Marie Buchan, resident of Birmingham, England is a single mother of eight children, all under the age of 13. She has never had paid employment, though she says taking care of her children is a 21-hours-a-day job. In order to support her family, she collects £2,000 (about $3000) in benefits. A recent ruling regarding assistance will effectively reduce her income by £3,000 a year unless she works a minimum of 16 hours a week. The funds are intended to be diverted to work training programs. The self-proclaimed welfare-queen is now starting to seek employment, but is very critical of the cap.
She has said about the changes, “I think you are going to get similar cases as to what happened with the bedroom tax – people taking their own life due to the financial pressures they are feeling. It will hit people that hard.” She has also admitted to having to turn down a job offer because her children refused to get ready in the morning. She has not, however, ruled out the possibility of having a 9th child using a surrogate donor.
To be sure, a number of people have come out criticizing her life style. In response, she clarifies that all eight children were had with her teenage sweetheart and former husband. He worked extra hours while she stayed home with their children, but she ended the relationship when she received a notice for back due rent. Her husband had been spending the money she thought had been going to bills. Since then, she has been struggling to make ends meet for her family using public assistance and some money she receives from the father of her children. She says that feeding and clothing her children are a top priority, and that most of their possessions come from charity. She defies those who call her lazy; organizing lunches, school assignments and clothes for kids while also taking care of younger children who stay at home is not an easy task.
Certainly, Buchan’s case is an extreme and atypical situation, but there are hundreds of millions of people receiving welfare benefits in the US and UK. Welfare, which in the US includes food stamps and rent credits often falls under criticism from both conservatives and liberals. Some say the assistance doesn’t help enough families, while others say there should be more restrictions placed on who receives assistance and how much. It would seem some kind of reform is necessary, but no one can agree on what kind.
What do you think? Would more access to childcare and better job training and placement opportunities be a better solution than cash aid? How do you feel about the latest trend of legislation requiring drug testing for welfare recipients? Would raising the minimum wage help lift the working poor out of poverty enough to reduce demand on government assistance programs? Let us know your thoughts.
Marie, pictured with her 8 children, all under age 13