Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Claiming benefits: Your stories

The government has announced plans to overhaul the entire benefits system. Benefit claimants will have to prepare for work or face losing payments

But some BBC News website readers have no option but to claim benefits and they say the proposals will not work in reality.

Brian Carson, Enfield, London

Brian Carson
Mr Carson does not think the government's plans will work

Brian Carson, 55, has claimed incapacity benefit and disability living allowance for nine years. A former university lecturer, he was forced to retire on grounds of ill-health following a heart attack and a stroke.

He suffered another heart attack and stroke a few years later and now has prostate cancer. He spends every day undergoing radiotherapy sessions at his local hospital. He believes the reform is unworkable for people in his situation.

"If the government says I have to go back to work tomorrow, where will I find an employer who will be willing to take me on?

"My radiotherapy takes up at least three and a half hours of my day and then I need time to recover. I'm also taking hormone implants which affect me in such a way that I'm prone to black-outs.


My family has all worked - it's not my fault but it seems like the government doesn't care
Brian Carson

"I need to be near a bath then so I can lower my temperature and cool down.

"I'm at risk of having another stroke so which insurer will cover me? It's not worth the hassle for many people.

"I spent 35 years paying my taxes and working. My family has all worked - it's not my fault but it seems like the government doesn't care. It is not as simple as saying 'go out to work'.

"I don't use my benefits to buy a plasma television - I try hard to survive on the 83 incapacity benefit I get every week. It's not easy.

"Of course when you look at the bigger picture - where are all these new jobs coming from?"

Victoria Simpson, Ferrybridge, Yorkshire

Victoria Simpson, 34, is concerned if she is forced to go to work, she will miss out on seeing her baby son Lewis grow up.

She says she did not realise that she was pregnant until 10 minutes before she gave birth to her now 14-month-old but says he is the most "precious" thing in the world. She had previously been working in customer services for an online company.

"I was working full time when I gave birth so I didn't even consider maternity leave or anything like that. Also, my company was in the process of closing down, so there wasn't a job I could go back to.

"Unfortunately my partner Richard was made redundant a few months ago from a factory which made baked goods and we've been in trouble since.

"Luckily a bit of money was set aside for him to retrain and he's on a course learning to be a plumber. But that means he's not at home and since I'm receiving Jobseekers' Allowance, I need to go out and get work.

"But childcare is a nightmare. There aren't that many facilities near where I live and it's been difficult for us.

"I am glad I've been here for Lewis's early development - it's been wonderful. But if people like me are suddenly forced to leave their children, I really don't think it's a good thing.

"I have been looking for jobs but I've not been successful. Now, there's far more people applying for the same job and the employers seem to stage the interviews over a number of days. Well, that's the case up here in Yorkshire."

Stephen Moore, Colne, Lancashire

Stephen Moore, 34, lost the use of both his arms in a road accident 12 years ago. He receives Disability Living Allowance. He tried to claim other benefits but was unable to because his wife works full-time.

"It wasn't my fault - I was on my motorbike when I was hurt on the way to work.

"By trade, I was an engineer - I worked with machinery and on plants - but my accident put a stop to that.

"I had to undergo physiotherapy for a year and have surgery on my left arm and right wrist.

"At the JobCentre, they initially told me that they would help with retraining but nothing came of that.

"What really gets me is that you're assessed as an individual when it comes to putting money into the system but a couple when it comes to the system paying out.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think this move is 10 years too late. The government should have acted on this issue years ago
Les Challoner, St Helens

"It's a farce. I don't want to be unemployed but I can't do just any old job.

"I applied for a job collecting trolleys at a supermarket but that didn't work out because of my disability.

"Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, I go down to the JobCentre and look for jobs. I apply for interviews but nothing transpires.

"What really annoys me is the government is treating as if they're the same. I don't think their plans will work. It's just words with no substance.

"We do need a reform in the system where they focus on genuine claimants and don't force people to work.

"It's like lunatics are in charge of the asylum."

Mark Dale, Yeovil, Somerset

Mark, 47, gave up his job as a plasterer to be a full-time carer to his 73-year-old father, Ernest. He receives a carers' allowance of around 60 and 20 income support a week.

"That limited amount is all I can claim even though I have worked my entire life.

"I would never put my father in a home - it's not what he'd want.

"Nobody has explained what happens to people who are in the same boat as I am.

"I worked in the building trade for 27 years and my father worked as a hospital porter until he was 65.

"I have no time for those who are 'career unemployed' but that's not me. I certainly wouldn't want to pay for people like that.

"Everyday I go over to my father's house in the morning and do his shopping, help him with his cleaning, his meals - everything.

"He's got his dignity and I respect that.

"But the attitude of the government is everyone is a scrounger when it's simply not true.

"It took me long enough to get my claims processed - the other week the Jobcentre had to give me an emergency payment because the money still hadn't come through.

"It's frustrating but you can't expect people to live on nothing."



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