Universal Credit at £73.10 pw is so low poverty, malnutrition & debt related mental & physical ill-health inevitable

8 November 2016

The bottom rung of the Universal Credit at £73.10 pw is so low that poverty, malnutrition and debt related mental and physical ill health are inevitable in the UK

The single adult JSA/ESA/IS is £73.10 a week. It has been reducing in value since 1979. Annual increases have been frozen at 1% since 2011 and it has not been increased since April 2015. It is paid to about 4 million people before children's and disability benefits, housing and council tax benefits are added to it.

If disabled people fail WCA their incomes drop to that £73.10 a week.

Before April 2013 JSA was paid after rent and council; but since then it has been taxed by 259 council out of 326 in England. It is also paying rent due to the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the local housing allowance, in many cases. That reduces the single adults ability to buy a healthy diet, cook it, keep warm, and pay for clothes transport and other necessities, The weekly cost of a healthy diet is £44 see Table 2 on page 24. 

The bottom rung of the Univeresal Credit has been driven so low that it is impossible to be paid more in unemployment than in employment - except in some weeks on a zero hours contract. 

All governments since 1997 have been made aware of the inadequacy of the single adult JSA before April 2013. The link between debt and mental health problems has also been freqently drawn to their attention; see Royal College of Psychiatrists and The Government Office for Science.

I am profoundly concerned about the DWP advice to jobcentre officials that hunger of the sick is OK so long as it is not worse than hunger of the healthy.

Governments have also frequently been made aware of the risks of poor maternal nutrition before and after conception followed by low birth weight babies with life time ill health and inter-generational consequences. Three days food from a food bank does not cover a nine month pregnancy. 

People are not fit for work when their debt ridden poverty is so dire.

Such State induced ill health is bad for the economy as a whole.