Lesley Fitzsimmons is a single parent living in Luton, Bedfordshire. She spoke to Socialist Worker about surviving on benefits.
‘I rent privately and pay £550 a month for a two bedroom house. I’m lucky, I get the full amount paid in housing benefit.
I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis and am in pain most days. But arthritis isn’t considered a disability because you can go into remission. So I can’t apply for Incapacity Benefit, only Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
I get £65.30 a week JSA. But now that my daughter has turned 13 I am being forced to find a minimum of 16 hours work a week. I’m currently working six.
But they are they are not even allowing me to keep all the £34 a week I earn.
The cuts are scary—I won’t be able to pay my rent.
As it is I can’t afford to heat my house in the winter. There’s no money spare.JSA isn’t supposed to cover housing costs.
My landlord still has his mortgage to pay on this place—he won’t be able to reduce my rent. Without housing benefit I would be on the streets.
A few years ago I was facing homelessness because the housing benefit office had messed my claim up—they had me down as a single person, not a single parent.
I nearly lost my home. The council told me then they wouldn’t re-house me as I had rent arrears—even though that was because of their mistake.
If my housing benefit was cut, and I couldn’t pay my rent, I’d be on the streets.
Lone parents on JSA aren’t lazy. We don’t sit around living off the state and we don’t live in luxury.
We need decent council housing for everybody in need.
I have been part of Right to Work in Luton and I am going on the protest outside the Tory conference on 3 October. We have to fight back otherwise they will destroy us.’