Online Archive  
Issue 5 - May 1972
Unsupported Mothers
Anyone who has tried to claim money from the Social Security knows how difficult it is to get even the basic amounts of money due to you. Every time you need something you have to sit around for hours in dull, boring offices only to get told that they can't grant your claim or could you come and sit around for hours some other day and they'll tell you the bad news then. The group most susceptible to this kind of treatment, and the one which bears the brunt of the puritanically moral Social Security attitudes, is unsupported mothers.

In Britain, over 200,000 unsupported mothers receive pittances from the bastion of the Welfare State - the SS - and there are many thousands more who prefer to slave at the lowest paid factory jobs than face the nastiness of the SS every time they need something essential for their kids or themselves.

This article explains to unsupported mothers what their SS rights are. Most of the information is taken from a pamphlet produced by unsupported mothers working in Claimants Union.

Basically, if you want to stand any chance of getting money from the SS you must never face them alone. Always take a friend or Claimants Union representative with you. You will find that as well as giving you practical help in the fighting of your claim another person can be of great psychological help to you as someone else makes you more confident and the SS officials worried. They can't tell you lies and get away with it if they know there's someone with you who knows the truth.

When you first go down to the SS you need only to tell them that you are an unsupported mother with no income and answer six basic questions - your name and address, rent, number of children and their ages, whether you're living alone and that you have no income. Take proof of your address (a rent book or envelope with your name and address on it). When you go down you are not going to sign on for work. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WORK. Therefore, you do not need a stamp card nor a B1 form.

You will definitely be asked a lot of questions other than the six basic ones. They'll want to know who the father of the children is, why he isn't paying maintenance etc. You do not have to answer any of these. If they want to know who the father is it is up to them to find out. You won't benefit, but they will. If they threaten to cut your benefit for not co-operating - appeal, because they cannot do it. The six basic questions tell them all they need to know in order for them to give you benefit.

When you first go down they will tell you that you need to be visited. As this is often a delaying tactic (they might not send a visitor for weeks) tell them that if you have not been visited within seven days you will treat this as a rejection of your claim and appeal. The appeals tribunal is supposed to be a body not connected to the SS which examines their decisions on request and changes them if they feel the decision of the SS to be the wrong one. But as the tribunal is much more sympathetic to the SS than to you, never face them alone and be prepared for a fight. Demand 24 hours notice of the visit and if the visitor comes without notice tell him to leave and return after giving the required notice. Once the visitor has been you should receive an allowance book which you cash weekly at the local post office. During the period before the visit, and the receiving of the book you should receive giro payment from the SS to cover your weekly needs. You can also: claim for anything you need, like electricity bills etc, at any time before or after the visitor has been. Section 7 of the Social Security Act 1966 covers exceptional needs like electricity bills, clothes, bedding etc while Section 13 covers urgent needs.

Your weekly benefit should be calculated as:

£5.80p for yourself if you're paying rent
£ 4.60p for others over 21
£ 4.05p for 18-21 year olds
£ 3.60p for 16-17 year olds
£ 3.00p for 13-15 year olds
£ 2.45p for 11-12 year olds
£ 2.00p for 5-10 year olds
£ 1.70p for under 5 year olds

Form A124A tells you how your money is made up. The SS have to give you this if you ask.

PLUS: full rent, or mortgage interest, and a long term allowance of 50p if you have been claiming for over 2 years. You should also get 1 pint of milk a day for children under 5 years old, free prescriptions, dental treatment, glasses and school dinners.

MINUS: family allowance, earnings over £2 and maintenance.

If you have had 26 stamps in the last 12 months (or your husband has - even if you've not seen him for years) you can claim a maternity grant of £25. If you don't have these stamps you can claim this amount from the SS. This can be claimed 9 weeks before the birth and 3 months after the birth by filling in form BM4A from the SS or clinic. You can also claim £5 a week maternity benefit beginning 11 weeks before the expected week of confinement if you've got enough stamps for 18 weeks. Under Section 7 you should also be able to claim for any special clothes needed during or after pregnancy, and also for anything your child needs.

If you have a maintenance order you can get the SS to take it over. This ensures that you get your money every week, whether the father pays into the court or not. It is up to the SS to make sure he keeps paying - not you. The SS can't force you to take out a maintenance order though they often try. But the SS can take out an order if they are paying money to the mother of the child, for up to three years from when the benefit was paid, or up to one year of an illegitimate child being born. If they want to do this you don't have to tell them the name of the father. That is up to them to find out for themselves. Don't be intimidated by them, insist on your rights and never face them alone.

The Unsupported Mothers Handbook can be obtained from Highboy Claimants Union - 26 Mildmay Park, London N1 - or from your local CU. It is a very good pamphlet and well worth having. The price - 5p to claimants and 10p (at least?) to non claimants.