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'I'm on benefits but I'm no scrounger'

Ross Goodall
Ross Goodall
14 February 2012

Not everyone on benefits is a scrounger. Of course, some abuse the system, and the system abuses others by failing to make work pay. So we've invited one claimant to have his say. Ross Goodall (pictured, right), from Southampton, has a good reason for claiming, as you'll see. This is his story, his words, hitting back at the headlines (also see 5-min benefits check-up).

Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of

I have had enough. I am not a scrounger, and this is why. I am in the unenviable position of claiming disability living allowance and incapacity benefit because I have developed a giant cell tumour of bone in my right wrist.

The tumour is very rare, but it's now the size of a cricket ball. This means my hand is no longer attached to my wrist.

The pain is intense and constant. I cannot pick up my children the way most fathers can. I cannot play catch with my son, or even hold a cup of coffee in my right hand. All of these things people take for granted, and there must be thousands of people worse off than me.

News Test Image

The tumour on Ross's wrist

I have worked all my life, as a mechanical engineer, IT specialist and even a bus driver. When I found myself in the position where, for the first time in my life I had to claim, I was and am disgusted at how 90% of people treat you as a benefit claimant.

Try going for a job interview with my arm

When I go for job interviews, and I have to explain why I cannot shake the interviewer's hand on entry, or I take my coat off and they see my arm, the interview is over.

I get one of two reactions without fail: "How much disruption is the treatment going to cause if you get the job?" Or: "That's an insurance liability."

No matter what you are claiming or why, you are deemed and treated as a scrounging fraud until you prove otherwise. One is treated guilty until proven innocent.

I am not just talking about the Department for Work and Pensions, but also the people I meet everywhere I go, every day.

The look of disgust and judgement as you hand over a state Healthy Start voucher for milk and veg at the supermarket. Or when you meet someone new and receive "and what do you do for a living?" and you watch the expression on their face when you say you are not working.

Oh sure, everyone is fine once they have seen the size of my wrist and how it has deformed my hand.

'Ridiculous myth'

Since the debate on capping benefits at £26,000 a year, people seem to think all benefits recipients get that. I wish. I have two young children and a partner to support on a smidgen over £11,000 a year.

With the increase in utility costs over the past year, hand-in-hand with a drop in my entitlement, there is a simple choice to make. Treat the children without watching the purse strings, or keep the boiler running and the lights on.

On average, gas and electric costs £30-£40 a week depending on the season. We are on a prepayment meter to clear the debt we accrued when I was forced out of work by my tumour. Therefore, we cannot move supplier, it's that simple.

Is the taxpayer paying off my credit cards and loans? No. I don't have a bank account, credit card or loan.

Do we have any other luxuries? Yes, we have a flat panel TV, bought for us by my mum a few years ago. Do we have any games consoles? Yes, bought by a friend who has helped us so much, we have no idea what we would have done.

What little we have is bought and paid for - normally not by us, as once we have fed ourselves and paid the bills there is never anything left.

There are no pints down the pub either. In fact, I haven't been inside a pub in four years. I don't miss it, but it is something else most take for granted that we never get to do.

Our budget is so tight that if an emergency crops up, like me being rushed to hospital because the delirium from the pain has caused me to pass out and collapse down the stairs - which happened just before Christmas - there is no way to get me home from hospital.

When we go food shopping, it is worked out to the absolute penny. There can be no deviation as there is nothing to play with.

Yes, we have a 17-year-old car. With the numerous trips to hospitals across the country for my arm, my partner's systemic lupus erythematosus and plus my son's reflex anoxic seizures and my daughter's issue with only having one kidney, it is cheaper than using unsubsidised public transport by just over £100 a year. That's two weeks' food shopping to us.

'Degrading and depressing'

We have never been on holiday or even a weekend away as a family. My children get those sorts of treats from their grandad and nanny, who work incredibly hard with their own business to make sure they don't go totally without.

Living on benefits is degrading, depressing and there is no room for any luxury of any kind - ever. We wouldn't have had a Christmas dinner last year if it wasn't for help from a local charity.

I spend my spare time helping mistreated social housing tenants living in dilapidated homes, as well as people who need to complain to companies who get nowhere. I am very, very good with legislation and procedural inequality.

I'm not lazy. So I cannot keep quiet when I read the twaddle being published about benefit claimants. There are fraudsters out there, but the system and society in general are targeting the wrong people.

So to all those who think I'm a lazy, fraudulent scrounger, I'll say this. Put your money where your mouth is.

The next time you meet someone who is on disability allowance, or claiming in some other way, ask yourself if you really have the right to sit in judgement because they are a nice, easy target.

Someone on Twitter said they would happily give up work and stay in bed for £11,000. Go on, then. Try to maintain any kind of lifestyle.

This isn't living, it is surviving.

Update: 14 April 2015

Since writing the original article back in 2012, many things have changed for us and not for the better.

Financially we are no better off at all. My nine-year-old son Thomas has been diagnosed as autistic. We have been fighting to get a local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team to place him on the spectrum, which would open up more avenues for support as well as allow an entitlement to specialist schools. Something Thomas desperately needs.

As Thomas' symptoms and daily life have become more pronounced, having no spare money has made home life extremely hard for us all. The only way to improve things would be to extend our housing association property so to allow for an extra bedroom.

Even if we get a grant to get the work done, we then face the bedroom tax fight unless that system is repealed. So what do we do?

Now about my giant cell tumour in my right wrist, which continues to grow, and the pain only affords me two to three hours sleep a night. The chances of my operation coming are slimmer than ever. Pain management, antidepressants and "keeping my chin up" are order of the day.

My Employment and Support Allowance will stop soon as all claims may only last 12 months then it stops and you must wait six weeks to reclaim.

So with that in mind, I endlessly search for work. Always getting to interview but no one will see past my tumour. "Insurance won't cover you to be on site" being the most common reason for refusal. I am now looking at other avenues just to make ends meet and give my family a chance at a future.

I am really happy to apply for anything from shelf stacking or even acting (I have one small movie role under my belt). I need to find another avenue and not sit on my laurels awaiting an operation that may never happen.

In addition, my mother passed away in October last year. After her very sudden death, we discovered she had no insurance or funeral cover. Nor was there any will. This was no minor problem. Minimum funeral costs were £1,800 for the most basic of cremations.

We applied to the Department for Work & Pensions for funeral costs as mum was entitled. It only paid just over half the funeral costs so we had a shortfall of over £700. Thankfully, the charity For You By You came to our rescue and covered the outstanding costs.

None of the main four parties will answer any questions regarding how much more they are going to slice away from the sick, disabled, elderly nor the NHS. I fear the future for people in my position is bleak regardless of who gains control following the General Election this May.

We are extremely grateful of all the support we have received and continue to, since writing the original article.

Benefits Street and other such shows are not a representation of benefit claimants. Fraud still only accounts for 0.07% of all claimants – a figure easily obtained from the DWP (with a freedom of information request).

Yet the portrayal you see of people like myself in the media couldn't be further from reality. We are not all scroungers.

You can contact Ross on Twitter at @iamthedoctor77.

MSE Email 23 July 2024

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