Working for Poverty & Self-Employment

‘It doesn’t pay to work’.  This is something I have heard for many years and the words have caused me great discomfort.  It is often perceived that living on benefits is a comfy lifestyle option, and with great analysis I have reached my own conclusion, which of course I am sharing as we all know I love to put the world to rights, as I see it.

My working life began age 14.  I was working as a waitress for £2.50 an hour.  An eight and a half hour working day bought me in £21.25p.  You will see an image below to evidence this (I had no idea why I had kept this for nearly 30 years until now.  I just trusted that I needed to!).  The wage slip is from when I had just turned 15, and it was before I was issued an NI number.  The minimum wage today, 27 years later is £3.70 for an apprentice, and £4.20 for school leaving age.  Source Acas

You can start to see where I am going with this, but at this point I recommend getting a coffee, as I have much to say on the matter!

When you look at inflation of property, food, living costs, fuel, taxes, and everything else, nothing compares, nothing at all (sorry Sinead).  It is beyond diabolical and completely unforgivable.  You will know if you follow my blogs that I do not do stats, I am quite simply too lazy, but here are some links for you to read A Telegraph article from ‘last week’ on how prices have changed over 30 years and A Sunlife article from 2016 on house prices The Telegraph article is great to read, I love seeing that the collective consciousness is on the same page with this.  You will see that there is evidence of a 500% house price increase.  That would suggest to me that the intern should now be on a minimum wage of £12.50 an hour, and the minimum wage should be more like £20 an hour (at least).  You may think that is completely unreasonable but unfortunately that is society following suit.  Employers are all following government guidelines and consequently are getting away with it, enjoying huge profits and fat top line salaries at the expense of their employees.  CIPD have recently published a report which again, is music to my ears about employee wellbeing with respect to financial strain, I am passionate about employee wellbeing and this report supports that low pay causes stress.  Read it here

Now I appreciate that the government are making some attempts to address ‘equal pay’ and I am pleased to see that the government plan to introduce CEO / Employee pay gap reporting see People Management article written by Dawn Lewis but I fear the workers on the ground are still left living in poverty whilst the government are too afraid to tackle the real issue – that is a ridiculously low minimum / living wage.  It is modern day slavery at it’s very best, and most concealed.

Employers are kidding themselves that the wages they are paying are acceptable, and that it is okay for their staff to live in poverty whilst they enjoy living in the top 10%.  Please! What is wrong with us? How is this acceptable? How has this happened?  Who calculates the living wage? Shame on you.  Is this a presumption that two people share the bills? A very historic assumption.  Is this genuine ignorance of today’s living costs? An average minimum of £1k per month on rent and bills (outside of London), for a single person.  With a minimum wage of £7.83 for age 25 and over, your average ‘hard-working’ adult, working a 40 hour week (9-5 – Man Made Manslaughter – see my earlier blog post) is bringing in £1357 before deductions, so take home pay is on average around £1,100 on a good month.  There simply is not enough money to cover outgoings, food and travel costs and so people are living on credit and in a desperate cycle to break free from the poverty.

It is clear that many are shouting out about this issue, but it is not being properly addressed, and certainly not quick enough, this needs to change and it needs to change very very quickly.  That brings me to talk about why people are choosing the ‘option’ of entrepreneurism, why we have so many new small businesses. I use the word ‘option’ very loosely, as actually I believe this to be a desperate measure to escape the trap that is our current work culture.  Now I have already highlighted my earlier 9-5 blog above, this is not new news – Dolly Parton sang about it in 1980!  Listen to the words!

What we have is a ‘desperate’ situation, now I really do not believe that anybody ‘wants’ to live on benefits.  It is the most degrading, humiliating situation to be in and one aspect of this was beautifully depicted in the recent movie I Daniel Blake.  I could personally relate to some of the scenes in this movie.  As a proud working woman who barely took a day off in 20 years, to then suddenly go from being a home-owner career girl to a single mum in receipt of benefits was such a shock.  I had no idea what tax credits were in my early 30’s, and the brief six months I turned to Income Support following the end of my maternity leave were soul destroying.  Now whilst I was very grateful that my daughter wasn’t torn from my arms as it was for my grandparents generation, to be sanctioned for borrowing £20 from my mum and not declaring it and having my bank statements scrutinised like some sort or criminal is something I will never forget.  To lose the freedom of your own income and to have people look at you like you are sponging scum despite 20 years contributions is something I do not believe anybody would choose.  My point?

Well my point is that it does not pay to work when wages are as low as benefits.  Living on benefits is seriously tight, it is living in poverty and there is no money for luxuries, and so it ‘does’ pay to work, for the sense of wellbeing it gives you and the opportunity to increase that income, but the income is rarely increased, only freedom is lost, childcare costs are added from 3pm if you are a parent and transport costs and of course the holiday period.  So many people are turning to being self-employed and turning into entrepreneurs because it is a desperate measure.  A desperate measure to escape the 9-5 and to have the chance to earn more than £10 an hour.  (which is still too low!).  All of these problems are man-made (or as somebody pointed out to me the other day ‘person-made – sorry – to PC for me, again we are allowing ourselves to be sheep trained).  We are human beings and we need to stop greed at the top.  We need fair pay, and fair hours.  With better pay, working in school hours can be a ‘choice’ living without luxuries can be a ‘choice’, a choice to pick up your children and give-up take-outs.

I appreciate that certain professions offer a good wage, and there are brilliant opportunities to re-train to work in a higher paid job, and there will always be a difference in income, but the difference is too grand.  The bottom line should not be poverty.  Top 10% and bottom 10% is not a fair way to divide the hard workers in this country.  I still hear people complain that ‘anybody’ can go to university now, these people are oblivious to their own privileges.  Everybody deserves the chance to be the very best they can be.

Wellbeing will seriously increase when these changes are made.  NHS costs will decrease, road accidents will decrease, ill health will decrease, crime will reduce (yes, much crime is fuelled by anger and need for money) .  Benefit claimants will decrease.  If you cannot see that I urge you to dig deep.  I have recently discovered the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – this tag links to an article entitled ‘Almost a quarter of people in Wales are trapped in poverty’.  When I see the articles and hard work of the JRF, and Shelter, and such charities I wonder, why isn’t anything changing? It is so obvious.  Pay is too low.  Pay is too low.  Come-on Government, look, the pay is too low.  You have been chosen to govern the country to look after society, and look what is happening under your power, on your watch.   You can change this.  Not in 20 years, not in 10.  Right now.  Don’t worry about ‘where the money will come from’ worry about where money will be saved.  For a start people will not need to top up their wages with HB or TC,  NHS will save money on drugs (a much bigger outlay than wages), and people will want to work if they can pick up their kids and be paid a wage in line with inflation.

I have another beef.  the lottery, I have mentioned it before.  If you think that people are gambling responsibly you are deluded.  Most people are gambling out of sheer desperation to escape poverty.  The government are getting greedy.  People are being tricked into funding lottery funded projects because they are desperate to win some money.  Now I know that the lottery supports some really good causes, but you ask people if they would donate to these causes if there wasn’t a chance to win, probably not – not because they are selfish, or don’t care, but because they are living in poverty and cannot afford to support other causes.  It is all too greedy.  When it was £1 a week that was a reasonable amount for people to gamble, that was ‘responsible’, but now it is most nights, £2.50 per go sometimes, people have the same numbers they are afraid of missing and consequently are paying at least £50 per month – that they cannot afford out of their income, because they are desperate.  You have allowed this to happen Gov.  not feeling very proud right now.

I conclude.  People are not really lazy, they want to work, working can be fun, being around people is healthy, having a steady wage is lovely, but entrepreneurism seems to be the only hope at the moment to escape poverty and achieve work-life balance, but hope is what it is, again the stats speak for themselves that this is not an easy option, it is a desperate option, because the wages are not properly governed.

As a country we have a collective responsibility to make some significant changes, and this must be addressed by our government, who we trust and nominate to take care of our wellbeing as a society.  Workers will not challenge the wage offered to them, how can they? They will fear losing the job altogether, and where we accept this income we make a rod for our own backs, but what choice do we have when we are powerless to do anything about it?  We need to make the change happen higher up the ladder, we need protection, help, support, we need to be looked after as members of society, we are happy to work, but unless the house prices are going to decrease 400% and bills equally, the wage needs to inflate, and it’s the job of the country’s leaders to make that happen.

I would like to make a few additional points:

Rich House Poor House is a lovely documentary that sensitively highlights the wage divide.  Please watch it whatever your status.

Can’t pay we’ll take it away – I’m not offering a link this one.  It disgusts me how we are filming people at their lowest, these people are in genuine despair and it is being used as entertainment.  We are behaving like animals not helping them.  If you think they choose not to pay you are ignorant, for that you can be forgiven, but you need to understand the reality by watching Rich House Poor House.

If you are looking at setting up a business but are in poverty charities such as Fredericks Foundation may be able to help you.

It is not okay to spend a lifetime renting.  A mortgage would only last 20-40 years.  When you rent you never get that light at the end of the tunnel and never lose that overhead.   See my earlier rental blog here

Empty properties need filling.  Flats should be a lifestyle choice or stop gap in your twenties whilst having enough disposable income to save.

I firmly believe that there would be a lot less hatred for immigration if people weren’t living in poverty and feeling threatened and equally obesity would decline if people had the finances and the time to eat properly and be more active.

There are so many fundamental errors with our way of thinking, our system, we cannot rely on the lottery to bail us out, we have a collective responsibility to make things change, if you are struggling you need to shout louder, and if you are a wealthy employer you need to ask if a portion of your wealth is blood money?  And if you are justifying it because you are a sheep?

Sharing with love not hate, as always.

I apologise for typos, it’s late and I’m not reading this long blog before I post it! Feel free to point out spelling & grammar and I’ll tweak later!   Ta.

Pay Slip 1991

 

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Bias in the Tenant Market – HB or Pets? No thank you.

I never try to find things to write about in my blogs, I simply post when I am inspired or triggered to post about something I already feel strongly about.

I had a lovely trigger this morning, where a social media post asked a very simple yet desperate question… ‘Does anyone know of any 3 bed houses to rent in Monmouth or surrounding villages that will accept housing benefit please?’

I felt her pain immediately and felt inspired to comment, to re-assure her that she would find somewhere.

Now I have been a homeowner, a landlady, a tenant as part of a married couple, an estate agent, and more recently, a single-mum in receipt of housing benefit without a guarantor, and believe me, the latter is the most hellish of them all (and karma giving me a big slap on the bum!).  I have had to fight myself to prove my worth and I know how hard it is.

Now I have been well aware for a very long time that there is bias / discrimination against people who fall under a certain category.  A literal ban that does not take any individual circumstances, history, or future into account and it is quite simply wrong in this day and age.  As a younger woman I did have preconceptions about who was who and what their worthiness was, and of that I have no choice but to forgive myself, but now I must redeem myself and try to help others.

Equally it is extremely hard to enjoy your private life / your home / and enjoy pets as part of your private life, if you are tenant.  Now my personal feelings are, and always have been, that every person should enjoy the same rights and quality of life if they wish to have pets in their family.  I have witnessed issues faced by landlords, damage, urine, fleas, and these issues have been awful, but they are very much the minority, and I am afraid I have a black and white view that if you are in the business of building your property portfolio at the expense of others then this should be part of the small risk.

Most tenants with pets are ‘immaculate’, and on regular property visits it would quite often be the case that HB tenants with pets were cleaner and in better timing with their rent than the stereotypical perfect tidy salary 2.4, or just 2.

Nowadays a huge percentage of the population rely on credit to get them by each month (if you are a follower of my blogs you will know that I do not do stats – that’s your homework!).  This is no different for those whichever ‘class’ they fall under, we just still keep a stiff upper lip about it.  Equality is heavily preached in this country, but in practice the reality is quite the opposite.

Equally the right to a private life and enjoyment of pets is something that seriously needs addressing, people are literally having a lesser quality of life because of the private rental market.  The private rental market is blooming because house prices have risen inconsistently with inflation.  From buying a house from £7,000, to £45,000 to £200,000 is literally insane, and it needs addressing.

I have been a fly on the wall where hard-working pensioners, with beloved pets, have found it extremely hard to find a rental property, despite a 100% hard working career and immaculate cleanliness. I have witnessed so many painful stories of discrimination and it must stop.  Again we are rewarding the rich and penalising the poor (or at least disadvantaged)  (see my earlier post).

With respect to the Housing Benefit argument.  I understand that there is a percentage of claimants who are HB as a lifestyle / career choice and I can see why this would be upsetting to many, but I urge you to open your mind to the fact that many who need to claim HB do so for a short period in their lives, more than likely 20 years of contributions have preceded the need to claim and 25 / 30 years will proceed it.

The first 20 years of my own adult working life I was earning in the region of £14,000 and I never complained about how my contributions were spent, I understood that we all looked after each other.  I was aware that people earning significantly more than I were entitled to approx. £20 per week child benefit but this was never an issue, but as soon as I became a mum in need of a little recoup (to top up the wage, allowing me to be a hands on mum) I was amazed how many people re-categorised me and asked ‘why should we pay for your kid’.  Darling my need is short term and my contributions will be paying towards your healthcare at some point and I will not judge you for your lifestyle choices leading up to it.

Another issue we face in England and Wales is that of distant renting.  In Scotland you can secure a rental property on-line, down here we can ‘buy’ a property on-line, and secure a rental property on-line, but securing a AST is a big no-no, and that is quite unfeasible for many that relocate to the area.

There are so many issues surrounding tenancies, another being agency fees, they are ridiculous, the most successful agent I know in the region charges £60, and that’s it, there is absolutely no need to charge £100 / £200, remember I have administered it.  The rental income comes from the initial fee to the landlord (normally 75% first months rent) and the management fees (normally 10/11% per month).  Please can we stop charging these poor people a fortune, to run a couple of references and a credit check.

I may elaborate on here at a later date, but for now, please be pro-active in implementing these much needed changes to this awful discrimination that is so prominent in so called modern society.