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How did people survive before wftc, ctc etc?

168 replies

MadameCastafiore · 19/02/2013 14:48

Just wondering how people survived before working benefits?

OP posts:
ParsingFancy · 19/02/2013 16:16

"people managed on what they earnt when we were young"

Nope. The benefits were just called different things. National Insurance started in 1911, and there was certainly dole from the 1930s or earlier.

And even with these benefits, from the family history I've been doing, I can say people often didn't survive very well.

I've seen children abandoned in orphanages because one parent absconded and the other couldn't afford to keep them. That was c1920.

I've seen a woman, abandoned by her husband, taking up with a man who abused her children, because it was a way to get bed and board. She died young, probably hastened by malnutrition and poor living conditions, leaving her 6 children to more abuse. That was 1960s.

More generally, childcare was done by older girls, who were expected to leave school to look after the little ones (see socio-political writer Winifred Holtby's 1936 novel South Riding ).

Indeed the school leaving age was only raised to 15 in 1944, and to 16 in 1972. At the start of WWII, children from poor families were expected to be working full-time at 14 or doing housework so others could work.

It just took one serious illness or death to drive a whole family under financially. And that's before you take into account cocklodging bastards of the sort who even now fill the Relationships threads. They were no thinner on the ground then, and the impact on women and children was vastly greater.

MoodyDidIt · 19/02/2013 16:16

my mum's always banging on about oh we never had all these tax credits when you were growing up like you all get today (i grew up in the 80's and 90's)

yeah mum probably cos he cost of living was a lot lower and wages were actualy in proportion to your rent / mortgage / fuel / food etc Hmm


LtEveDallas · 19/02/2013 16:26

My MIL was a single parent to 2 children in 1967 after her husband fucked off never to be seen again. She lived in her parents house (2 up 2 down) until her oldest (my DH) was 6. She worked nights cleaning to earn a wage that her father would then take off her. He was an abusive bastard that beat her regularly. When he started hitting her DD (my SIL) she left.

She was housed by the council in a 1 bed tenement house. She put the kids upstairs and slept in a chair downstairs. She would leave the kids on their own overnight so she could work. Her neighbour took pity on her and used to buy her a loaf of bread from the milkman (that my DH would then steal and feed the birds!). She regularly went without food to ensure the kids were fed.

When my DH was 9 and SIL 8 she married again and had another DD. When DH was 12 his SD died and MIL was on her own again. Luckily this time her husband had a pension that she was able to claim.

Thats how people survived. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

nagynolonger · 19/02/2013 16:28

Don't know what rent was like in the 1980s and 1990s. We were paying a mortage and interest rates were VERY high. DH didn't have a pay increase for years and many lost their jobs.....bit like now! And no we didn't get WTC and CTC.
It was CB and what you could earn. Thats why so many lost their homes during that time. The lucky ones got a council house the rest went into B&Bs.

germyrabbit · 19/02/2013 16:35

i am always amazed when people talk of a chicken lasting 4 days. it must have been a bloody great big chicken,ours barely last until teatime.

Hopeforever · 19/02/2013 16:43

May be wrong but I thought part of the idea was to provide a safety net for those who would have been better off on 'the Dole' than working, by making it possible for them to work in a badly paid job but still get financial help from the government.

You often used to hear the phrase, "I'd be better off on the dole" but not so much now.

nickelbabe · 19/02/2013 16:45

no, people didn't always live well on what they earned.

my dad used to work double shifts and weekend overtime to afford stuff.
but doing so meant that he could pay off their mortgage in half the time (from 1968, and about £3000), which meant by the time I was 4, they were mortgage-free. (or could have been, had they not bought the extra land)

but we never went on holidays abroad (we had a week in a caravan at Mablethorpe or Lakeside), and we had one car for the whole family, and had clothes from the jumble sale, etc etc.

nagynolonger · 19/02/2013 16:45

People didn't have chicken very often it was a treat. You ate mince (beef probably!), liver and other offal, sausage, corn beef and a roast on Sunday with the left overs on Monday.

Way back only the working men would get meat. The children and the wife would have gravy and veggies. And I'm sure many mothers skipped meals.

LunaticFringe · 19/02/2013 16:46

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickelbabe · 19/02/2013 16:48
nagynolonger · 19/02/2013 16:49

Hopeforever is correct that was the idea. Also to try and get rid of the 'poverty trap' because lots in work were much worse off than those on benefits. And in that WTC and CTC have worked.

Dromedary · 19/02/2013 16:53

Houses used to be ridiculously cheap (or are now ridiculously expensive, or in between the two). My uncle was given a house as a wedding present - cost £3,000. It's now worth about £1m. It was common for only the husband to work - his wage was designed to be enough to raise a family on (talking about the middle classes there). People were also more careful with money, I think, especially those who grew up in wartime. My mother when a young mother would never buy herself a cup of coffee. That's where I am now, mind you.

Iggly · 19/02/2013 16:59

My mum was a single mum in the 80s/90s.

We used to eat porridge or flour based meals as she had little money (dumplings/pancakes etc). I ended up in care and was apparently malnourished.

We had hardly any clothes.

Mum used to send us to neighbours to beg for money.

Our gas and electricity used to run out regularly.

morethanpotatoprints · 19/02/2013 17:00


But won't employers be forced to pay nmw when UC comes in as you have to be working at 70 hours x min wage to claim. This is as a couple obviously but whatever your circumstances it states at least nmw.
Will people not work for less because they will lose entitlement.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 19/02/2013 17:02

"yeah mum probably cos he cost of living was a lot lower and wages were actualy in proportion to your rent / mortgage / fuel / food etc"

In the 1980's and 1990's?? 1980's was a tough time for a lot of people. Late 70's we'd had rampant inflation, fuel prices going up so fast the signs in petrol stations whizzed round like fruit machines, until we hit a brick wall not dissimilar to 2008 and the brakes went on. Mass redundancies etc. 1990's less dramatic but I can't be the only person who remembers sobbing at the news that interest rates had shot up (10%+ was it?) and wondering how I was going to find the mortgage payments ... there was a recession, house prices crashed, jobs weren't safe again.

Possibly with the exception of the job-heavy 1960's there's been no 'golden age' for working class people.

MrsDeVere · 19/02/2013 17:08

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickelbabe · 19/02/2013 17:09

morethan - yes, employers have to pay NMW. i didn't mean less than NMW, i meant that employers are less likely to employ an older person.

nagynolonger · 19/02/2013 17:09

Yes houses were cheap but wages were very low. I can remember my dad thought he had really made it when he earned £20 a week. That would have been in the mid 1960s. It did pay a mortgage and bring up 5 DC. Mum worked for the extras......Holidays at Mablethorpe.

DH first managed the magic £1000 in 1971. Women earned much less of course.

MrsDeVere · 19/02/2013 17:10

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Iggly · 19/02/2013 17:14

Yes it's scary MrsDeVere. And it looks like its going back that way. Under the excuse of austerity.

I'm sorry but the rich aren't feeling the pinch. When Osborne sat there and said that losing child benefit meant that he too was in it together, I could have kicked the tv breaths

morethanpotatoprints · 19/02/2013 17:18

I can remember my dhs proposal. Shall we get married love, it will save us tax. Now he was joking, but the fact remains it was an incentive.
Our mortgage was 3x our joint income or 3.5 x one income. For many years my name wasn't on the mortgage as it was the only way we could get one. Our first house in 1992 cost 39k and dh earned about 10k I think. I also know we didn't take the maximum mortgage offered but bought a cheap run down house with 4 beds, that needed so much work doing on it. Dh wasn't very handy, neither was I, but we soon had to learn and now apart from electrics dh will attempt anything. I am really proud of what he has achieved with various homes we have had.

AuntieMaggie · 19/02/2013 17:23

No experience as a parent in the 80s/90s but my mum was a single mum and I was the eldest of 4. We had free school meals and I don't remember my mum going without food to feed us but we didn't dare not eat what we were given and eat it all (which is probably why we are all so overweight now but it was homemade food not junk). We had second hand clothes from friends. I'm sure it was really hard as my dad left when my mum was pregnant and had children with another woman and paid us feck all (but had enough money to go out every week and on holiday and give his other children whatever they wanted like cable tv and sweets...). I remember my mum once borrowing my birthday money to pay the gas bill. When she could she got a job in the evenings and one of her friends used to look after us.

One of my sisters is on benefits and knows how to play the system. She has no intention of trying to get a job or do anything and it makes me really cross when I think about how much my mum struggled.


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flatpackhamster · 19/02/2013 17:45


Yes it's scary MrsDeVere. And it looks like its going back that way. Under the excuse of austerity.

It's not an excuse, the country is broke.

Sadly, it's not austerity either, as a cursory browse of the spending figures would tell you.

I'm sorry but the rich aren't feeling the pinch. When Osborne sat there and said that losing child benefit meant that he too was in it together, I could have kicked the tv breaths,.

The 'rich' are feeling the pinch. Whether it's the once-well-off middle class taking their kids our of private school or the decision not to have a holiday, they're all feeling the pinch. 'The pinch' means different things to different people.

NC78 · 19/02/2013 17:57

Before working benefits?

My grandad worked and claimed some sort of rent assistance. Working benefits have been around in one form or another for a long time.

We rely on them so much more now because housing is so expensive in comparison to income, and a lot of low income families can't get council houses and have to pay private rents.

The government have cut HB and homelessness has risen.

There are foodbanks opening up and down the country.

Housing benefit and working tax credits were not paid out because the Labour party fancied wasting money. They were paid out due to wages not matching the cost of living. Now they are being cut back, we have an increase in homelessness and hunger. Makes me ashamed to be British.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 19/02/2013 18:02

When Labour chose to pay out tax credits to well-off families on £40k, £50k and £60k incomes it wasn't because wages weren't matching the cost of living. It was a straight-forward electoral bribe.

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