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£50K benefits pair: We want to work

A couple with 10 children who claim £50,000 a year in benefits defended themselves by saying the Government has stopped them going back to work.

Stephanie Fennessy and her Scottish boyfriend Ian Sharp, who live in Erith, south east London, told presenters Kate Garraway and John Stapleton on ITV1's Daybreak that they want to go back to work but the system would not allow them to.

Miss Fennessy, 29, who has three children, and Mr Sharp, who is a 56-year-old father of seven, told the presenters they were not happy with the way they had been portrayed and they wanted to put their side across.

Miss Fennessy said she previously worked full-time, including when her eldest son was young, because she needed to pay her mortgage.

She said: "Ian has worked full-time. Ian has paid lots of tax. We are not currently working now. I gave up work before I met Ian. I had three children under five and I could not work under childcare. The plan has been, for the last 18 months, I want to go to work. However, I cannot afford to get a job which covers my rent, my council tax and my bills."

Mr Sharp told Garraway he had been unable to work since collapsing at a welding machine with a migraine 20 years ago. He said that every two to three weeks the migraines left him bed-ridden.

He said: "I worked from 1969 straight through to 1992. I was made to give my job up because it was too dangerous."

He defended his partner by saying she was working voluntarily for 40 hours a week in a charity shop to gain experience so she could get a job.

He said if they were given a housing association home for £400 a month rent, they would be able to come off benefits, but he said the council paid their private rent on their five-bedroom home straight to the landlord.

Miss Fennessy told Garraway: "We have both paid taxes in the past. We are not at the moment. I want to come off the benefits. I want to work full-time. It's the system. It's somewhere higher up in the Government that's stopped me from doing it."

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