Workshy Scrounger

Tag: Poverty

Share your poverty story

Guardian wants us to share our stories about life in poverty. There are still 23 days left to show them what it is really like. Some of the stories might even be featured in the comment is free section. Do it – it might just bring about some changes, at least in how people perceive us. To submit your story, go here.

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Are they trying to kill us off?

Another blow to the poor – Asda corned beef horse recalled back in March tested positive for phenylbutazone. It’s ok though as the doses are really low and do not pose a risk to human health:

a person would have to eat up to 600 burgers, containing 100% horsemeat, every day to come close to consuming a human’s daily dose of the drug

Fair enough – that’s the daily dose. However, the drug is banned from human use altogether. Does that not mean there is no safe dose of bute?

What angers me even more is the rich folk blaming the meat scandal on the poor demanding low prices. Of course, I would rather buy stuff from farmers’ markets or my local butchers. I do know the difference between a venison steak and a value burger but so does my bank balance. Just because I am poor, it does not mean it’s ok to sell illegal meat that is contaminated with banned drugs.

The meat scandal also raises other questions – if it is so easy for the suppliers to provide horsemeat instead of beef, how safe is our food? Are the health and safety procedures followed at all? Do they even wash their hands?

You might think you do not eat processed products but you do. What’s in your bread? Some loaves contain flour that was treated using E920 manufactured from human hair. Fish bladders are used in the manufacture of some beers and ales. Even not all fruit juices are vegan-friendly. Sugar (ingredients: sugar 100%) might have been purified using bone char. We just don’t know and they are unlikely to tell us.

The real-life hunger games

The Tories’ divide and conquer strategy is certainly paying off. We had strivers vs skivers. We had unemployment benefits vs working tax credits. Now it’s time for private vs social tenants. To quote Suzanne Collins:

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!”

They are not but some people buy into the rhetoric anyway and believe the government. The recent upheaval is about private tenants not being subjected to the bedroom tax. This is not so.

Housing benefit for tenants is called local housing allowance. As a previously single and working person, I could have had a four bedroom house because I could afford it. Once I lost my job in 2010, my housing benefit would only pay for one bedroom. This is absolutely fair – either I pay more for the big house or move to smaller accommodation.

Since April 2012, however, they decided that a single person aged 25-35 is only entitled to a shared rate. This means that, living as I am in a one-bed flat, I would either have to pay the difference (£25 a week in my case) to stay here or rent a room.

So far, so good. Here are the problems with moving house when you are on benefits:

  • No DSS, no smokers, no pets restrictions in most ads – I cannot even arrange a viewing because the first question asked is: do you work? Why? I assume it is because landlords are fed up with people being late with their rent whenever the council screws up.
  • No money for the move – I don’t know anyone with a van. I don’t even have a car. Moving costs are extortionate. Impossible if you are struggling to pay for basic sustenance.
  • In my area, renting a one-bedroom flat costs exactly the same as renting a room (and it does not include bills).
  • The small problem of my disability. I do not want to go into details to preserve my anonymity but it does have impact on the household. You would not want to share with me if only so that you do not have to watch me suffer.

Our rents line private individuals’ pockets – the same people who contributed to the housing boom by artificially increasing demand by means of zero percent interest-only mortgages with tracker rates that actually meant that at some stages they were paying no mortgage at all as the interest rates were so low.

Private lets are usually in poor state of repair. LHA is paid at the 30th percentile of all rents in area. You could easily infer that they are in the bottom 30% of all houses available for rent. What follows are old boilers, draughty windows and threadbare carpets that soaked up tears of people affected by Thatcher’s government (mining was big in my area back in the day). Private let also means that you cannot change  anything in the house – you need the landlords permission for everything. Then, with a two-month notice period, it’s too risky to invest into something you might lose before the summer.

If you are poor, you are in the same boat as other poor people. It does not matter if you work, cannot work or cannot find a job. It does not matter if you are a social tenant, home owner or private tenant. You struggle with bills and shopping. You have no security and no hope. Don’t let the rich manipulate you. You and I are in this together – they are cushioned by their tax-free, offshore wealth.

Et tu, Labour, contra me?

Not wanting to stay far behind the Tories, Labour came up with a solution to the soaring benefits bill:

One central idea under consideration is the creation of a flexible payments system offering higher benefits to those who have been employed for longer and have therefore made more national insurance contributions.

What a great thought! Let’s make them (us) all suffer. Those on long-term disability benefits and those who cannot find a job because there are no jobs to be found should live in penury. No job, no status, no human rights. Jumping on the skiver’s lifestyle choice bandwagon to steal some votes from the Tories is morally reprehensible. Is Labour not meant to be a political party representing the working classes?

Why can politicians not see that the only way to make work pay is to increase the minimum wage to a living one? I know that loads of people in work have the same standard of living as my partner and I: poverty. However, lowering our benefits will not make it better. It will just make it seem that those on the minimum wage are better off because they still can choose between topping up their meters or eating. We will just have to chose what to take from supermarket bins so that we can heat it up on a bonfire made from newspapers salvaged from the paper bin.

Labour is also economically wrong – if a person is judged to have insufficient contributions:

– they will not be offered a council house; however, to prevent homelessness the taxpayers will have to pay a private landlord market rates (an extra £100-200 pounds in my area) or for a room in a bed and breakfast;

– they will suffer through no fault of their own – eg if you become disabled and permanently unable to work at the age of 22 – what then?

Social housing and social welfare were introduced to support those unfortunate enough unable to do it themselves. They were not meant to be a reward for health and being lucky in the workplace. You cannot leave us destitute so as to make the working poor look better off on paper.

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