Jess Gibson asked the women at Together Women Project what they thought about role models, who do they look up to and what makes a good role model to them? The following report is a mixture of responses from many of the women; here is what she found out…
Community Stories: Living on Benefits
As part of our July theme of living on benefits, we turned to the Sheffield Flourish community for their comments about life on the dole.
Universal Credit is imminently rolling out; one of a long string of changes to benefits over the last eight years. The usual line from Westminster is the changes will be for the better but as people continue to see their living standards drop year on year, the public mood is far from optimistic. A report last year found that disabled people and women are hit the hardest by benefit cuts.
But what are Sheffielders experiencing? We decided to ask the community.
“Degrading. Absolutely no positives. Just rejection and non understanding” – thisgirlcan
“Constant fear of that brown envelope coming through the letter box… the horrific assessments, followed by the stress of MR then tribunal, if you have it in you & someone to be with you… all whilst trying to survive on a pittance… then only to do it all again a year later” – Moon Willow
“After paying stamp all my life, to be on the receiving end is like having the rug pulled. Re current narratives about ppl who claim benefits, I’ve only one thing to say to those who buy into such: we’re all only one poor personal decision or random event away from Benefits St.” – Richard
“As a WASPI woman job lost at 60 due to health, I had to sign on for the 6 months I qualified for some cash. Ridiculous, degrading, unfair, just wrong when I just needed my pension. Still do!” – Rachel
“Being accused of lying and being a scrounger, especially when your disability is invisible… and you’ve psyched yourself up to go out and enjoy yourself and that’s all they see.. not the days it takes to recover from the effort of doing something ‘normal’” – Moon Willow
“For me, I feel very lucky, I can’t complain about the benefits I get at all. It helps me to live more independently. I can get a taxi if I can’t manage the bus, and if I need somebody to come out with me, they are always able to, even if they don’t have the money. It helps a lot. I have been told that visually impaired people seem to be having good experiences with PIP.” – Amy
“It’s bloody hard work on benefits. I’m obsessed with checking my online account every morning about 3 am. Paranoid I’m going to be skint. I live week by week. It’s hard work.” – Chris
“I’ve had people say to me ‘you don’t work, lucky you, alright for some’ Really? Ok. It’s tougher than it looks. Who wants to be constantly worried, that on top of having a disabling, out of control mental condition and little or no family support. I dread brown envelopes, I FEAR them. The prospect of being called in for the vile interviews, to be put through that hell, to have to explain, for the 7th time what I’ve been thru, how it affects me, to convince them I’m not a liar. The fear that the DWP could take it all away with just the click of a few buttons, leaving me potentially homeless, it’s no way to live. It doesn’t aid my recovery. It doesn’t help me trust. I’m scared to work, or even volunteer, this government are known for taking this and using even a few hours against you. So in stay where I am. Trapped… never moving forward. Worried. Scared. I’d like to have the possibility of living with someone, a companion might help my mood, give me support, but that would most likely mess up my money. I feel under this government’s thumb, beholden to Whitehall and all those who don’t have to worry about these things… It’s alright for some…” – Angie
“This is a really good piece by my friend Jess on falling into the horrible ‘I’m workshy and a drain on taxpayers money’ narrative whilst on benefits. It’s horrible when you feel shame for receiving money you need to live – so happy Jess got support to pursue her theatre dreams!” – Chrissy
“I could have worked the whole time I was on benefits. It’s just finding a workplace that is flexible enough and without stigma. I got sick of waiting so I started working for myself. Being on benefits killed my spirit and innovation and made me become too accepting of my situation. A lot more people could work if workplaces were more welcoming to people with severe mental health conditions. We all have something to offer and should be able to contribute as much as we want to.” – Katie
“Winter months worried about bills. Soul destroying can’t see people or socialise makes depression worse” – Michelle
Finally, our favourite response to the callout for comment on living on benefits was:
“Without swearing? – Stacey
If this article has left you feeling frustrated, have a look at Rob’s article, 10 ways to support people living on benefits.