Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of Jacob Rees-Mogg – has advised people in need to cook potatoes instead of oven chips. She should know that when the going gets tough there is a more simple solution – a packet of custard cream biscuits. At approximately 60 calories a biscuit and with 40 in a packet this is a massive 2400 calories for less than 50p per person per day.
They will block you up inside, make you fat and eventually give you a heart attack. But beggars can’t be choosers. And the UK benefit system is designed to make us beggars when we need it.
Just get a job
UK unemployment pay has never been good. Still after World War 2 the assumption was that unemployment was not your fault. The benefits you got were, at least for a few months, related to your past income. From the 1980s this began to change.
The argument was now that people had to get on ‘their bikes’ to look for jobs. The contributions element was largely removed and the conditions made increasingly tough even when there were no jobs available.
Mass Covid Unemployment
Covid is massively increasing unemployment. Whole sectors are being hit. Yesterday you might have been flying a 747 – tomorrow you may be just another of the unemployed needing a job coach and having to make the right number of applications for limited vacancies that exist.
Know you rights and claim straight away
Start your claim straight away since the system is slow. A good place to get a view of how it all works is the Citizens Advice Bureau website. You will then need to start the process of claiming using the government websites.
Be prepared for how bad the system is.
- Payments are very low
- Payments are means tested – for the first six months of unemployment your payments will not be means tested. After that anything you have over £6000 will cause your benefits to fall and over you £16,000 will get nothing.
- Children – you may only get help for the first two.
- You are paid in arears – this is a big problem for lots of people.
- Your payment is conditional on your doing what you are told to get a job.
- Your payments can be sanctioned if you fail to follow the rules.
- The claiming process is pretty complicated too if you have a nonstandard job.
4. How do people cut back?
We all have regular outgoings – rent-mortgage, gas and electricity bills, loan repayments, insurane for the house (and car and possessions) phone, internet charges, TV licence, subscriptions. This is before we buy clothes, shoes, pay for fares and petrol and put food on the table.
You should get additional help with things like housing. Still people on benefits have to cut lots of these. The longer you are on benefit the more you stop.
Which ones would you have to cut? (Remember that you will need to keep in touch to meet the UC conditions).
4. Jack Monroe tells us what it is really like.
Jack Monroe is a cookery writer who spent a long time on benefits. She advises people on how to get by. This is what she wrote about Annunziata:
“New TV pitch idea. Me & Annunziata Rees Mugg both get given three quid a day and a family of four to feed for a month. Living in adjacent too-small flats on 12th floor with broken lift and miles from the supermarket. No car. Barely any kitchen equipment. See who cracks up first.
You start with completely empty cupboards and £3 in change, mostly coppers you have to feed into the self-service machine in the supermarket because you’re embarrassed to hand the massive pile of change to a human being. What’s your first meal for four going to be, and it has to be a dinner, because if you’re only having one meal a day it needs to be a substantial one. Aim for 1500 calories per adult and try to balance it as best you can. You’ve got no store cupboard supplies, two hobs, no oven.
This was my life, although I did have an oven, I unplugged my fridge and freezer because I couldn’t afford to run them.
A R-M would demonstrate that living in poverty in the moment is an exhausting challenge, but you’re all mistaken if you think me putting myself back into my worst living nightmare would be easy. That’s why I said who would crack up first. There’s every chance it would be me.”
So if this makes you angry and it should – then put the blame where it really lies – on the people in charge.