Research undertaken at different points in history has demonstrated that in the UK, poverty is not caused by fecklessness or poor housekeeping but policy failure. Benefit recipients have always faced abject poverty, humiliation and judgement as wealth is deliberately funnelled from those who have little to those who have more.

There are more people in Wales in poverty due to low pay than unemployment. The lowest-income people in Wales pay more for their transport, food, fuel and credit than those on average incomes, and lose a higher proportion of their income in tax than other groups.

The Living Wage is based on the cost of living. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research into the Minimum Income Standard agrees every two years what the necessities for a basic standard of living are. (These include things previously thought of as luxuries, such as a fridge and a two-week holiday per year.) The cost of these goods and services determines the Minimum Income Standard, which informs the Living Wage – the amount you need to earn per hour, working full time, to afford modern Britain’s basic necessities.

The Minimum Wage is the legal minimum an employer must pay. Different rates apply to people of different ages. It is not calculated according to the cost of living and is therefore, in point of fact, not enough to live on. Some apprentices are, legally, paid less than £4 per hour in 2017.

The so-called National Living Wage is actually simply the minimum wage for anyone aged over 25. It is not enough to live on and the term – introduced by Conservative chancellor George Osborne in July 2015 – is highly misleading, as Martin Lewis, “Money Saving Expert”, said at the time:

“This is not a living wage. [George Osborne] has naughtily nicked the name from the Living Wage Foundation … By using the valued brand of ‘the living wage’, even though he’s not paying that amount, he hopes to get extra credibility.”

Tax Credits top up low incomes. Arguably, if employers can’t pay people enough to live on then their non-viable businesses should not be propped up by the state. But until employers are forced to pay fair, decent wages as an inescapable business cost, these top-up benefits are vital, putting food on the table and money in the gas meter, although still not bringing households up to an acceptable standard.

In 2010 it was estimated that £16bn in means-tested benefits and tax credits went unclaimed in the UK each year.

YOU can help!

  1. Talk to people about your understanding that poverty is a trap, not a choice. Contact us for more information about why people on low incomes have fancy TVs, unhealthy diets and loads of debt – it’s all down to the trap they’re in.
  2. Encourage people to check their entitlements and claim – try If you are concerned about an Uplands resident under-claiming, contact us.
  3. Respond to the Council’s consultation on the revised tackling poverty strategy, by October 6th. Do you think new draft strategy will lead to more people being on higher incomes? Does it propose to do enough to support those stuck on poverty pay, or unable to work?

Cllr. Mary Sherwood