“Living life on state handouts is an attractive prospect” – would you live like this?

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Economics, Equality, Politics, Welfare state

If you’re over 25, JSA is £71 a week. Under 25 and it’s just shy of £54 pw…

10 stamps for job applications = £6 pw
Electricity and gas (average dual fuel bill of £1,300 pa) = £25 pw
TV License = £2.80 pw
Landline (bare minimum – not calls or calling plan) = £3.50 pw
Travel to 1 interview per week in nearby town = £5 pw
Broadband (Benefits – it’s all going online now!… plus jobsearch stuff!) = £2.50 pw
Clothing costs, setting aside a little for general clothes and job search stuff = £2 pw
Personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, soap, loo roll, etc) = £2

NB: realise that at this point it totals £46.30 pw, and your average under 25 has just £1.10 a day for food (£3.52 for over 25), while already living life with precious little social time or opportunities, the absolute bare minimum required to do a decent jobsearch while maintaining an existence in the land of the living, and only TV and internet contact with much of the outside world.

Now add in the cost of household appliances – purchase, and repair.
Additional travel… nobody can really get by properly making only one trip a week for an interview somewhere.
Increasingly, councils are requiring benefit claimants to contribute 10-20% of their council tax.
Add in the fact that many people – especially with housing benefit cuts, have to make up a shortfall on their rent too.

Seriously… this is only a cursory glance at costs, ignoring the fact that poorer people tend to be far more likely to have debts to repay on top of all this. This is without the ability to buy presents and cards for family members at birthdays and Christmas… and this is without the cost premium of poverty itself. This is without other costs I’ve not considered in this cursory glance.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

… and then add in the fact that many claimants are required to work for nothing more than their benefits in jobs that are often not local, doing work that would ordinarily be paid at a minimum of £6 an hour, and probably would be if it wasn’t for the fact that the unemployed are forced to generate profit for these companies.

… and even then, add in those who have to travel to special jobsearch and personal skills courses each week, where they’re forced to sit in with a bunch of people so run down and dejected by the whole experience that life just seems like one long slog to the point of futility… people who have been quite literally conditioned not to expect much out of life… people who actually don’t know how to read, or how to write a CV, or simply don’t care.

… and now imagine how quickly you could become one of them when starving, depressed from the struggle of it all and the lack of meaningful social contact, as well as the lack of any joy in your life, and any real chance of the value added extras that make a mundane life bearable… especially when sent on this ‘supported jobsearch course’, only to find that they can’t actually be bothered to give you any meaningful support, but are really just forcing you to waste your time inefficiently doing what you could be doing far more efficiently at home, and for less cost.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

… and then consider that when you attempt to “use the jobs market” to identify a skills shortage – maybe plumbing or electricians – and go to train as quickly as possible to get back into work, you can’t do a full time course else your benefits are stopped, and even if you do a part time course, you may well be forced to take up a minimum wage insecure temporary contract to stack shelves for three months, else lose your benefits for refusing a job.

… and then consider that even if you aren’t forced to take a job that will pull the rug out from under you anyway while you could be training for something better, You’re just as likely to be pushed into workfare on the idea that you need to have a work ethic instilled and need to gain (unpaid) experience doing the job of paid employees in an overcrowded minimum wage retail sector, forcing you off of that course anyway.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

Now consider that living one’s life under these pressures and conditions, being treated like scum by the system, by the staff at the jobcenter, by the bloke down the road because of demonising Government spin and propaganda  by the Government itself, and feeling like crap because you’ve begun to internalise all this.

Consider, for a moment, not only that, but the fact that living with none of life’s little pleasures, under the constant financial stress of watching every penny only to live a dull and dreary life of jobsearch under the threat of forced time-wasting, money (travel) spending, and labour and nothing else of consequence, being increasingly malnourished, wondering where to find your next stamp for a job application (let alone a meal), lest you be sanctioned by the jobcenter and have even less to live with…

Go on, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”. Tell me again that people on benefits make a lifestyle choice to live like this… to try to cope like this… to die like this… to suffer this indignity and make no effort whatsoever to get out of this nightmare of an existence just because they can’t be arsed and all they need to do is pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Tell me again that we’re too generous to the unemployed, that we need to “make work pay” by cutting benefits, that we’ve left people to rot for too long and so need to deal with it by making life on benefits harder and pushing and forcing people into unpaid “work experience”, which conveniently means that they disappear from the official unemployment figures.

Go on… tell me again.

  1. Jane says:

    Not disagreeing with the general thrust of this article- life on benefits IS hard- but the artice would be more powerful if it were more balanced instead of ignoring any point that doesn’t fit in, such as:

    Job centres provide free calls for jobs
    free internet for jobsearch/applications
    bursaries to buy interview clothes
    Reimbursement of travel costs to interviews (up to a certain amount per week)
    My job centre also posted applications for me so I didn’t have to pay postage, and majority of applications can be made by email for free anyway. Constantly harking on about the price of stamps in this article therefore falls a bit flat.
    Discounts are provided in local schemes for the unemployed so life isn’t only bleakness- cheaper cinema ice skating, library fines etc etc

    So, yes, I respect you for trying to dispell the ‘workshy freeloaders’ myth- but please do your research!

    • Helen says:

      Job centres have around 5 phones per centre. Employers can’t call you back on a jobcentre phone. My jobcentre doesn’t have free internet (or, didn’t when I was unemployed, 2 years ago). I wasn’t told about any bursaries to buy interview clothing, or any reimbursement of travel costs. Email isn’t free if you have to pay for the internet, which, realistically, most do.

      Also, if you’re suddenly made redundant, your internet, mobile, phone, etc contracts don’t release you from your contracts – you are still expected to pay what you paid when you were working.

      Ummmm, discounts for the unemployed are generally 50% off maximum. 50% off £20 is still far too expensive for most unemployed people.

    • Elusia says:



      The travel to interview scheme doesn’t run as it used to anymore. Likewise, you have to get to the jobcenter to use facilities, which isn’t close by for everybody, and burns up calories in itself. Likewise, where you can claim it has to be in advance… so when you’ve been around cold calling and have an interview tomorrow… or any number of situations where you can’t wait for DWP reluctant bureaucracy to pay out, there’s only one person who’s pocket it can come out of.

      As to “constantly harking on about the price of stamps”, it’s hardly constant… and even if it were, again – 60p vs the cost in calories to walk it, it really doesn’t make that much difference to many. Even if it did, the additional unmentioned and mentioned costs easily account for it.

      Discounts are few and far between, but where they do exist, you’ve still got to be able to afford the discounted price – £5 instead of £6 for a cinema ticket is still £5 you can’t afford to spend without sacrificing something else you need. It is indeed pretty damned bleak.

  2. […] If you’re over 25, JSA is £71 a week. Under 25 and it’s just shy of £54 pw… 10 stamps for job applications = £6 pw Electricity and gas (average dual fuel bill of £1,300 pa) = £25 …  […]

  3. Armin says:

    Local libraries often provide free internet access for people on job seekers. My local library in Crawley does for example.

    • Elusia says:

      Of course, with many libraries having had all funding cut, resulting in a massive number of closures, libraries for many people are not quite as ‘local’ any more, and those that are have additional customers using the service… and that’#s assuming also that the cost of getting back and forth to the library in calories is less than the cost of internet per month, and that the libraries put on additional access points when increasing numbers of job seekers start using them.

  4. […] are some excellent, angry thoughts on living on state handouts in the UK and people who think it’s… – obviously, Australia has a different welfare system, but the worldview about welfare is […]

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