Thursday, February 12, 2009

Minister: I couldn't live on benefits.

The Employment minister Tony McNulty is in the papers today stating what I think is the bloody obvious: It is impossible to live on the benefit we currently pay to the unemployed.

Mr McNulty's admission came in a BBC Radio 5 Live interview when he was asked how he expected people to make ends meet on £60 a week.

He replied: "We just need to work with them to try and get them back into work at the earliest opportunity." Challenged about whether he could survive on that income, he conceded: "I don't think I could. I'd be the first to say that." The minister added: "I think it's very, very difficult and in most instances – not everybody – people will have other support from the state as well, through a range of other benefits."

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said the comments proved the need for an increase in jobseekers' allowance, adding: "Even government ministers admit they couldn't live on today's unemployment benefit of less than £10 a day – one of the lowest relative to wages in the developed world."

As unemployment inevitably rises in the current recession, more and more people are going to find themselves relying on this measly handout from the state. A handout which even the Employment minister admits is simply impossible to live on.

So what will their choices be? They will either find a way to supplement this income on the black market or they will turn to crime.

None of us want to create a situation where people can simply choose to live off the state, but we also need to bear in mind that unemployment benefit is there to catch any of us if we should fall.

Our present benefit payments simply don't do that. I can't think of anyone who could survive on what we currently pay. But, from the days of Thatcher onwards this subject has become so toxic that we are not allowed to state the bloody obvious. Very few of us become unemployed through choice. And any of us who do would find it impossible to live on what we currently allow for the unemployed.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, said: "The minister isn't telling people on benefit anything they don't already know. What is appalling is that he doesn't appear to want to do anything about it."

This is one of the things which I, as a lifetime Labour supporter, find hardest to swallow. We have accepted the Tory positioning on such matters as if they are gospel. And, in doing so, we have stopped asking if our benefits system does its job.

If unemployment benefit is insufficient to live on, then we, as a society, have removed the safety net. I find that deplorable.

Click title for full article.

5 comments:

Gee Nottingham said...

You aren't just expected to 'live off' this £60.50 a week sub poverty level payment, you are also legally obliged to 'actively job hunt' i.e. pay out for bus fares, phone calls, envelopes, paper, stamps etc.

I have just joined the jobless and I recently spent an entire fortnights 'benefit' paying a fuel bill.

I eat only one meal a day - admittedly I make damn sure it's a very healthy one and I exercise.

You have to remain positive with or without a job and too many will fall into a junk food couch potato lifestyle which will only exacerbate their situation both mentally and physically.

I do not define my self worth by the job I do (or don't have) so perhaps I'm a little ahead of the game there.

Also, based on a previous episode of unemployment in the eighties when I found myself with only a packet of crisp breads and a selection of condiments with which to feed myself for a week; I have always kept my freezer and food cupboards stocked up for a siege which is now serving me well.

Kel said...

You aren't just expected to 'live off' this £60.50 a week sub poverty level payment, you are also legally obliged to 'actively job hunt' i.e. pay out for bus fares, phone calls, envelopes, paper, stamps etc.

I have just joined the jobless and I recently spent an entire fortnights 'benefit' paying a fuel bill.


I hope you get a job soon my friend. It is impossible to survive on our benefits system.

Anonymous said...

Employment Minister done for FIDDLING expenses - an Employment Sham!

Tony McNulty is a joke! He has failed to live up to the spirit of the rules and taken every opportunity to manipulate the system to his advantage. God help us for having such public servants who are NOT squeaky clean. Tony McNulty is hardly ever at Harrow East surgeries, takes anywhere between 3- 6 months to give appointments to meet constituents and then either fails to turn up or cancels appointments with very little notice. This bloke doesn’t use his parent’s Harrow Residence for Parliamentary duties. Shame on you Tony for not saying sorry and for NOT returning the money you have unjustly over-claimed - it’s people like you that bring this country to it’s economic knees. Very very bad judgment on your part!

Anonymous said...

According to Tony McNulty, why would anyone want to claim state benefits when they can fiddle expenses on second homes instead?

Kel said...

Thanks to both anonymous posters for those comments. It is a joke isn't it?