While most British families struggle financially, the Crompton family happily spends their money on 'credit crunch offers' - because they live off benefits.
First published 07 Nov 2008;
While hard-working families across the country are struggling to cope in the current economic climate, one family is profiting from it. And infuriatingly, their lifestyle is totally funded by the taxpayer.
Tracey and Harry Crompton and their 10 children live for free in a massive seven-bedroom home (two semi-detached houses knocked through). And they boast that since the credit crunch has forced down prices of many non-essential items, they have even more cash to spend on treats.
'The jobless couple proudly show off £3,000 worth of presents they bought and wrapped weeks ago'
The family get a whopping £32,656 a year in benefits, which they use in part for their utility bills. And while the majority of parents are already dreading finding extra money for Christmas, the jobless couple proudly show off £3,000 worth of presents they bought and wrapped weeks ago.
“We’re not stupid enough to wait until the last minute to buy our Christmas presents,” boasts Tracey, 40, from Hull. “The shops put the prices up a month before Christmas Day so we get in early. The credit crunch has meant the prices have dropped even further on luxury things like electrical goods, so we’ve been able to buy loads more than usual.
“I’m not satisfied with the benefits we get – I want more. I haven’t been able to work because I’ve had to bring up the kids and Harry’s got health problems.”
Despite their parents’ unemployment, Michael, 20, Robin, 19, Matthew, 17, Sarah, 16, Samantha, 14, Harry Andrew, 12, Alex, 11, Kristian, nine, Jesse Lee, seven, and Joshua, six, will each unwrap a £100 Nintendo DS games console, as well as several other goodies. The eldest will get £100 in cash too.
“We like to splash out at Christmas and so far we’ve spent around £3,000 on it,” smiles Tracey. “We’ll probably spend more too.”
As they don’t work, the couple have plenty of time on their hands, so much of it is spent growing their own vegetables and tending to their chickens and geese (one of which will be Christmas dinner) in their 270ft-long garden. They even make their own wine.
“I’m a dab hand at it now,” says 50-year-old Harry, who has been out of work for 15 years. He cites angina and irritable bowel syndrome as the reason, even though he admits to spending hours tending the family’s vegetable patch. “I make red and white wine from grapes grown in the garden. The best by far is my elderflower wine,” he says.
Much of the family’s benefits goes on luxury gadgets and toys. They have a PC, a laptop, numerous games consoles, including two PlayStations and two Xboxes, a DVD player, a video recorder, three TVs, a hi-fi music player, and their vast garden is equipped with a slide and 15ft trampoline.
'If the kids need something I go and get it'
Each child also carries around their own high-tech mobile phone so their parents can contact them at any time.
“If the kids need something I go and get it. I’m forever buying clothes too. I’m in Primark every two weeks updating them with the latest fashions,” says Tracey.
“I rarely go without things either. If I need something, like a new pair of shoes, then I’ll get it. I don’t have a dishwasher though, Harry is my dishwasher!” Shockingly, the freeloading family seem unaware that the rest of the country is struggling financially.
Tracey proudly says: “We don’t have money worries. We don’t go without things and I think that’s because we are self-sufficient. We grow our own food. I don’t see why others should have money worries. We keep 25 chickens, for eggs and meat, and grow potatoes and loads of vegetables. We make our own biscuits and cakes too.”
Despite their “Good Life” lifestyle, the family still spend £250 a week at the supermarket buying 50 bags of crisps, five family packs of chocolate biscuits and 10 litres of fizzy drinks, among other things.
Each night, Tracey, who has been married to Harry for 22 years, will cook dinners such as spaghetti Bolognese, spinach carbonara or chicken curry. She spends up to two hours making it and then serves the food in two sittings.
The family’s £120-a-week rent is covered by housing benefit and they rake in £628 a week in benefits, including income support, disability allowance, carer’s allowance and non-working family tax credits. A working parent would have to earn £46,500 a year before tax and National Insurance to bring home the same amount.
But the only wage earner in the house is oldest son Michael, 20, who contributes £15 a week from his £13k factory job. Matthew, 17, is training to be a chef and Robin is currently unemployed.
'Everytime I walk down the street, people shout 'scroungers' '
Surprisingly, the family seem bemused by the reaction they get from the local community, who shout abuse at them. “Every time I walk down the street, people shout ‘scroungers,’” moans Tracey.
Although Tracey has never had a job, she says life’s too short to do housework. Their walls are splattered with dirt and wallpaper is peeling from the weight of the grime. The mantelpiece is strewn with magazines, DVDs, and videos, and the floor has been bare since the carpet was pulled up and thrown away after a flood two years ago.
“I don’t have much time for cleaning since I started a college course in catering,” she says. “But I only go two mornings a week – any more and they’d stop my benefits because they’d classify me as in education.
"I’m really nervous about what will happen at the end of my course. I’ve never worked and so it would be scary to think I would have to get a job. It would have to be a very well-paid job to pay more than the benefits.”
By Lisa Woollard