Laura Woodhouse // 20 October 2009
I’ve just got off the phone with a woman from the Dept of Work and Pensions regarding my Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) application. I phoned up four weeks ago and filled out all the details on the phone. I said I was officially single, but lived with my boyfriend and a friend, which I don’t think the woman on the phone quite understood because last week I was sent another form asking me for their details (which she hadn’t asked me about). Today I received the full JSA application in the post and was told I had to fill it out all over again. I called to ask why. It turns out that because I’m living with my boyfriend and he has a full time job, even though I am not financially dependent on him, even though we’re not married, have no joint bank account etc etc, I cannot claim Job Seekers’ Allowance. If I was just living with two friends I could. So, essentially, because I’m in love with and having sex with one of my housemates – despite the fact that I am unemployed – I am ineligible for benefits.
I am absolutely livid. Why the hell should my boyfriend be assumed to be financially responsible for me? Why is the benefits system based on such an old-fashioned understanding of the way people live today? Plenty of people I know live in shared houses with their friends and partner, why should they be denied JSA when the housemates who aren’t in a sexual relationship would be eligible?
I’m now £200 out of pocket and in debt because I was initially told I was eligible and had to spend that money to be able to live without financially burdening anyone else. The irony of the situation is my boyfriend couldn’t actually afford to be financially responsible for me anyway, whereas our other housemate would be quite happy for me to live with them without contributing as he earns more money. Yet it’s my sexual relationship with my boyfriend that apparently matters so damn much. We don’t own each other. We are independent individuals, not a bloody two headed, one bank-accounted entity and I’m appalled that the government cannot recognise that.
I’m writing to my MP stat.