Ahmad Hmoud, UK

I am always left confused when reading about the "poor" in Britain. Are we referring to those people who some how manage to find the money for their satellite TV, cigarettes, and top-brand trainers for the kids, not to mention the latest play station game or are we comparing the Somalian who has to walk ten miles just to fetch a bucket of dirty water? My work frequently brings me into contact with people on some of the most rundown estates in the country and it never ceases to amaze how a lot of these people prioritise their spending. We should be teaching people about taking responsibility. Re-jigging the system to just dole out more cash is only a short-term fix.
John Rollinson, UK

I am on benefits myself bringing up a baby on my own and have just started college today. I have also applied for a job and had the interview but am not sure if it is worth doing all the hours and having to arrange childcare just for an extra few pounds. I would rather spend time with my daughter and study for a more long term aim and hopefully at the end of it the chance of being paid enough money per week to cover the rent.
Vicky, England

The study seems to suggest that "living off the state" is a lifestyle option. It isn't!
Benefits should be for a limited time period so that sponging is not an option.
Carl, UK

As well as the fall in real income that seems to be a result of moving from benefits to low-paid work, what about childcare costs? In the UK good day-care for children is scarce and expensive even for middle class professionals, so what hope do parents in low-paid jobs have?
Here in Belgium we pay much higher taxes and social security than in the UK (I've worked in both countries), but childcare provision is good, affordable and (for children below 3) tax deductible. In the state run crèches in Belgium, low-income families get priority and are charged according to income. Most primary schools also have after school childcare facilities that are not very expensive. It's not commonly said in Belgium that the cost/availability of childcare prevents parents from working.
Rebecca, Belgium

I was telling my Benefits Office that I couldn't afford to get a job for exactly the reasons described over 14 years ago
Paul, UK
Why does it take so long for agencies to realise the obvious? I was telling my Benefits Office that I couldn't afford to get a job for exactly the reasons described 14 years ago, in 1989. I didn't work for over three years, until our children were old enough to allow my wife to work to make up the difference between my wages and our ex-benefits. Even then we had to move into a smaller rented house, because we could no longer afford to stay where we were. I tried hard to work with the JobCentre to sort out a way that I could get a job, but I couldn't find a permanent position that paid enough, and taking one week of temporary work meant a nightmare of forms, and then weeks without benefits (i.e. food, lighting, heating etc.) While it is so difficult and painful to switch from benefits to working it is easy to understand why people don't bother.
Paul, UK

Financially, they may be better off to stay on benefits. However, returning to work will aid self esteem and confidence. A foot on the employment ladder will lead to increased employment opportunities and greater take home pay. The Government should introduce a 'Genuine' policy to help parents returning to poorly paid jobs.
Chris, England

I quite agree the views expressed so far. I am married with two young children and live in a housing association property. I work 47.5 hours a week at 6.50 per hour and receive no benefits. We struggle to make ends meet but are happy with our life, although a car or occasional holiday would obviously be nice. /the only thing that that annoys me is that several families local to us have at least one holiday a year and run two cars even though they do not work. What incentive do they have to work when they look at our situation?
Jason, UK

When parents have a vocation, children have the benefit of security, steady income and career progression
Madge, UK
This is a sorry state of affairs. The long-term unemployed (parents or not) should not be encouraged to engage in short-term, low-paid contract work. What they need is a career - not measly bits and bobs to make ends meet. When parents have a vocation, children have the benefit of security, steady income and career progression, which is always better than welfare.
Madge, UK

Children learn by example. What messages are we sending them about work ethic and self-respect, earning your keep and paying your way in society, etc. if we're seen to be doing nothing all day? Also, dare I say it, why have so many kids if you can't afford them?
Claire, UK

A small, basic income for everyone (such as that proposed by the Greens) would close this silly loophole. Parents could work flexibly to earn extra money, knowing exactly the impact on their children, rather than being forced into rigid full-time work that might actually reduce their overall income.
Sian, UK

Our crazy system needs fixing - there can't be many countries in the world in which people are paid more to "not" work than to work. Whatever the morality of deliberately staying on welfare might be, you simply cannot blame someone for not taking a job that will reduce their income.
Den, Cambridge, UK

Never mind parents, it's the same story for all unemployed people. The gap between being on benefits and working is too wide to cross unless you can get a very good job. What is needed is benefits to be phased out as earnings increase, gently going from receiving benefits to paying tax.
Jonathan Kelk, UK

My mother was a single parent with three kids. Rather than stay on welfare she worked up to three jobs so that she could eventually make a better life
Anon, UK
My mother was a single parent with three kids. Rather than stay on welfare she worked up to three jobs so that she could eventually make a better life, however we were worse off with her working than if she had been claiming. The government has no idea of the concept of being poor. Try eating the same meal every night of egg and chips, having to live in one room because you can't afford to heat the whole house in winter and having to go without basics throughout your childhood.
My mum wanted to work and if someone is prepared to do that they should not be worse off than being on benefits. It is still too easy for people to have kids and rely on other people to pay for them. We ought to help those prepared to help themselves.
Anon, UK

When I was on the dole, I had all of my rent and council tax paid for me and received over £200 a fortnight for other bills and food etc. Now I am in full time work, I am up to my eyeballs in debt and have a hard time scraping together enough money to buy nappies for my kids and food for the family. I was much better off on welfare and I can see why so many people stay on it rather than getting a job.
Jon, UK

I think the two biggest culprits for making people worse off are housing costs and council tax. When you are on benefits these two things are generally taken care of but when you go back to work you are stung with having to fork out several hundred pounds every month just to keep a roof over your head.
Rich, UK


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