A letter to the Benefits office

To whom it may concern,

I popped in to my local council offices the other day to hand in an application for housing benefit.  I had managed to find 5 minutes between picking my eldest daughter up from school and my youngest from her grandparent’s to get to your office to drop the form off.  I asked politely if I could hand the form in and photocopies of my evidence could be taken.

I had very neatly completed the form and found all the evidence you requested.  I’d even sorted it by category and annotated it using little post-it tabs.  I’m a school admin – believe me, I know a thing or two about organisation.

I was told (very nicely) by the lady on the desk that I was unable to hand the form in over the desk and instead would have to meet with an advisor at a later date.

I could have cried.

I don’t have time for this.

I am a single parent who works 30 hours a week.  I spend another 15 hours (approx.) a week driving to and from work, school, grandparents houses trying to make sure everyone is where they need to be on time.  Most days I leave work at 2.30pm and don’t actually stop travelling around until about 6pm.

In between that there are dance classes, singing classes, nativity plays, Christmas parties and other social activities to be dealt with.  Not to mention the Christmas shopping, food shopping, housework and other things that people have to do on a daily basis.  Plus I like to occasionally throw some sleep in there because, you know, that’s how I roll.

So right now I don’t want to take a couple of hours out to sit with you while you read through all my forms and personal information from my date of birth and marital status to how much I spend a week, stopping just short of my blood type and bra size!  I really don’t understand why you can’t read through the information and then let me know if I’m eligible or not.

You really don’t make this easy on the working mums out there.  Especially with offices that close at 4.30pm or earlier!  It’s almost like you don’t want people to claim for benefits.

And let me make one thing clear.  I don’t want to claim benefits.  I like being self-sufficient.  I like being able to support myself.  And if there was any way I could raise that money short of prostitution or selling a kidney on the black market – I would! I would love to work more hours and earn more money.  It’s just not happening at the moment.  And sometimes people need help.  Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control.

So I’m coming back to your office tonight – with my neatly ordered paperwork.  I will bite my tongue and be gracious as every last crumb of pride I have shrivels and dies.

The least you could do is understand that this is the last place on earth I want to be.  And try and be a little understanding.

Yours sincerely,

A woman on the edge.

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