Yeah, I know this really should be on a dedicated blog (and eventually will be), but for now just bear with me. On Facebook, I linked to this post here: http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/new-attempt-to-demean-benefit-claimants-launched-by-right-wing-loonies/ with the following caption: “I recommend you all read this… it’s a good commentary on the kind of attitude benefits claimants are having to deal with. Additionally, I don’t see why people should be forced to do 30 hours a week for no additional pay; doing 30 hours for the price of benefits is basically “paying” someone less than minimum wage!”
So, going on this premise (you need to read the blog entry for it to make sense!), I have written to following:
For the basis of comparison, 30 hours at minimum wage (£6.19) for 4 weeks is £742.80. The rate at which a person gets ESA at the Work Related Activity Component is about £405.00 every 4 weeks. Housing Benefit used to be £150.00/wk (£600.00 every 4 weeks which is a total of approximately 1005.00/4 wks, plus Council Tax was paid) – which is just enough to survive – but if you’re under 35, you get about £78.50/wk, so every 4 weeks a person under 35 gets about £719.00/hr, minus the £5.00 minimum in Council Tax (that everyone has to pay) which means ultimately people get about £714.00/4 wks.
The thing here as well is that if you were to actually work 30 hours a week, you’d likely struggle to pay for most of your costs; being on benefits makes it easier to meet the cost of living, but honestly them alone isn’t enough. I screwed up with the figures before, but if you were to work less than 16 hours a week (in actual paid work at minimum wage), you would actually be marginally better off (£5 or £20, depending on if you’re disabled or not). Sadly though, even with being marginally better off, it doesn’t make a huge difference on the whole, as it will mean every 4 weeks you earn either £734 or £784/wk. I know that the larger figure is for a disabled person, but excluding DLA (£84/4 wks) or even including it, it’s barely enough to live on; DLA is usually used for support services, hence why I am excluding it in favour of a more straight comparison.
Anyway, it’s clear to see that the only way you can “make work pay” is actually having a “Living Wage”; that same 30 hours at £8.50/hr (which is roughly the amount that is proposed for London) leads to £1020 over 4 weeks. Therefore, we can actually determine that the 30 hours of “unpaid” work (let’s face it, working for one’s benefits is really not much of a wage at all) is basically so businesses can have free labour; it’s not at all about trying to get people back into work as if it were, there would be a job at the end of it if the person did well enough. Instead we have these 9 month “job contracts ” which pay absolutely nothing! The Artist Taxi Driver has had enough outrage at this, so I needn’t go into it any further. I will say though that that’s only part of the video, so you may want to watch the whole thing to get context.
Ultimately though, I don’t think it is at all possible for someone to live on benefits; surviving is certainly possible, but living on them is not. Even if my figures are slightly off (they have been in a previous entry because I got confused about how benefits work when working under 16 hours), they give enough of a picture to see that being on benefits is not something you really want to be on, if at all possible. Of course, going back to the “making work pay” statement – made by the wonderful Iain Duncan Smith – it’s clear to see that there isn’t enough work to go around. I’ve consistently said this as well; 500k job openings and 2 million plus people looking for work… and even then, I imagine that some of the job openings cannot be filled, for various reasons. I heard about a new branch of Morrisons opening up recently and they needed 400 workers… over 1000 applied! That really shows how badly people want to work, and that there are sod-all jobs out there.
And the jobs that are out there, a lot of them are part time or casual (Zero Hours) contracts. This means that people will be forced to stay on benefits because the wages from these jobs alone aren’t enough. It’s all a huge mess… and people have done far better research on it than I have. I even link to many of the articles related to this issue and comment on them as well. Either way, this country is in a sorry state right now!
Edit: It appears I was slightly misinformed with regards to a disabled person’s earnings on ESA as I asked about it when I last went to the Jobcentre, so I best correct it. Essentially, while the option to be able to earn up to £20/wk working is there (I’m not sure at present if they deduct additional earnings from benefits), there is also an option to earn up to £99/wk for 52 weeks, on top of the ESA. The person I spoke to said that it was as an incentive to get back into work, which is a nice thing, but I do see problems if the work is irregular. Still, I guess that is an important distinction to clarify. It certainly makes some things easier though not everything, heh.