If I want to put the gas on I’ll have to do without something else: My Wigan Pier Story – Claire Donnelly

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Jennifer, 55, is a former teaching assistant from Miles Platting, Manchester. Currently unemployed, she tells Claire Donnelly why she feels humiliated and bullied by the benefit system.

I used to be like most people, I had a job and a house – I bought my first property when I was 20 – and I had a car.

I worked hard for 25 years. I was a teaching assistant.


Then when the academy took over the school it all changed. They were business people not teachers and a lot of staff didn’t want to stay. I took redundancy but then I couldn’t get another job. I don’t think there are any out there any more.

Road to Wigan Pier author, George Orwell

Now I’m on Universal Credit. After my rent I’ve got £190 for the month – to pay gas, electric, water and council tax, everything.

I don’t have any gas at the moment – I’ll need to not pay for something else if I want to put it on.

So I use food banks when I need to and shop at Aldi or Lidl. I’ll cook a big meal then share it out it over a few days.

I did have a partner and it was a bit easier when there were two of us but he died so now it’s just me and it’s hard.

I’m so angry at the way people on benefits are treated. I’m not a scrounger.

I started work at 16, brought my children up, put my daughter through university, I did all of that on my own but now I need help and I get looked down on.

When you get benefits your life isn’t your own. They dictate what you can and can’t do, tell you what to do or you’ll get sanctioned, it’s always threatening, bullying.

It’s like you have no human rights anymore.

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