Yesterday the media was buzzing with Iain Duncan Smith’s claim, on Radio 4’s Today Programme, that he could live on
£53 per week.
Of course he can.
His grandiose claim came off the back of a discussion about the market trader David Bennet who had lost £18 of his £57 per week housing benefit because of the bedroom tax had called into the show.
I can live on nothing for a week. I could probably do it for 2 without too much discomfort.
I have a tent – I can get access to water – being a well-nourished westerner, I don’t need food for a couple of weeks…
Last night over 300 thousand folk signed an online petition demanding that IDS puts his money where his mouth is.
He claims it would be a stunt. Of course it would be a stunt. We’d all sit back enjoying the absolute hoot of it all as he tucked into the remains of his last Asda frozen meal in a dimly lit room that just screamed austerity.
But this would be nothing. A fraction of a gap year where he’d get the faintest whiff of how other people live.
But this stunt would fail to even scratch the surface.
The vast majority of people who are on benefits, like Mr Bennet above, work hard for their living.
The vast majority of people on benefits have worked for a living.
Which means the vast majority of the people on benefits would have attracted that great luxury of the employed – debt. Depending on where you look, the average amount of family debt, not including a mortgage, is £10 thousand.
Depending on which of the high interest purveyors of pay day loan services or the like they’d utilised to buy luxuries like children’s shoes or pans to cook with, your now unemployed person will be paying a sizeable percentage of their income to their creditors.
Add to this your utility bills – including broadband – because, hilariously, without that people will be unable to apply for the all new and improved Universal Benefit…. there isn’t much left of your £53 for further crazy luxuries like food and, God forbid, clothing.
Most of us could do that for a week, a month, maybe 2…but imagine doing that for years?
Get a job you lazy bums!
At any given time in the UK there are 2 and a half million unemployed folk. At this same given time there are around 500 thousand available jobs.
That’s a 1 in 5 chance. Also, let’s bear in mind the fact that everyone in work isn’t overwhelmingly happy with their employment and are looking elsewhere – that reduces the odds considerably
Bearing in mind that the majority of employers want to employ people already in work – those who have a tried and tested record…
Add to this, the vast majority of job interviews are decided in the first few seconds – based on appearance. Are they going to employ the guy in the poor persons clothing?
The system has been further undermined by workfare – a system where the unemployed work for their benefits….
I could go on.
So, Iain Duncan Smith living on £53 a week would be little more than a holiday to a developing country where eating Tesco’s basics compares to eating a witchetty grub.
Now, if he were to do it for a year – where he learned to appreciate that his housing benefit was cut because he lived in a house with too many rooms – but there were no houses with fewer rooms available to move to…
Or where he realised his income would increase by 1% a year when inflation is running at 3%…
Or where he had to work full time for these benefits – leaving little or no space to work voluntarily in an area of work they’d like – or where there’s no scope to educate himself further because he didn’t do too well at school…
It’s a wonderful irony that the people who have to worry about their income the least are preaching to those who, through chance, have to monitor their budgets the most.
With all their think tanks, the government has never thought to do the research that really matters –
‘What is it like to be unemployed, in debt, without prospects, without hope, with a government and a media that are happy to continually persecute and blame you for your predicament?’
‘What can we do to help?’
It wouldn’t be expensive. If you compare it alongside the £billions that have been awarded to Atos, it’s less than chicken feed.
Why not learn from the people who know?
Walk a mile