Benefit cuts: Your stories

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith
Image caption Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the welfare system is "broken"

Universal allowances, such as child benefit, could be curbed to help fund a major shake-up of the welfare system, David Cameron has indicated.

The prime minister wants to wrap all existing out-of-work benefits into a single payment that will reward work.

BBC News website readers have been sharing their experiences of the welfare system.

Richard Shrubb from Weymouth, Dorset, went back to work

The system needs reform. The bulk of people in receipt of benefits are honest people who can't work because of their disabilities. Penalising people who go back to work is not right.

The benefits system tried to stop me doing my masters degree. I managed to get round it by exploiting loopholes. When I started working as a freelancer, I went from a £172 per week plus housing benefits to £130 plus benefits.

Then I got married and my wife lost all her income support on the spot. As boyfriend and girlfriend our income was double.

We got penalised for working and for getting married.

I'm perusing my freelance career doggedly. I started writing for one publication on mental health and now write for six. As a journalist, if you really want to increase your income you chase editors. Financially, I'm now back to where I was when I was on benefits in 2007.

Joseph Bamford from Skipton, North Yorkshire, is on benefits

I've got zilch chance of getting a job. There are really well qualified, intelligent people who are on incapacity benefit. Saying we're all lazy scroungers is an urban myth that the political parties are happy to propagate.

I was a lecturer in further education but I've been on benefits since 1995 after suffering injuries caused by a motor-cycle accident and, more recently, being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The system is fairly chaotic - when you try and get a job, the support is almost non-existent. There is no overall structure.

I was offered a security job in aviation once but when I told them I'd been off work for a long time, they said they couldn't hire me because of insurance purposes. Nobody talks about it, but companies don't offer work to the long term unemployed.

I don't think the changes are going to work. At the end of the day it's all about finance. The government isn't really interested in getting people into work, it's just cost cutting exercise.

George Thorburn from Worcestershire, lost business

Self-employed people might not pay in quite as much, but I've paid in a lot and as far as I'm concerned welfare should be for everyone.

I lost my business when the banks carved us all up. I later had a bad accident and haven't been able to work for 13 months.

My wife was made redundant and we had our house repossessed. The house is still empty after six months. The garden is a wilderness and there are probably squirrels in the loft as no repairs have been done. The bank will not get its money back.

I was considered to be self-employed and therefore didn't get any benefits. As I am now 60 I have just had my first housing benefit but it isn't enough even to pay the council tax. I simply don't have the money.

I am going to look into the new equality law because frankly, I believe self-employed people are not treated equally in this country regarding benefits. Asylum seekers and foreigners get full benefits and welfare care. The self-employed get nothing.

More comments

I worked previously as a primary school teacher, but lost my job because of heath problems. I have been on employment support allowance (ESA) for almost one and a half years now. My dealings with the benefits system have been an unwelcome revelation. As someone with physical limitations upon the kind of work I can do, I would love to see a system whereby specialist help would be available to help me back into suitable employment. However, in reality I fear I will simply be penalised financially because of my work limitations. I have already had some benefits cut and fear that is the way the government will go. No help, no real incentives to work, just restrictions and financial hardship for those who are already genuinely struggling. Plus, those on benefits seem to be held up as scapegoats for the financial crisis we find ourselves in. Why is it those in need are being penalised the most because of a situation that was not of our making? Gillian Ferry

From somebody who has worked all his life and is proud of it, I think it's about time we as a country got our self respect back. Nobody begrudges families their share but not at the expense of hard-working folk. So I say go on give it a go! We are not a country of beggars are we? Richard Johnson, Scarborough

Well I think they have to be very careful. I am a low wage earner earning £400 per month. Then I receive child tax credit and working tax credit of £125.61 per week. But on the other hand I now have to pay rent and council tax (in with one hand and out the other). I have also been on the council housing register for seven years and am no where near getting social housing. I rent from a private landlord and the cost of rent is pushing me further into poverty. So I hold my hands up in despair and say to all these rich politicians you have no idea. The reason I only earn £400 per month is that it is the only position I can get that works around school times. There is no aftercare for children in my area and if there was, it would be totally unaffordable. They are all idiots! C Stelfox, London

I just hope this new scheme doesn't negatively affect those on employment support allowance (ESA), as I fear it will. I have had to fight against a ridiculous system while chronically ill just to "prove" that I'm entitled to a base-rate ESA, and if this plan means cutting me an even worse deal, I won't be impressed. I'm too sick to work, I'm not a benefits-grabber. The long-term sick always seem to end up suffering for the supposed greater good... cuts designed to get people back into work which effect those who cannot work simply aren't fair. Rachel, Stoke-on-Trent

My next door neighbours live in a nicer house than ours. They got their house through a housing association and they don't work. They have a more expensive car than ours and a huge wide screen plasma TV that takes up most of their living room wall. How is it fair that a working couple cannot afford the same lifestyle as someone on the welfare system? Andy, Orpington, Greater London

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