JSA Rant

by Laura // 20 October 2009, 13:41

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.

Comments From You

Jake // Posted 20 October 2009 at 14:16

Yeah, it sucks. When you get to know the benefits system you begin to learn that the only way to negotiate it is strategic lying. Next time you apply you won't tell them about your boyfriend and you'll get the JSA just fine. The system effectively incentivises lying.
It shouldn't be that way of course, but what becomes very obvious when you're in the benefits system is that there is no feedback system for improving it - presumably because they can't be bothered to set it up. Any system without a feedback mechanism will be riddled with these idiocies and inconsistencies, and on some level the people in charge must know that. Depressing stuff.

thebeardedlady // Posted 20 October 2009 at 14:35

That's rotten, Laura. It's completely unfair. It puts you in a terrible situation - along with thousands of other women in the same boat, I'm sure.

On a practical note, do you and your boyfriend have separate bedrooms? Because then it would be easy to say you've broken up and you're sharing a house with two friends. Or you could just say you've broken up and he's on the sofa, although I don't know how far you'd get with this - they tend to come round and check (totally vile and invasive).

I had a similar problem last time I tried to sign on (yonks ago). The DSS decided that my landlord, who I shared a house with, was probably my boyfriend, and they came around and inspected our house - even looking in our bedrooms (which were clearly separate rooms - we also had separate bathrooms and kitchens, and he had a long term girlfriend who stayed there most nights!) It took an angry letter from my landlord (a solicitor) to persuade them to drop it and pay my benefits.

The assumptions they make are completely and utterly sexist. I wish you a lot of luck in getting things sorted out.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 20 October 2009 at 14:49

Just because you live together doesn't mean you are necessarily legally cohabiting, so you can contest this.

If you have separate finances (and always have) and split bills equally, you could make a case that you do not cohabit. You might be able to make this case if your relationship with your boyfriend is much the same as that with your flatmate (apart from the intimacy and having sex bit which is only very loosely important). Things that will go against you are if you share a bed, if you share food and 'behave like a family' (whatever that means). It might be worth an appeal, if you genuinely don't believe yourself to be cohabiting. You might especially be able to make that case if you are not regarded as a 'couple' by any other legal standard and if you don't have any legal ties to each other (ie just because you live together doesn't give you authomatic rights to each other's property, unlike marriage, and this is what the JSA are effectively asking for here- that you have rights to each other's property- perhaps you could argue this is a form of forced marriage by the state!).

On the other hand, the family-based assumption which JSA is based on really needs to be challenged, so you could take it to court and I will happily offer you support from the sidelines (but unfortunately I am skint and am not a lawyer).

gadgetgal // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:06

Dude, that stinks - I noticed how old-fashioned civil service stuff is here when I got married in the summer - they still ask you for your father's profession, and, to prove you know who you're marrying, your partner's father's profession! I complained, heard nothing back yet, and that was in July.

JenniferRuth // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:07

Laura - I have been through all of this with the JSA before! They can be an absolute nightmare to deal with. I also live with my boyfriend and there was a period earlier in the year when I was made redundant and was unemployed for a few weeks.

I assume that the woman only tested you for income-based JSA, which takes into account your household income and savings (which, yes, unfortunately they do measure the amount your partner or housemates earn).

However, you SHOULD be able to claim contribution-based JSA - which is not mean tested and is paid at a fixed rate. You can also back-date this claim. So call them asap!

It can be a right pain in the arse dealing with all this (don't even get me started on trying to claim housing benefit, I might start crying all over again) but you gotta be really persistent to get anywhere.

Good luck!

Laura M // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:16

It's a horrible loophole to jump through - I'm friends with male-female couple in the same but inverse situation (man had to run around proving they were financially independent before being able to get JSA). My sympathies.

Storm // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:17

Not just women I'm currently supporting my boyfriend.

Laura // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:19

Thanks for the comments :-)

thebeardedlady - I can't believe they actually came round your house, that's horrid!

Feminist Avatar - Ah, I had to answer questions about whether we eat and shop and spend leisure time together in the form they sent me last week, and we do do all of that. But I'd do the same with anyone I live with. I just don't see how the way I interact with the people I live with has any bearing on my need to pay for my meals or clothes for job interviews etc.

JenniferRuth - I've never paid any taxes because I've only just got out of education, so I can't apply for contributions-based allowance :-(

Luckily I'm starting a job in November so things could be worse, but the whole situation, as Jake says, is ridiculous and unfair. I don't think I'm going to pursue it with the JSA people, but will take it up with my MP.

katieinthehat // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:20

I had a similar thing a few years ago - I moved 170 miles to live with my boyfriend *and his parents* while I looked for a job in the area - because we couldn't get our own place until I had a permanent job. My boyfriend had his room with all his stuff in it, and I had the spare bedroom with all my stuff in it. He slept in the same bed as me but all our stuff was seperate. He paid his parents board and I paid them board separately. I applied for JSA, had the whole same rigmarole, someone came to the house and interviewed me at length, and in the end decided we were living together 'as a married couple' as they put it and because my boyfriend had a full time job (on crappy pay I might add) he could support me. It was ridiculous, I appealed, I had reports back saying that I was pretty much a horrible, money sucking person for even trying to appeal and how dare I etc etc. I was really upset and I was part way through writing them a long and angry letter when they randomly sent me a cheque for nearly £1000...so I didn't write to them in the end. Hmm. Hope that doesn't come back to bite me...heh. I feel your pain Laura, it's ridiculous that they should expect you to be dependant on your partner, they wouldn't expect you to be dependant on your parents or if you just lived with your other housemate they wouldn't expect you to be dependant on them. I definitely think you should write to your MP. I would if it happened to me now. I wasn't enlightened enough then.

Troon // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:20

This happened to me and my partner too. It was particularly annoying because we have decided not to marry, partly becasue we don't see why our sexual relationship is any business of the state, or why it should make our relationship different in other ways worth recognising. Oddly, the same benefits system was unwilling to consider us for any of the benefits married people might receive because, you know, we were just uncommitted folk with no responisbilities to each other that could be recognised. It also wouldn't give any such support to my Mum's sisters, whose committed asexual partnership sustained her throughout much of her life, with the result that that rock disintegrated when one couldn't keep the house when the other died.

If its any crumb of comfort, which it won't be because it doesn't pay the bills, I think this is about odd assumptions about sex and love, not about gender, in that I (as a man) was treated identically to my partner when the roles were reversed later.

But tis shit, you have my sympathy. Ever thought about breaking up with your partner for the time necessary to fill in the forms? Financial troubles often cause relationship breakdown.

Sorry, last bit facetious, and your points are serious criticisms of a terrible system. Hope it gets sorted soon and that friends and housemates will help.

Michael // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:20

I have been in a similar situation. After graduating from university I stayed in Bristol for another year as I thought my PhD place was secure; that situation went very wrong and I ended up having to live in a place while looking for a job and paying for it just about by savings.

When it came to the time that my savings had run out and my contract ended. I had to move out. My girlfriend at the time offered that I would stay with her, but given that the job situation was so terrible, and I hated the principle that I would have to live off her earnings I decided to move back in with my parents.

I was aware of the JSA situation that if one had a partner they were not entitled. A month after I moved, the distance madethe relationship sour and things ended between us, to top it off, I'm STILL NOT ENTITLED TO JSA, because I came out of university and not a job.

NorthernJess // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:23

I signed on two years ago for about 8 months. Everything was fine until my male housemate lost his job, and signed on himself. We lived in a two bed flat but because the landlord had split the original one room in two and not updated his insurance records the benefits department of our local council decided that we MUST be sleeping together and were therefore committing benefit fraud for claiming individual houseing benefit, even though both of us had rang and sepperatly told the council that we were single and just housemates. A woman visited our home when only I was in, to prove that me and my housemate were living in seperate rooms (because and man and a woman cannot live together in one space without the relationship being sexual, of course!) and questioned me (never him) at length about my relationship history and why we were living together, which was very embarresing especially as I had just broken up with my partner at the time and was feeling a little sensitive about matters of the heart as it were. It was all eventually sorted and the council stopped the court proceedings against us, but we still had to pay a fine for thems sending a letter telling us we were criminals. He moved out of the flat about three months later, but carried on recieveing JSA and housing benefit in his new address. I then found work, but went off sick three months into this. I found out after being off sick for a couple of months that I was entitled to housing benefit, and backdated a claim. The council sent the cheque IN MINE AND MY OLD HOUSEMATES NAME to HIS new address! We had lost contact at this point for various reasons and he never told me about the cheque, cashed it and spent the money, presuming that this was monies owed from when the council messed up our claim previously. I saw him a few weeks after this randomly and he gave me £50- my half of the cheque. He happened to owe me some money any way so I thought nothing of it, he never told me where the money came from and I didn't think to ask. I rang the council a few weeks later asking what had happened to my backdated claim, and they told me I had cashed the cheque. When I finally got to the bottom of the matter, the council told me it was MY duty to tell them when I had broken up with my partner! That they had spent how ever much public money proving wasn't even my partner! They then decided that my old housemate had comitted benefit fraud by cashing a cheque, even though the cheque came with no explanation at all as to why it had been sent and the council had messed us around so much before!
The same thing happened to another of my friends as to you, but the other way round, he was supposed to be living off her wages-this isn't them being misogynist-its them being incompetant.

http://www.myspace.com/southchinasea for an amusiung benefits related rant

Kirsty // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:28

Is it even possible to divide everyone neatly into 'single' or 'in a relationship' anyway? I have lots of friendships of varying degrees of strength, at what point does a relationship become important enough that the government thinks it needs to know? What if say, you're romantically attracted but not having sex, or having sex but not in a monogamous relationship?

I guess in our couple mad world most people are happy enough to point to one person and declare them their everything, and post a profile picture on facebook, cheeks smooched together, but I feel life is more complicated then that. I find it unbelievable that the government will go into peoples houses and examine the arrangements to see if it meets their definition of what a couple should be.

Laura // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:41

Exactly, Kirsty. I agree with others that this isn't a gender issue, but I posted it up because I think the assumptions on which it is based are bound up in a traditionally patriarchal view of relationships. Probably pretty heteronormative too: I'd be interested to see if they'd take the same attitude if I was living with a girlfriend.

NorthernJess - that's just appalling! And katieinthehat too.

Think I'll point my MP to this thread, please keep adding you stories.

sianmarie // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:44

my sympathies laura - i've been through it too although because my boyfriend doesn;t earn very much it didn't matter - but i was horrified that they even took it into account. i live with him yes, but my finances are my own and we don't have a shared account. they even asked me for his NI number and all sorts, it just felt really invasive because they ask yuo so many personal questions anyway, but to then ask personal questions about someone else was really frustrating.

i don't want my partner to feel financially responsible for me, it just seems so silly.
and because i was under 25 in the summer i got less JSA because i was still dependent on my parents. which is, again, absurd and obscene.

Troon // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:54

We wrote to our MPs. Nothing happened, but to their credit both of them (Ann Campbell and Evan Harris) responded and were crtiical of the inequities and assumptions in the system.

And, alas, it's not even heteronormative, although is suspect some assumptions might make it so, in that a gay couple I knew who split up amicably (and hence were still living together) but had previously admitted a relationship in a claim were denied. The interviewer then was apparently particualrly prurient, and even went so far as to suggest that he needed them to understand that gay people could be shagging others and still be a 'couple'.
Appalling, in oh so many ways.

Can we have a whip round for Laura?

Kirsty M // Posted 20 October 2009 at 16:18

Argh, how frustrating Laura. I hope it gets resolved soon.

Kristel // Posted 20 October 2009 at 16:48

Bet the Daily Mail doesn't want to hear any of these stories!

Shouldn't some of these (clearly unbelievably closed-minded, prejudiced individuals who work in the benefit (if only) "system" be made to undergo some sort of on-the-job training in how 21st century society functions, i.e. that the 2.4 nuclear heterosexual family thing isn't the norm! In the same way that some people get sent on racial awareness or anger management courses? They could start by learning to treat people with respect and bear in mind article 6 of the Human Rights convention, which entitles individuals to privacy!

Sal // Posted 20 October 2009 at 17:58

I'd recommend the Citizen's Advice Bureau for advice on this, they will probably have a benefits specialist who can help you.

My rule when dealing with benefits is to give as little information as possible until I know what impact it will have. I don't enjoy lying, but as someone pointed out, it's what they incentivize you to do.

Hannah // Posted 20 October 2009 at 19:24

I don't know if it makes you feel any better Laura but it's apparently not about the romantic/sexual nature of the relationship. A female friend of mine moved in with a male friend and his elderly relative in order to help with finances and care. When my friend became unemployed she applied for JSA and the department found them to be living 'as a couple' because of the shopping, eating together etc that they did. When my friend said 'but we're not in a sexual relationship' she was told that some couples don't have sex but that does not mean they're not living 'as a couple'. It seems now that under the guise of 'equality' the same thing can happen to same sex couples and same sex friends living together. The mind boggles.
My other point is that if you have paid enough in NI contribution then you are entitled to some JSA even if your partner is deemed to earn enough to support you; no one in the job centre thought to make this clear to me for some time but I did eventually get it back dated.

HarpyMarx // Posted 20 October 2009 at 19:51

Sorry to hear about that Laura.

The benefits system is trapped in a 1950s time warp that is both sexist and archaic. People are not seen as individuals in their own right but joined at the hip with a partner.

The benefits system needs to be dragged into the 21st century....

Btw: have you contacted any welfare benefits rights organisation?

Lee H // Posted 20 October 2009 at 20:49

I saw "JSA" and immediately thought Justice Society of America. Sign that I read too many comic books?

Anyway, this is truly mind boggling. Relationships with family memebers are defined at birth, and in the cases of marriages and adoptions there are forms and contracts in place, but whether or not someone is a "boyfriend" and what that entails is defined only by the people within that relationship - I've certainly never had to get the government involved with my private social life! They might as well extend it to soul-mates, BFFLs and brothers-from-another-mothers whilst they're at it!

emma // Posted 20 October 2009 at 20:51

the same thing happened to me. however the funny thing was is that if i was in a lesbian relationship..so still in a relationship with another person who was working full time i would of got the benfits because they didnt recognise a gay relationship as a relationship in the same way as a heterosexual relationship

Victoria // Posted 20 October 2009 at 21:11

Re the Daily Mail comment, I think the right wing press have always used a sleight of hand when reporting about this. They say couples are discriminated against for living together because they get more benefits if they live apart, then halfway through any article this slides into "the government discriminates against married couples".

Cazz // Posted 20 October 2009 at 22:07

On a recession theme, the lady across the road has a grown up daughter who was made redundant by the company she had worked for very happily for years in recent months. They also made all the other female staff redundant. The reasoning being that they had husbands who could 'look after them'. I believe they plan to take legal action collectively, which given that it blatently breaches the equal opportunities act, I don't blame them for at all.

Interesting to contrast the attitude of the JSA with the attitudes of the LEA's/Student Loans Company who tend to find any excuse to make parents pay to support their offspring, even if the offspring is over 21, not living with parents, hasn't done for years, and is instead living with boyfriend and baby instead, in a different town, at opposite end of the country.

I sometimes think it's more than the gender issue: I think it's often any way they possibly can get someone else to pay for anything they will. Still sucks though.

Kath // Posted 20 October 2009 at 22:10

"The interviewer then was apparently particualrly prurient, and even went so far as to suggest that he needed them to understand that gay people could be shagging others and still be a 'couple'."

You didn't read the polyamory thread did you? ;)

polly // Posted 21 October 2009 at 07:12

I'm surprised this is news to you TBH Laura. But yes it is crap. Non heterosexual couples have only been included since civil partnerships came in though, so I'd say it is heteronormative, in that it assumes anyone in a sexual relationship is also financially dependent on them.

To state the bleeding obvious.

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 09:33

polly - I haven't applied for JSA before and don't know anyone in a couple who has tried to, so there's no reason why I should know about it.

saranga // Posted 21 October 2009 at 10:22

@lee h: well, i'm glad i'm not the only one who thought that.. ;)

I'd also reccomend CAb for advice on this. Or do a google search for benefits advice agencies in your area. there are a number around the country. if you're in norfolk email me and I'll give you the info.

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 10:31

Hannah - that's just ridiculous! So essentially if anyone in your household is earning - even if they need your contribution to pay rent, bills, buy food etc - you're not entitled to JSA?! How the hell do they think people live nowadays? And aside from food, bills etc, why should someone you're living with pay for the expenses you incur as a jobseeker like clothes for interviews, transport etc?

HarpyMarx // Posted 21 October 2009 at 10:49

Laura, Hannah is right about the contributions based JSA, if you have 'made sufficient' contributions the you can get some JSA. But I still think you need to get some advice and find out your rights, however limited.

The rules are appalling when it comes to people living together in whatever situation. The benefit system is sexist and homophobic ...utterly archaic, existing in a 1950s time warp when it was all about straight couples, man being 'bread winner' and woman 'homemaker and wife'....

Unfortunately, the benefits system still reflects that time. And the benefit rates are shockingly low (some benefits will not be uprated next year instead will be forzen at the current amount...shame the same can't be said for bankers having their bonuses frozen!!), where people can just about exist on them as opposed to live on them.

Hannah, did your friend seek advice about this, or appeal that decision?

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 11:10

Harpymarx - I just phoned up again and tried to thrash it out, but it seems that now I've admitted I'm in a couple I'm screwed. I tried to ask whether I'd be able to get JSA if I was living with, say, 3 friends independently, and she said that I probably would because we were independent of each other, but couldn't understand that my boyfriend and I are also independent of each other (not that it's her fault what the rules are, but she didn't seem to understand my frustration). I just can't believe this rule. Apparently I can't get JSA based on NI contributions from my part-time job while I was a student, either, I'd have to have paid tax.

I'm going to see my MP on Friday and will print out comments from here to take with me.

earwicga // Posted 21 October 2009 at 12:13

"polly - I haven't applied for JSA before and don't know anyone in a couple who has tried to, so there's no reason why I should know about it."

I haven't been an asylum seeker before - does this mean that I shouldn't know anything about it - or have not read anything about asylum seekers? I've never claimed ESA but I have read up about it.

Our benefit system exists to penalise and punish claimants, who are often vulnerable. Perhaps one real benefit of the recession is that more people will come into contact with it and therefore understand what a disgusting system it is. I won't hold my breath that many will bother to speak out about it though.

NB: I note that your last few posts are about, working fathers, lap dancers, prostitution and the BNP to name a few. Personal knowledge of all of these? Women are disproportiately punished by the benefit system - please read up about it.

Sallyanne // Posted 21 October 2009 at 12:41

Yes, Laura, read up about it. You've got the time.

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 12:56

I'm so sorry I'm not already an expert in every single issue that affects women. Benefits is not an issue I've seen covered in any of the feminist reading I've done, the JSA does not make it clear on their website that a boyfriend or girlfriend counts as an official partner, and, yes, I do have middle class privilege which means I'm probably less likely to have knowledge of how benefits work. But I don't see the need to come here and chastise me for only just having discovered the issue with JSA. I blog for The F Word in my spare time, I'm not a feminist academic or anything, and I'm still young and learning, so I'd appreciate it if people could cut me a little slack. I'm now trying to highlight the JSA issue and do something about it.

gadgetgal // Posted 21 October 2009 at 13:09


Don't listen to them giving you loads - you only generally learn by doing, so if you haven't done before, then it's not surprising you don't know about it. And since the benefits system tends to hurt men as well as women it usually isn't seen specifically as a "women's issue", it's something that can hurt anyone, and hurts a lot of people regardless of gender. It also helps, too - I lived in the USA and there isn't much of an unemployment benefits system there, so most people wouldn't get anything. That's where you got the awful situation of being in one of the richest countries in the world but having the possibility of actually dying of starvation.

Juliet // Posted 21 October 2009 at 13:26

Laura, I don't think anyone here is 'chastising' you exactly, although I do think the comment by Sallyanne is nasty.

Here's another logic-defying way in which this 'system' 'works'. A friend of mine (she's 24) has had no trouble getting JSA despite the fact that she lives at home and is supported by her parents, who are both high-earning solicitors. The whole family is rich. For her, JSA is basically pocket money, as her parents don't ask her to contribute to household costs etc. I'm not saying she shouldn't get JSA if she's legally entitled to it, and of course it shouldn't be assumed that she's dependent on her parents, but still...this gives me a bad feeling.

No one's been round to check she isn't having sex with either of her parents, btw! (that's in bad taste, sorry, but..)

Sarah // Posted 21 October 2009 at 13:30

I agree with gadgetgal - pointing out the inequalities/problems in the benefit system is one thing (and a good thing of course) but berating Laura for not already being an expert on it seems a bit odd, and quite nasty. I really don't understand where that is coming from.

The f-word accepts reader submissions, doesn't it? Maybe the people with more knowledge/experience on this issue would be interesting in writing a piece about it? I would certainly be interested in reading something like that, as this isn't not something I know much about either.

Mary // Posted 21 October 2009 at 13:31

Probably pretty heteronormative too: I'd be interested to see if they'd take the same attitude if I was living with a girlfriend.

No, it'd be the same. I checked when I was coming to the end of my PhD whether I'd be entitled to any benefits if I had a period of unemployment, and the answer was that no I wouldn't, because my girlfriend was a full-time earner. (We weren't civil partnered at the time.)

On things like this, they're perfectly equal opps!

Tom Adams // Posted 21 October 2009 at 13:53

The Job Centre are almost entirely useless. I have plenty of friends who can't sign on because they have partners who are earning, and I signed on for about 4 months earlier this year and haven't seen a penny. They'd decided that because I was signed-up to do a 1-year course at university (which wasn't due to finish until September) I was still a student, despite telling them I'd failed, and giving them evidence stamped with my university's seal.

Through good fortune I landed a job about a month before I was due to run out of money entirely.

NorthernJess // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:11

I didn't know anything about how awful living off £45 a week was until I had to do it, not really. Thats why the whole 'the scroungers are robbing the system' arguements from the Daily Mail etc really pee me off. Everyone should have to, by law, be on the dole for six months, work in a city centre bar for six months, work as a cleaner in a city centre bar for six months and work in a call centre for six months, the world would be full of much nicer people in my opinion!

But what stinks the most is that, on minimum wage at the recommended 40 hour week, you earn about £20 more than you recieve if you claim for JSA, housing benefit, council tax benefit and heating and water bill benefits. What kind of incentive is that?

Also, if you are recieveing JSA for more than six months you can get one-off allowences for clothing for interviews etc, in order to futher purpetrate the myth that your capabilities at a job are reflected in your personal style and appearence.

Kate // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:17

Everyone criticising the system, do you think everyone should be able to claim benefits at a level set for individuals, even if this means couples are (potentially unfairly) better off? Obviously there are flaws with the system, but in general I think it's right that cohabiting couples are recognised alongside married.

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:36

Kate - But I'm not any better off living with my boyfriend than if I lived with a group of friends or flatmates (I know practically no one in their early twenties who lives on their own). The bills and rent are split in just the same way, I still have to pay for food, I still have to pay transport and clothing costs for job interviews etc. This is supposed to be a benefit to support jobseekers; the fact that I live with someone who has his own independent income makes no difference to my financial need. Maybe people who live alone should get more, but I certainly don't agree that living with a partner should make you illegible.

One of the reasons I don't want to get married is because I want to be recognised as an independent individual rather than half of a whole, but the DWP is ignoring that. I'm guessing I wouldn't be granted any of the privileges of being part of a married couple, though.

NorthernJess // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:40

How, Kate, in a system where people claim benefits set at levels for individuals would this make a couple better off? They would still have the same amount of money each? 1+1 equals 2, not 3. Yes, cohabiting couples should have the same rights as married couples, but it should not be assumed that a couple will finacially support each other-whilst this is the case it puts even more pressure on people to not be individuals, rather to tie in their finances etc to someone else. Would it not also mean that single people are disadvantaged as they will be looked down on for not having any one to "look after" them?

Kayley // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:50

They're clearly assuming you're a dependent and he's willing to breadwin, based entirely on any gender references you made. Another instance where it's better to hide the fact you're female. Also the fact you may not even be close!! Could just literally be sex. They have no concept of the modern- day relationship, using tradition and sexism to be stingy.

NorthernJess // Posted 21 October 2009 at 14:58

If you are under 25 then JSA decide that your parents should still be responsible for you in some way, this was what I was told when I asked the reasons I was getting £45 a week dole when I was 23 whilst my 26 year old housemate was getting £55. Thats even when one of your parents is dead and the other doesn't speak to you.

@Juliet The weighting system in regards to individuals getting benefits is wrong, but this girls parents supporting her whilst she signs on is surely a moral issue? Why is she signing on? Though I suppose you have to do it for NI contributions-OK I take that back, but that is still dodge.

Its the same with EMA, £30 is pocket money to some 17 year olds and everything in the world to others and that is given to any household earning less that £25 K. There is a hell of a lot of difference between £9,000 supporting a family and £25,000, but the students who choose to stay in education still get the same.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 October 2009 at 16:15

For those of you under 25, if you have lived outside of your parent's home for 3 years and were economically independent, you are for all legal purposes independent of your parents (even if you later return home). This means if the JSA say you should be entitled to less you can contest this. You can also claim for a full student loan without a parental contribution. If you have lived outside your parental home as a student for 3 years and have received a parental contribution on your student loan, then I think (unfortunately) you are still counted as dependant.

If you are under 25 and married or civilly[?] partnered, you are independent of your parents but unfortunately not your spouse. If you then divorce you are independent of both.

If you are under 25 and have no real relationship with your parents (or have been in care), you can claim to be independent for both student loans and JSA purposes. How to prove this is hard- but my cousin did it when she was 18 through contacting social services who then assessed her and wrote her a letter to prove her independence.

earwicga // Posted 21 October 2009 at 16:50

"whilst a lot of meaningful and useful things are discussed on this site / done becase of it, there is a certain intellectual / middle class snobbery surrounding it all."
A comment on http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/09/university_of_b

Laura, I am stunned that you don't know anything about the benefit system! It is something that punishes women in the majority. Women are more likely to be poor, to be the single parent with charge of the children, to be ill, to be a carer, to be old (living longer) etc. And therefore more likely to encounter the benefit system. For you to dismiss this reality for a lot of women by saying it's not affected me so I didn't bother to find out about it is very odd to me. I didn't post earlier to chastise you. But seriously - what do you read? Do you not read the news - ever noticed anything about welfare reform? Only read about middle class women have you? Bell Hooks et al have a lot more work to do!!!!!!!

From the comments above, you will probably take this as an unwarranted attack - but seriously, it is not a hidden topic.

NB - as far as I know, if you register as unemployed (whether they decide to pay you or not) your stamp is still paid and counts towards contributory years for pension reasons (just in case they are available in the future).

Laura // Posted 21 October 2009 at 17:08

earwicga - Yes, of course I've read about benefit reform etc in the press, I know the system is a mess, I know women are disproportionately affected by poverty, but I didn't know the ins and outs of how exactly different benefits worked before I had to apply for them myself. Can you claim you know all the little details about every issue that affects women?

No, I don't just read about middle class women, but I've never read anything specifically on the workings of the benefit system. If you would like to point me towards something on this I'd be more than happy to read. If you want to submit a guest post or feature on that you're very welcome to. I did pass on the comment you quote to the rest of the collective and we are working on looking at new bloggers to cover areas we miss out on.

Troon // Posted 21 October 2009 at 17:32

Can someone please explain what the acceptable limits of Laura's (apologies for using first name without any sort of oh-so-English intros) knowledge are supposed to be, or when she is allowed to even admit 'personal experience has added to my knowledge', so that we can all use this to decide whether to comment ever again on anything. After all, everything that happens in the world affects women, and this site is after devoted to independently researched lengthy policy documents, but to observations and criticisms drawn from people's experiences, that's its strength.

And as to Kate's comment that everyone criticising the system should just realise that "in general...it's right that cohabiting couples are recognised alongside married" not only does this assume huge amounts about mutual dependencies in both relationships, but it seems ignorant of the fact that many women suffer because the system at present decides whether this is true in different ways to avoid paying out-if you want JSA you are part of a mutually supportive couple, if you want a pension or inheritance tax allowance you are two unrelated nobodies who share or shared a house/bed/lifetime together. What a shocking lack of knowledge.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 21 October 2009 at 17:53

I would say there is quite a bit of difference between knowing the ins and outs of navigating the welfare system and a more general appreciation of how poverty affects women disproportionately. Give the girl a break!
Whilst your friend was morally wrong but legally right Laura here is morally right but legally wrong. Unfortuneately for the authorities changing the system might make it open to abuse. We live in a complex world.

james // Posted 21 October 2009 at 18:40

Laura, this might be useful for you.


I don't want at all to comment on your personal circumstances, and I think it's very unfair that people have been.

I think the most interesting political issue is that feminists have been pushing for the elimination of marriage from the benefits system, and they've more or less achieved it. But obviously if you do make sure that people aren't advantaged/disadvantaged because of marital status you are going to get people tagged as Living Together As Husband And Wife (or Civil Partners) who don't want to be, whereas people at least can choose to be married or not.

Amy Clare // Posted 21 October 2009 at 19:07

The main problem with means-tested benefits (including income-based JSA) that take into account partner's income, is that they end up forcing the unemployed person to rely on their partner for support and therefore rely on their good nature. This gives the partner power that they could choose to abuse, and if this starts to happen then a person with no independent income has very few choices in that situation. I'm sure we can all think of situations a person would want to escape from - and people need money to do this. It is bad enough that children have to rely financially on parents that may abuse them, without adults being put in the same precarious situation.

I'm not saying that every person who has to support their partner through a period of joblessness will abuse them, of course not, but there are abusive people out there who would be only too happy to take advantage of this power dynamic.

Conversely there is also the possibility that the unemployed partner will sponge from the employed partner and not show any interest in finding a job, thus unfairly depleting the employed partner's finances - this happened to me in one of my past relationships!

I firmly believe that benefits should not be means tested to this extent. They should take into account the claimant's individual wealth and assets, but not those of the family or partner. When I read about ESA (the replacement for IB) being means tested (IB isn't) I was extremely concerned, as sick and disabled people are even less likely to be able to escape a bad situation, and are even more in need of their own income.

It all works fine in practical terms if you are in an equal and fair relationship where neither partner abuses their position, plus the employed partner is earning enough for the both of you, but everyone else is being put in a bad situation by means-tested benefits if they become unemployed.

Kanga // Posted 21 October 2009 at 20:08

The "rant" format seems to be the (sub) issue here. You're right to be "livid", Laura, but please consider those among your audience who are being told about what they've had to endure for years, decades even - myself included. To respond to the earlier, rather fair comments with such sarcasm was disproportionate.

The "middle-class privilege" point is one which applies generally: hopefully it's not the first time you've noticed that many working-class women are too busy to consider feminism when they're struggling to survive!

This policy operates on the assumption that the household are prepared to support the applicant, which doesn't necessarily apply, particularly in domestic violence cases if there is an element of financial abuse. Unfortunately, the benefits office tend to only advise the victim to move out, which we all know is easier for them to say than it is for others to do.

Cazz // Posted 21 October 2009 at 20:40

Is it just me, or is there a class thing and new/old unemployed thing creeping in here? Of course, I could write about incapacity benefit/sick pay/work/term time only contracts/off sick in summer scenario, but then, I doubt anyone would give a shit and since I did get paid eventually, I don't really care anymore. I just feel sorry for co-workers faced with similar situation. Likewise Hollaback post which made me wonder if holla-ing back at work if a customer sexually harasses me would get me sacked or not. Most likely I'm guessing.

v // Posted 21 October 2009 at 20:43

"Benefits is not an issue I've seen covered in any of the feminist reading I've done,"

One reason for this is that people on benefits learn to keep quiet about it. You never know who might be listening, etc. You can get into a lot of trouble, have your only income cut, get done for fraud, etc, because you were overheard talking about your benefits by the wrong person, in the wrong place, in the wrong way.

We are shamed for being on benefits, too. Our words carry less credibility because we are scroungers. The longer we are on benefits, the worse that is. If we can show we are out of work because we are well educated and there is a lack of jobs for professionals at the moment, then that's okay, and we can talk about it because we aren't the wrong sort of unemployed. If we are not well educated then why the hell aren't we in whatever minimum wage job is available? Even within the benefits system there is a class divide.

There are damn good reasons why those of us who *rely* on benefits (not being the right sort of unemployed) don't tend to talk about it in public, even anonymously. You Never Know. One wrong word and our kids wont get fed next week, the electric will be cut off, we'll be made homeless.

I guess to some extent we rely on the benelovent members of the middle class elite to be at least a tiny bit aware of how the benefits system works, because they're allowed to talk about it, to point out the injustice. I LOLed when you said you'd write to your MP. No offence, but I did chuckle deeply. Good luck with that, although I suspect an email from you is worth more than one from many other benefits recipients, partly because you can use this place to garner support, and partly because I'm sure you're the Right Sort of Unemployed. Again, no offence, you don't make the rules.

On topic - when I lived in a 2 bed flat share with a guy, we were refused separate benefits. I endured the home visit and nothing 'untoward' was found to be going on. However the decision did not change - because we sometimes ate together, and we shared housework. As you'd expect from house mates who got on, really. This meant we were treated as a couple even though we weren't.

This would not have been the case if we had both been of the same sex, but that was before civil partnerships.

This particular bollocks is only the tip of the iceberg though Laura. I hope you never have to sit through a 'medical' for incapacity, ESA or DLA, overseen by non-medical staff from private firms paid large bonuses for refusing people on any grounds they can make up. I can only imagine the letter your MP would get over the application form.

P.S. I dont see any problem in what earwicga or others said about you not having any idea about the benefits system. Not so keen on the hostility from some here towards those saying this shit should matter. The fact that you write about motherhood and prostitution, amongst other things, with no understanding of the welfare system or the lives of us poorer folk, is problematic I think - especially when I see the way you cover those topics, and how dissenting voices to the more privileged points of view are shut down.

I'm sure the 'collective' will discuss it, but this has been a problem for a good long time now and I don't think asking vaguely for us to come write for you is the best way to go about fixing this. The f-word rarely seems to promote other UK feminist blogs (no doubt because many are radical feminist blogs) and that is part of the problem. I think we get shut out because we express views that are not clean enough, from a liberal perspective, and I think that is a class issue - but it is just my opinion I guess.

polly // Posted 21 October 2009 at 22:13

Hi Laura, sorry if that came across as an attack,( it was genuine surprise) but benefits - and poverty in general - are a feminist issue as others have pointed out, and not one that gets sufficient attention by any means.

You're not atypical, I think the point is that most people who haven't claimed benefits themselves or worked in the area of benefits don't really understand how ridiculous/ complex/ unfair/ impossible to navigate the system is, and they're happy to believe anyone on benefits is a scrounger living the good life. I absolutely dread being unemployed for any length of time, or unable to work because of illness, because I know what that would mean, but a lot of people don't.

Vicky S // Posted 22 October 2009 at 10:46

Just to add my rant...I graduated last year and moved back to my hometown to live with my partner full-time again. Now we have been together a long time and have a mortgage and everything so I accept we do "live as a married couple" and applied as such. However, as my partner was still a student, going in to his third year, they first of all said we could get joint JSA but then they changed their minds a week down the line and automatically stopped it (didn't bother to tell me to - had to check my bank account). We eventually had to go to someone high up to get someone to look into it and admit that as he was on summer break we could get JSA. But even that wasn't straightforward and every week they cancelled it cos it said that he was a student and I had to go down and point it nout EVERYTIME and eventually would be allowed to pick up a cheque. When he eventually went back to Uni in the September all JSA stopped because his student loan was deemed enough for 2 of us to live on (about £400 a month).

Also on this subject - couple of years before, when I was working PT and neither of us were studying he went to the JC to sign on. They put him through the ringer, kept him hanging on, awarded him something like £50 then decided that I earned enough to keep the two of us (I was earning about £400 a month). So it does work two ways - they will try and get out of it the other way too.

The system is a joke and so easily exploited if you know how. I have a friend who has been with her partner for 10 yrs living in the same house. But becasue they have seperate rooms he can claim full JSA and other benefits. He insists on them living ike this so he can claim. It really annoys me!

Good luck!

gadgetgal // Posted 22 October 2009 at 11:09

Ok, seriously, is everyone here suggesting Laura and the F-Word should be the font of all knowledge on EVERYTHING feminist? Do you know EXACTLY how much and what type of legislation, judiciary decisions, the civil service, the advertising industry etc. etc. affect women? Probably not. So why should they?

I've been on both JSA and Unemployment Benefit at various times in my life, so I know about as much as I'd be expected to for the times I was on them - I learned about JSA when I got it, and I learned about Unemployment when I got it. It's changed a lot over many years (the first time I claimed was in 1994, the last time 2004, and a few times inbetween). As feminists we're meant to sympathise and protest when we hear about injustices based upon gender - why is it such a problem that Laura didn't know about all of this now?

I'll give you a pertinent example - how many of you know how contracting works? How many of you know how badly it affects women? Do you know about the system and how it fails women inherently? How many women are forced to do this instead of being employed? And if you try to use the argument that there are more people on JSA, think again - there were by the end of 2008 1.5 million on JSA, and 1.4 million contractors in the UK.

By the way, although I'm a contractor, I freely admit, hard line feminist I am, I never knew about any of this stuff until I became one. Knowing generally about an issue is not the same as knowing the ins and outs, and you can sympathise either way - you don't have to know precisely how much money I receive, exactly what my rights are, and every single right in full that I'm denied, you just need to be aware that it's happening.

Just like Laura did with the benefits system, by the way.

aimee // Posted 22 October 2009 at 11:40

I kind of have the opposite! I started university this year, and my partner has just finished. Last year he claimed Adult Dependant's grant for me, because we live together and have a child, I was deemed to be financially dependant on him... which is fair enough... we share money, bank accounts etc... I pay the bills out of my account with his student loan... y'know.. it's 'our money', we're financially dependant on eachother.
So this year I tried to claim adult dependants grant for him... he is currently unemployed.. he is definitely financially dependant on me! But I apparently cannot claim it because I am under 25... Being under 25 has absolutely no bearing on whether or not someone is financially dependant on me.. he's quite obviously financially dependant on me. These arbitary markers they impose to determine these things are stupid and outdated and should be gotten rid of.

Don't even get me started on student finance... they make my blood boil!

earwicga // Posted 22 October 2009 at 12:28

@ Laura - imagine your feeling of being livid. Multiply that by seven years and by 3 for the number of people in my family. Imagine two housing officers coming into your home, while you are a new mother with tiny babies and telling you that you are a liar. That is what I live with every day. Now imagine that virtually nobody actually cares or bothers to find out. Imagine you are scrounger - that is your whole social definition. I am not aiming my anger at you personally, but at ignorance generally. And no, I'm not going to be your library.

@ Kanga - I felt the sarcasm too.

@ Cazz - Damm right it's a class thing. 'The Underclass' are subject to abuse on a daily basis from society and state.

@ V - spot on!

gadgetgal // Posted 22 October 2009 at 12:44


If you're not going to be her library why do you keep writing, then?

And if you're angry you should direct it at the people who are the cause of it - at the politicians who make the laws and the civil service who enforce it. Seems pretty pointless having a go at someone who's as powerless as you.

katieinthehat // Posted 22 October 2009 at 13:52

I'd also like to add support for Laura here. This blog post is about a personal experience, and is self-dubbed a rant. I'd wager that it wasn't an attempt by Laura to compare her experiences to that of others in the struggle to gain benefits, nor meant to be an exhaustive critique of the Department of Work and Pensions, but rather an cathartic sharing exercise to impart upon likeminded people a negative experience that she feels was weighted by perceived gender roles on the part of the Job Centre and co.

At Birmingham Feminists meetings, we often do ice breakers, especially if we have new members, that we call 'feminist gripe' - it's a bit silly and on the surface sounds like we making fun of ourselves - but it gives us chance to share with our peers the things that have frustrated us between meetings that we would like to discuss from a feminist perspective or even just share with friends.

Look at the rules: "This blog is a safe and friendly space for feminists and feminist allies" - surely that means that the bloggers should feel able to be open and honest about their experiences, and yes be able to be educated by critique and comments, but in a constructive manner. I've felt the wrath of other people even as a commenter and it's harsh. You have to remember that you are talking to other people here, not just putting your own opinions out into the ether for unconnected people to read them. That probably sounds a bit touchy-feely but so what?

George // Posted 22 October 2009 at 16:57

At all of those who are arguing that commenters such as earwicga should "stop being so aggressive" or "just calm down" - please remember that this tactic is used as a silencing mechanism against other disenfranchised groups, and this pisses us, as feminists, off. Being on the arse end of discrimination is liable to make you a little touchy (lol), and when that anger is expressed it isn't necessarily directed at those who are hearing it i.e. your fellow feminists.

A little bit of privilege-checking goes a long way... That is not to say that everyone should know everything - indeed, that's the point - but instead to recognise that people have different experiences and approaches to issues such as these. So, we can agree and sympathise with Laura and say that her situation is crap, AND still also recognise her (and our own) privileges in this discussion, and use them as a springboard into deeper discussion of the topic.

Anyway, on topic. If people have issues with welfare, I really recommend that you go to your local CAB office. Even if they cannot do anything for you, they do research and campaigning around social policy issues and may well already be collecting data around these sort of problems.

polly // Posted 22 October 2009 at 20:29

Can I add a) I do understand the anger of some commenters - being on benefits and treated like shit can be a bit infuriating to say the least and b)this is largely because, as I 've already said, this is an issue that most mainstream feminism seems to ignore.

While there's a lot of emphasis on say, the Guardian women's page (not the barometer I know, but a good indicator of the concerns of "mainstream" feminism) on stuff like working women on issues such as sex work, abortion and equal pay, I've never seen anything on poverty, because, frankly, it isn't seen as newsworthy or controversial enough. But poverty is probably THE biggest issue affecting women.

Holly Combe // Posted 22 October 2009 at 22:38

"We are shamed for being on benefits, too. Our words carry less credibility because we are scroungers. The longer we are on benefits, the worse that is. If we can show we are out of work because we are well educated and there is a lack of jobs for professionals at the moment, then that's okay, and we can talk about it because we aren't the wrong sort of unemployed. If we are not well educated then why the hell aren't we in whatever minimum wage job is available? Even within the benefits system there is a class divide" (V)

In my experience, this all rings true and I'm in no doubt that my own privilege has meant I've at least been cut a bit of slack whenever I've needed to sign on. However, I'd suggest the "scrounger" label is never too far away for anyone who claims benefits and I think it's partly for this very reason that, as you say, people on benefits "learn to keep quiet about it" and that the longer one is on benefits, the worse it is. There is a load of stuff that badly needs to be said but, in a political climate where it seems every claimant is unfairly automatically suspected as a potential fraud, shouting about such things when you rely on benefits or could rely on them in the near future is just too risky. Jumping through all the hoops and adhering to every rule doesn't necessarily help. They can still make things harder.

You could even say there's no such thing as "the right sort of unemployed" person in a greedy society that doesn't really believe in equal rights for all and seems to have more respect for almost anyone who works, however immoral their behaviour, than it does for people who dare to take a "handout" from the state.

catchmeifyoucan // Posted 23 October 2009 at 06:15

My advice: lie, lie, and lie again. Truth is what you can't prove wrong, but don't give them an opportunity to try to prove anything, if you can possibly help it.

I'm in Australia; similar deal. On a disability pension. We've just gotten same-sex relationship recognition for welfare here. I could lose all my benefits and be dependent upon my partner, and I've never been, the prospect gives me absolute terrors, to keep it I would have to move out, to where I don't know. Partner's a lawyer, and says that technically we don't classify under social security law because of how our living arrangements are, and feels pretty uneasy about the fact that I'm lying to welfare. You think I feel comfortable telling welfare? Noooooooooooo.

Tamasine // Posted 26 October 2009 at 12:08

My friend was telling me that she was trying to have the status of her bank account changed (she's no longer a student) and to do this they needed to give her an interview in which some of the question inlcuded about her relationship/marital status and whether she had children. She refused to tell them, which I think is awesome, but then it's a different situtation to needing benefits.

I think the same type of problems applys for those needing long term financial support for medical problems when they have a partner/co-habiting.

meka // Posted 31 October 2009 at 19:53

my mum is a social worker and earnes just over thirty thousand a year, my dad was made redundant as a laboror last year and hasn't found work since, he isn't entitled to any Job seekers allowance, no free dental treatment or can get his prescriptions free for his medicine or glasess because my mum earns to much, he has to ask my mum for everything. is this fair? because my mum has worked hard to get where she is and still works hard every day she might as well work part time as a checkout oprerator in a supermarket because she is now working for half her wage. I think it is degrading for anyone to live off someone else and even if he can't claim JSA he should be entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment

Elizabeth // Posted 03 November 2009 at 16:22

Three years ago, I moved to the UK, was told by friends to sign on for JSA and was told by the JSA that I was "common law married" and (after 2/3 months of hoop jumping, applying for jobs I knew I wouldn't get in order to be 'compliant' and general time-wasting) I was told I was not eligible for any benefits as a result.

I have since discovered that common law marriage was abolished in England in 1753 and where it exists requires living together for a significant period of time (more than a week, I imagine) as well as other signifiers of intention (e.g. referring to each other as husband/wife).

I am still angry about this but at the time I was too beaten down, ignorant of what could be done and more focussed on mounting debt and hunting for work that would pay some of the bills.

I was not eligible for any other benefits as I was raised abroad (temporary NI number, etc). It was very upsetting to realise that the country I've been a citizen of all my life had no interest in helping me out when I needed it and made me realise how easy it is to slip through the cracks in such a situation – even if you are starting from a postition of privilege.

jan // Posted 05 November 2009 at 17:14

That is unfair - my friend back in Rugby signed on while still living at home, even though both her parents work! It's hypocritical that the Job Centre are meant to work on the principle of equal opportunities and yet they're telling Laura she has to rely on a man. Next time just say you rent your room in a shared house because that's not lying, you're just leaving out something that's quite frankly none of their business anyway!

polly // Posted 06 November 2009 at 19:56

It's not that simple unfortunately Jan as from my memories of the form (fortunately quite a few years since I've seen one) you are specifically asked if you have a partner and if you live with them.

Yes Laura could have lied, but she then ran the risk of potentially ending up with a criminal record if the truth emerged somehow.

BoB // Posted 07 November 2009 at 00:24

V: your comment is so very true, and so well put, I wish you had contact information so I could get your permission to quote you.

jan // Posted 08 November 2009 at 11:36

Fair enough Polly but I think if you have separate bedrooms you're technically classed as single. When i was about 18, I was on the dole in Nottingham and at that time they only sent the housing benefit people round to check but four years later I'm signing on again in Birmingham and they don't even do that now. Maybe different councils are more strict but they only consider you "living together" when sharing a room. If they do come round and check they still have to tell you in advance so even if you are sharing a room you can get him to go out on the day! Hope this helps

Alexandra // Posted 11 November 2009 at 05:43

Can anyone explain why at the bottom of this page about national insurance contributions http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nic/ynino.htm
it says you must let the DWP know if your circumstances change "For example: If you are a woman you should tell us if you get married or become divorced or widowed"?!

v // Posted 11 November 2009 at 14:25

"I think if you have separate bedrooms you're technically classed as single"

Yes if you live in a household of more than two adults. No if you live in a household with two adults of opposite sex.

I explained above that this exact thing happened to me and I think others did too. They came round to check on me and I offered to show them our seperate bedrooms. They declined - that wasnt the issue, they said.

FeminaErecta // Posted 11 November 2009 at 15:15

Alexandra- maybe because it is more likely that your name will change? That is still inexcusabel, why don't they just put 'if you are changing your name, marrying, becoming divorced or have been widowed' (is it widowered for men?). Shows how most of these things are written without being thought of first!

mel // Posted 11 November 2009 at 19:19

Just a small thought as a single unemployed person who doesn't have the skills/education to get new jobs as easily as many of you seem to be able to with your odd weeks and months on JSA-
living with someone and sharing food and bills DOES decrease your expenses! It costs less the more people you share a home with. Bulk buying and cooking and every student seems to have got the idea-they share in massive numbers.

When there is only a finite amount of money to go around and there IS a non means tested amount you can get-surely it's right that those who are able to economise by buying food/sharing bills get less of the means tested stuff than the rest of us heating an entire house/flat alone?

Just a thought

Anna // Posted 11 November 2009 at 20:40

'every student seems to have got the idea-they share in massive numbers'

I have never, ever noticed that amongst my fellow students. Ever. Using someone elses milk is trying to start WW3.

polly // Posted 11 November 2009 at 20:51

Mel is correct. If there are four people in a house sharing the water bill, the TV licence and other fixed bills (they'd used more power, but probably not four times as much) then the average amount you'll pay out in bills is lower. But the benefits system only recognises this when someone is in a sexual relationship with someone else, bizarrely.

v // Posted 12 November 2009 at 13:03

Well I've never had the luxury of a flat or a house all to myself, and I dont know many other people who have either, especially people on the dole. I think there might be a rule that housing benefit wont pay for them if youre under 25?

Bedsits, on the other hand, yeh.

It occurs to me that I haven't even been in a bedsit for at least a decade. Do they still exist?

Kite // Posted 12 November 2009 at 14:15

Wow, how nice that some people can afford to rent a house of their own. Seems to be backwards reasoning to say that those who can afford a house of their own should get paid more of the dole. On the other hand, us majority of plebs who are forced to share due to lack of money (with all the joy that sharing close quarters entails) - we should get paid less? Yeah, not following the logic of "fairness" there.

Anna // Posted 12 November 2009 at 14:39

V - yep, I was about to move into one last year.

gadgetgal // Posted 12 November 2009 at 20:22


I don't think mel was saying rich people who have big houses to themselves should get more money - I've lived in a few bedsits and yes, they're mostly pretty horrible, but I remember living on the dole for a while when there weren't any available for me to rent so I had to live on my own, which was way more expensive, in bills alone! I don't think it should be means-tested the way it is now, as it's unfair, but she does have a point. A similar thing that happened to me: I had a friend at University who took out a student loan to fix up a house her dad bought for her - I had to actually live off mine, as well as have a job, just to rent the crappy little room I lived in and feed myself regularly! Never seemed fair at the time, still doesn't strike me as being so now.

v // Posted 12 November 2009 at 20:38

Not all people in shared houses are friends or even acquaintances. I've lived in some where other 'housemates' have been predatory or otherwise untrustworthy/unsafe, and so stayed locked in my room pretty much the whole time, and definitely avoided spending any more time than necessary in communal areas.

Even when you are sharing with people you are friendly with, the main thing most of you have in common is being skint. I've never been a student so most of my house shares have been where i've rented a room from a landlord, and not always known the people I was moving in with.

So yeh, arguments over milk, bread, and marmite; locks on cupboards, individual stashes of bog roll, and storing your toothbrush in your bedroom rather than on the sink.

In such houses, even working out who hasnt put their pound in the leccy meter means major stress. Pooling money to buy proper groceries and eating together - it would just be impossible.

So lets not be too judgmental about people who dont. They arent frivolously wasting money, not every shared house is like a family.

polly // Posted 12 November 2009 at 22:38

Kite: I know a lot of (single) people on benefits who live on their own. In social housing a lot of the time. Housing benefit pays for it. As it would pay rent for anyone who qualified for housing benefit.

And there are a lot of people who buy/rent houses/flats on their own because they have jobs. It doesn't mean that they will never lose their job.

There are fixed costs - water, telephone line rental, insurance etc associated with living anywhere. Therefore if there are two or more people living in a household these costs are shared, and are less. But JSA is the same whatever your fixed bills are, unless you are deemed to be cohabiting with someone.

If you are earning money, then you don't qualify for JSA, if you're earning more than the £60 odd quid a weel you get.

If I add up my basic unavoidable bills: water, gas, electricity, insurance, they come to about the same amount I'd receive in JSA if I was unemployed. That's not even including stuff like paying for contact lenses, telephone, internet, etc....

mel // Posted 12 November 2009 at 22:47

yup not every shared house is like a family-but if you are "living like a couple" which I believe is the rule for not getting means tested JSA ie you are sharing bills and food and stuff and are close friends or partners then your bills will be less than those who don't have a close friend/sexual or non-sexual partner to live with is what I am saying...

Kite // Posted 13 November 2009 at 02:15

If we make other choices (choices ha ha) to live more cheaply, should that be means tested too? Let's see, I live without a car, go without adequate medical care, don't go out on the town, buy clothes from op-shops... why should I get as much dole as someone who doesn't? What if I moved to a small town where the rents are much lower? (Well, I actually receive more for living in a "remote" area.) I'd also like the financial gamble of cheaper-living-through-share-housing recognised, and a one-off payment for every time a housemate skips rent or runs up a massive bill or nicks my stuff or eats my bloody food.

Aboriginal people here are often crammed 16 to a government house... should they as super-share-housers receive less or I as someone with a higher domestic cost receive more? (Apart from rent assistance and a bill supplement if it's in your name, which is the key to fairness, I think.) What about the long-grassers (homeless) here? They get to spend it allll on grog! So unfair! Give them pennies til they get a room! See where I'm going?

Students =/= sharehousing.

I don't live in an area where share-housing or bedsits are unavailable. If I was, I would be in a really difficult position (although rents are often much cheaper in more isolated places; this isn't true of the isolated outskirts of where I live which has the nation's highest rental prices and most feral real estate agents). There are also people who go very very badly in share-housing, because of severe physical or mental illnesses or disabilities. I used to be one of those people, and I was forced to live in a shed out back of a house for a few years. Also, many parents, especially with young children, find it really tough to find a place to live with others. I can't comment on Britain, but here in Australia it is unfair that the rent assistance ceiling stops short of a fair rent for an apartment, let alone a fair rent for sharing. Some of it is stinginess and being behind the times on the part of Centrelink (DSS), but some of it surely is the faulty rationale that giving people more money for "high" rents will "just encourage them".

Rub yer lucky rabbit's foot and wait... and wait... for government housing all to yerself?

Yeah... I think the means-testing of spouses is much more about old feudal ideas of the-man-supporting-the-woman than it is about living expenses. The DSS expects your working spouse to be financially dominant; the family being a stronger relationship to you and having more obligation to you than to the State. I think I'll defer to socialist ideas on that one.

Bobbi // Posted 13 November 2009 at 16:12

Once again I agree with V. Sharing a house does not mean you are necessarily able to gain the benefits of buying bulk food and so forth. It just as often means some bastard steals your food, and stressful arguments over the bills.

I lived in a shared house where we had a payphone, until someone realized they could just plug their own phone into the wall socket and it would only get noticed when the amount of money in the phone didn't add up to half as much as the amount in the phone bill.

Jan // Posted 15 November 2009 at 14:00

Bloody hell V, I had a lucky escape then! When I was 19 I got a houseshare with a male friend - totally platonic btw, and thankfully I never had to sign on in that time or else I might've been fucked! In answer to your question, yes I live in a bedsit and it's actually really nice if you're single - it's completely self contained with its own cooker and shower, it's half an hour's walk from Birmingham city centre. If you want something spacious but cheap like that, try the Gumtree website, you can find anything on there! Best of luck with that

earwicga // Posted 02 December 2009 at 05:34

Just come across a series of statements which shows a little of the reality of the Welfare Reform Act 2009 for those who have no idea about it and welfare for single parents and others unable to participate in paid employment: http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/England/welfarereformstatementspage.htm#Child_clinical_psychologist_OLIVER_JAMES_on_the_Welfare_Reform_Bill_requirements_that_parents_of_young_children_take_on_waged_work.

Drew B // Posted 14 December 2009 at 23:20

This has just happened to me and I'm a gay man living with my boyfriend - just for those who think gays have some kind of advantage here. I just lost my job but have been denied JSA because my boyfriend has a full time job. I'm shocked that he is assumed to be financially responsible for me. He didn't agree to that when I moved in. We have no legal ties whatsoever. I have no rights to anything of his. If he was run over by a bus tomorrow I wouldn't be entitled to a thing. It seems to me this is a case where the state has its cake and eats it.

earwicga // Posted 15 December 2009 at 11:45

There is something I don't get about this thread. Perhaps it's because I haven't lived with a partner for almost nine years, and doubt I ever will again.

I had always thought a relationship was about caring for each other and financial implications were implicit in this. When did this change? When did support start to exclude financial support?

coldharbour // Posted 15 December 2009 at 12:00

"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?"

It's an absolute fucking disgrace. Basically the nation state is making benefit entitlements available to people predicated on who you sleep with in private. I'm living with my girlfriend at the moment and having to live on absolutely nothing. While she does not contribute a penny to my existence the D.W.P. have decide that because we reside in the same house I am not eligible for JSA. As far as a I am aware if your partner (whatever that means) earns more than minimum wage over 30hrs a week (approximately 180pounds) you are entitled to fuck all. This is at the same time when the prospective Conservative M.P. for my constituency Zac Goldsmith is hoarding millions of pounds abroad in tax havens.

Laura // Posted 15 December 2009 at 12:43


I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but personally I think there are different levels to a live-in relationship. Were I to have a child with my partner, say, and we were a family living together, I think we'd share finances. At the moment, neither of us could afford to support the other and I wouldn't want either of us to anyway, I don't think that would be fair in our current work situations. That's not to say we don't loan each other a bit of money if necessary, but essentially we're independent people who live together because we love spending time together, not because we've made a full-on commitment to look after each other materially and financially. If that makes sense!

sianmarie // Posted 15 December 2009 at 13:07

laura i agree. when i was on JSA obviously my boyfriend had to help me out more, but he doesn't earn a lot of money and couldn't support me. that said - the emotional support of my unemployed misery was all there!
i think my main objection is the state telling you what your relationship should be like, without taking in the subtleties and real life earnings of people.

earwicga // Posted 15 December 2009 at 13:07

@ Laura

Thanks for your reply. I guess we all have different approaches to a relationship and these are neither right nor wrong.

Can I also apologise for my rudeness to you in my comments above. There are ways and ways of making a point, and I chose the wrong way, and I'm sorry.

Laura // Posted 15 December 2009 at 13:37

Thanks, earwicga, I appreciate it. I am glad you made the points you did, however. I spent a long time thinking about the issues that were raised and they have been taken on board.

A Burt // Posted 15 December 2009 at 13:50

I think the point is that this sudden new commitment my boyfriend has towards me was unasked for and unexpected. We are not married and don't have a civil partnership. Our finances are not linked in any way - I don't even have any idea how much he earns or of the value of his flat or car. I have never considered this information any of my business. Maybe there is also the fact that I have also always earned much less than him, and I have never wanted him to get any impression that I'm interested in his money - and I never have been. The situation I'm in now has forced me to become interested in his money. That makes me extremely uncomfortable, and I worry about the effect it will have on our relationship. To imagine that love should be blind to financial circumstances is to live in a fantasy land I'm afraid.

sally // Posted 20 December 2009 at 13:45

The phrase used in benefits forms is: "Are you living with someone you're married to or as if you're married".

If someone GENUINELY believes that their relationship with the person they are sharing a house with and sleeping with is NOT akin to that of a marriage, I don't see why on earth they should answer "Yes" to this query.
They are asking for the person's filling in the form's assessment of THEIR relationship-only THEY can answer it!

Let the DWP prove that the relationship is akin to that of marriage if they're that interested don't do their ******* job for them!!

sally // Posted 20 December 2009 at 13:58

I am sorry if I came over as a bit negative with the statement above, but it never ceases to amaze me that supposedly intelligent people do not bother to read the words on these forms and think carefully about what they actually mean- if you GENUINELY believe you are not in a marriage-like relationship you have every right to deny that you are!!!
Fortunately, I have never been in Laura's situation,-there but for the grace of god and all that- but I had to respond because I believe people should stand up for themselves.
The CAB are the best people in the world.

Laura // Posted 20 December 2009 at 17:51

Sally- I did answer 'no' to that question, but I was then sent a form asking about the other people I live with and my relationship to them and I put friend and boyfriend because that's who they are. Yes, maybe I should have lied, but it didn't occur to me because I never imagined my boyfriend's finances would be of any relevance to my claim. From my conversations with the JSA people, sharing a bed counts as a marriage-like relationship, so it isn't actually up to the person in question to define. And you can see from many of the comments above that they're not going to just accept what you say anyway without investigating.

sally // Posted 20 December 2009 at 18:12

Sorry, Laura, but a lot of people DO answer "yes" automatically to this question.

Just because two people have sex under the same roof does not make them "as married".
Feminist Avatar has expressed this eloquently here and her advice is sound and worth taking for anyone in this position. It is the best advice here, to be honest.
A friend of mine in a similar position got questioned over things like shared domestic chores.
It is not my place to tell you her replies but I will say this- if there are no obvious financial ties between two people (i.e. mortgage and/or children) it is nigh on impossible for the dwp to know if domestic chores are shared or not.
It is nigh on impossible for them to know anything about what goes on behind closed doors between two people.
The whole issue of "living as married" is highly debatable and is deeply subjective.

Jen // Posted 31 January 2010 at 21:34

Hi Laura,

I read about your situation and completely agree and sympathise with you. I was made redundant towards the end of 2009. I applied online at the end of December having never claimed before, with the intention of being able to receive Contributions Based JSA at the start of the new year. The website describes it as 'based on how much NI you've paid in the last two tax years'. I thought given that I've been in full time work since University two years ago, I'd be eligible. Turns out I was eligible the last tax year and the year before, but because I technically applied in 2009 (about 3 days before the new year) I shot myself in the foot. They used years 06/07 and 07/08 to assess me. 07/08 was fine, it was 06/07 where I fell short - a year I was studying at uni with a part time job! If I'd applied just days later I'd be getting something as they would have used my last p60. So I studied for a degree, worked for 2 years paying NI and tax and now that I've lost my job and need help, I can't get anything!
I made phone calls to benefits enquiries and the advisors agreed with me but couldn't do anything with their reason just being that 'those are the rules'.
I can't get income-based JSA either because I live with my boyfriend (who works 24 hours+ a week) even though we aren't married, don't share money and split the rent and bills. We also both have massive student debt. I recently found out that several of my friends are getting income based JSA who have boyfriends but live at home with their families at the moment. They cannot believe that I don't qualify for anything. I've tried to find out if there's anything else I'm entitled to, but it seems to all come down to what my boyfriend is earning. Now I have no choice but have him pay all of the rent, bills, council tax, food and anything else that needs paying for as I am no longer able. Then to add insult to injury, I read the other day that the DWP has accidentally overpaid just 10 people over 1 million pounds in benefits! Yet some of us can't get a penny! The system is messed up.

Amy // Posted 15 February 2010 at 12:38

I'm going through the same thing right now. I applied for Job seekers 5 weeks ago, over the phone, the woman didn't explain it right so i ended up applying for the Contributions based, i haven't worked for the last 2 years! I told her that, she even had my National insurance number, but she still said it was the right one. Got a letter back 2 weeks later saying i can't get it. So i went into the job centre and explained they told me to apply again from the date i first applied, had to fill in another form!! Waited another 2 weeks and got another letter asking about who I'm living with, I do live with my boyfriend, but he works under 16 hours a week. He can't afford to keep me... and getting a job quick at the moment isn't easy.

I think it's stupid you can't get it because you live with your partner, yeah we share a bed. But we don't have joint bank accounts and we both have to pay rent!
And it takes stupidly long for them to get back to you! I don't have 5/6 weeks to wait and find out if I'm able to get it or not!

Jen // Posted 15 February 2010 at 18:37

Hi Amy,

It is ridiculous isn't it. My claim was delayed unnecessarily because the job centre told me to send my most recent p60 off to Benefits Enquiries for assessment. It turns out that they wouldn't have touched it anyway because they'd already chosen the tax years they were assessing me on and a decision had already been made. I haven't seen it since and the benefits office don't know where it is, so it's currently lost, all for nothing. Over a week was wasted there only to find out the Benefits Office were no longer processing my claim, which got me quite frustrated with the Job Centre.
I asked the Job Centre staff why they told me to send it when it wouldn't even be taken into consideration, and they replied “we don't know how the process works, so we wouldn't have known you weren't to send it”. So yes, because of their lack of knowledge, your claim gets delayed even further, and yours is another example of the time that can be wasted through them.
Since my last post, I've spoken to the head of the Claims Maintenance department, who understood the 'morals' of my situation and agreed with me yet said he could do nothing to help me, but to send in a letter of appeal if I wanted.
In your case, it sounds like you were misguided by the woman on the phone. She should not have let you apply for contributions based JSA if you haven't worked in the last two tax years. If you applied in 2010 they would use P60's from 07/08 and 08/09 to assess it, of which both of those years you would have had to make sufficient contributions in National Insurance to be eligible. If you applied in 2009 they use 06/07 and 07/08. If you told them you hadn't worked in the past two years, it is ridiculous that the person on the phone still advised you that it was the right one. What they've done now is put you forward for Income Based JSA, but they should have done this from the beginning, or at least let you apply for both (I think you can do this).
You may be able to get Income Based as your boyfriend is working less than 24 hours a week. I can't apply for this as my boyfriend works full time. It is frustrating that they assume your boyfriend should support you and pay your way, but there is nothing you can do about it as they take all that into consideration. I hope they sort yours out soon and I just wonder how much time could be saved in sorting out claims if the staff were more informed of the process. Make a complaint about the member of staff whose incompetence dramatically delayed your claim, although it won't probably make them process it any quicker! When I signed my jobseeker's agreement on the 5th January, the girl that interviewed me did not even clarify which type of JSA I was applying for!
I sent my letter of appeal off at the end of January and I still haven't heard anything, all the while I'm struggling to live on what money I have left whilst trying to find a job.

sam // Posted 08 August 2010 at 19:25

Hi, Any help, advice is appreciated.

Ok I've been put on the sick for about 2yrs, also receive low rate Dla for care and mobility.

I'm under25, with no fixed address, I've been "sofa surfing" 8 yrs. I do have a C/O addy for my mail. Not having a regular safe place to stay is obviously really effecting my Condition ."Depression&anxiety! Anyhow my ex partner , now friend of 3 yr has seen the state of me and my situation and has offered me to stay in one of he's rooms.

He's on JSA & gets full HB & CT benefit, so he said he doesnt want any money from me for "RENT" .

But I was wondering dO I have to notify someone and claim for "rent" for my room ? As he already gets it paid in full?? ,is there any point? and we're not a couple so ...but If so, wot will I classed as? A Lodger, sub tentant??
I will be getting is a room, and I will help with bills, and get my own food etc...

Also do I have to notify dole office,IB & DLA office to say things have changed (I have a place to stay ) but.. will be keeping my old mail C/O address ? AS will not be getting mail at he's house, I will be keeping it at my cousins addy.
His place has a shared mail box , thats why.

This sort of situation happend yrs ago, but we where both on JSA at that time.
We did not notify anyone, because we where friends, but as where both claiming from same addy , the job centre called us in and interviewd us ,and did have little moan. And said we will get into trouble if they found out we where a "couple" living together, and not claiming as a couple.but AS wher telling the truth nothing happend.

But this time round ,he's saying I'll be best going to tell the housing benefits I'm renting a room, im just wondering why?

Can anyone help?
Thanks x x x

angercanbepower // Posted 09 August 2010 at 11:28

Sam, if you're not paying rent then you are not eligible for housing benefit. If you try to claim for "rent" for your room at an address which the local authority is already paying HB to your ex-partner for, this may cause problems with his benefits.

Depending on the situation of your ex-partner, he may technically need to notify your local authority that you are living with him, although this might not necessarily be the best idea if this is a temporary arrangement - as discussed they have a hard time getting their heads around who is and is not a couple.

It sounds like you ought to be eligible for housing benefit yourself. It is great that you have a support network whose accommodation you have been able to rely on, but you are entitled to your own accommodation.

Blog comments aren't a great place to discuss this. Have you visited your local Citizens Advice Bureau? Also, most local authorities now commission the voluntary sector to provide mental health advocacy services, which it sounds like would be useful for you. Have you tried searching for these?

Jade // Posted 02 November 2011 at 17:37

I'm pretty confused by the Job Centre.
Me and my boyfriend have moved in together. I work 10 hours a week, as i am on anti depressants for depression and anxiety and can't cope with working more than that, and my partner is on job seekers.
When he informed the job centre that he had moved, he was told that because he had moved in with me, he had to change his single claim into a joint claim. Now we both have to sign on, and i have to look for work as i don't work 16 hours or more.
The reason i got the job i'm in, is because i can just about cope with it, even though i get less money than i would on job seekers, i was happy with this because i didn't have the added stress of going to that awful place!
So why couldn't they keep it as a single claim, keep any extra money, and leave me alone??
I intend to look for more hours of work when i feel able and when my doctor agrees that i'm ready. But I will do it in my own time, and make sure it's a job i will be happy in (similar to my current job in a school)... Any advice? Are they right? Am i supposed to look for more work?
Sorry if it's all jumbled, i'm not very good with organising my writing.

I am David // Posted 08 February 2013 at 22:57

Well the year is 2013 and things are still the same !!!

Today I found out that my Job seeker allowance had been stopped and my claim closed.

WHY ? ... because they " suspected " that I was sharing my a house with my " girlfriend / partner " ... who is actually only my flatmate.

Let me just explain the word " suspected: Believe or feel that (someone) is guilty of an illegal, dishonest, or unpleasant act, without certain proof. "

This is just plain wrong and has made me furious. This kind of behavior inspires utter contempt and hatred for our social system. It makes me not want to work. I feel that anytime I've ever needed some help to get back on my feet - I've had to beg for it and jump through hoops .. and then perhaps after all that I receive no money or help to get back into work.

It just so happens the week that they decide to close my claim down and stop my money is the week when my life was just starting to look up, I had received a great offer for work based training - unpaid, but the guarantee of a job after. Thing is, the deal states that I will be funded and still paid by my Job seekers allowance.

As you can see, my great opportunity is ruined and I feel so disillusioned I just want to stand back and watch this country burn. I hate it, I hate this damn system.

Get a job, get low wage, pay big tax, pay big council tax, pay national insurance, pay EXTREMELY HIGH ENERGY bills... and then hope and pray that one day.. IF.. you get ill or lose your job, you might get the help you paid all those HIGH TAXES for - but thing is, I know all ready that help is not there.

...so what is the point of it all ?

Jen // Posted 09 February 2013 at 18:37

Hi David,

I assume you and your flatmate both have your own bedrooms and do not share a room? I know that in some cases they can send someone out to visit you to assess your living arrangements but unless they can prove that your flatmate is actually your girlfriend/partner I don't see how they have grounds to close your claim.

You should show to the job centre as ammunition, the offer of work you've received and it's condition that you are still to be funded by JSA. You could argue that it is really in their interests to continue your JSA for the moment as it will enable you to get this unpaid work and guarantee you a job at the end of it. By just stopping it for no valid reason, they are just keeping you out of work.

If they still keep your claim closed, I would go into your nearest Citizen's Advice centre and see what they say.

I had issues with JSA when trying to claim 3 years ago (see previous posts) - I was refused it but appealed and eventually they changed their decision.

See how you get on.

vague_light // Posted 12 February 2013 at 21:40

I have just had a similar encounter with the Job Centre and am so wound up about it.

I am technically living in my mums house in rural Northumberland and am on an unpaid internship in Newcastle upon Tyne which is about an hours drive away. I am currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance and I am looking for a job to fit around my internship.

My boyfriend has also had to move into his mums house (she lives in Newcastle) and he is also claiming Job Seekers Allowance as he is pursuing a career in film and he wants time to find the right job and to expand his skills.

I often stay at his house, partly because I want to see him but it also saves me money because it means I don't have to commute back and forth from Northumberland every day.

I went to the Job Centre in Newcastle the other day to ask if I could swap centres as I have been having trouble getting to the office in Alnwick because I live in the middle of nowhere and I spend most of my time in the city anyway.

The adviser asked me a lot of personal questions. He asked me how many days I stayed at my boyfriends parents, I said about 3 or 4. He also asked me how long have I been with him and I said 4 years, he asked me if I stayed in his room and I answered yes.

He told me I would have to sign on with my boyfriend 'as a couple'.

I just don't understand why. I got very upset because its just all getting to much for me. I have trouble getting to my job centre because of my location so simply tried to change centre and then I'm being asked all sorts of personal questions about where I SLEEP! I'm working so hard for no money trying to get the skills and experience I need to actually get a good job, I'm constantly carrying around bags trying to plan what I need and I stay at my boyfriends mums house to save money and travel time.

Why should the fact that I sometimes stay with my boyfriend make any difference to my job searching? I am an individual person and I do not depend and would never want to depend on my boyfriend financially.

I felt like I was betrayed for being honest and that personal information was being used against me. I'm not sure what difference it will make to the money I get, but it wasn't really the money that angered me it was just the ridiculousness of it all; I really hadn't expected it.

Does this mean we will get the money into one bank account? I'm not really sure; I really don't want to do that.

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