Cutting ESA by £30 a week an immoral,  irrational and a massive unfairness £73.10 impossible to live on.

4 April 2017

The great injustice about cutting ESA by £30 a week is that £73.10 is impossible to live on.

Government benefit policy is morally bankrupt because the costs of human needs for shelter food water fuel totally ignored and popular humane solidarity is opposed

Introduce fair minimum Universal Credit

​The single adult JSA/ISA/IS is £73.10 a week which equals £317 a month under the Universal Credit. It is paid to over 3.6 million people in the UK. (ONS BEN01 Key out of work benefits).

£73.10 a week has been reducing in value since 1979. 

It is less per head for two adults at £114.85 – single under 18 it is £57.90 and £87.50 for couples under18

It was paid after 100% housing and council tax benefits from the end of the poll tax in 1993 to April 2013. Since ​April 2013; 

  • It has been taxed by 276 councils out of 326 in England
  • It has also had to pay rent due to the cut in housing benefit by the bedroom tax, 
  • ​It has not been increased since April 2015 and is not increased in April 2017.
  • Meanwhile the prices of goods and services (RPI) have increased by 4.8%. Rents and council tax have also increased for benefit claimants.

£73.10 a week is incapable of providing a healthy diet and other necessities for a woman during the development of a child in her womb. Poor maternal nutrition and low birth weight have, since 1972, been called he strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioral disorders and crime by the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.

It is damagingly below the minimum income standards recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. (See Table 1 Full report) Using their April 2016 research the estimated minimum should be at least;

                                    JRF            DWP          Shortfall

                                     £pw           £pw          

Food                           44.72

Water                            5.67

Clothes                         7.12

Fuel                            15.96

Transport                    26.89

Contingency 10%        10.00

JSA/ESA/IS                110.36           73.10            37.26

UC per month            476.22          317.00         159.22


Family and disability benefits are added to the bottom rung of the UC, which is so inadequate that parents need the children’s benefits to survive and the disabled are forced into destitution when they fail the work capability assessment and their disability benefits are stopped. 

We recommend therefore; the £30.cut is reversed and the UC minimum increased to at least £480 a month. Meanwhile unemployed adults from aged 18 should be allowed to top up their UC with incomes with a disregard of up  to at least the £159 a month shortfall. 

The UC + disregard should be paid with 100% rent and council tax benefits

The benefit sanction should be removed from the jobcentres and given to the Magistrates court where the Wednesbury Principles can be properly and independently applied.   

The arguments behind these recommendations have been elegantly put together in the nine TAP about Health Equality blogs by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the Equality

Trust, Dr Angela Donkin of the Institute for Health Equity and Carl Walker of the University of Briighton, and at our seminar by David Finch of the Resolution Foundation.

The Equality Trust reports that The worse the inequality in a nation the worse it is for every one; inequality already bad in the UK is set to get worse.

This leaves no doubt that a central feature of the experience of poverty is what it feels like to be at the bottom of the social ladder.  

The Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, suggested that shame was the “irreducible absolutist core” of the experience of poverty, and the American anthropologist Marshal Sahlins went as far as to say “Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status.”

Dr Angela Donkin of the Institute for Health Equity reports, There is a clear message that living in a deprived situation is likely to lead to costs to society - lost productivity, taxes, welfare payments and higher NHS costs.  In 2010 it was estimated that;

Inequalities in health accounted for productivity losses of £31-£33 billion per year,
and £20-£32 billion a year in lost taxes and higher welfare payments to too many people. 
Additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequality were estimated to be in excess of £5.5 billion a year.

4 out of 10 households with children (40%) don’t have enough income to meet a minimum acceptable standard of living.[1]

Even if both parents work full time over 1 in 10 households with children still don’t reach an acceptable standard of living.[2]

Over a million emergency food parcels were given out by food banks to people who couldn’t afford to feed themselves or their children in 2015/16, current figures for this year suggest it is worse[3]. 

The UK is sleepwalking into a proliferation of insecure work which is short sighted, damages health and costs the taxpayer.

Low income, and particularly debt or insufficient income impact on health indirectly through increased stress, depression and anxiety, and sub optimal coping behaviours – such as increased rates of smoking and drinking.

There is powerful scientific evidence supporting these statements.

Carl Walker – University of Brighton – Psychiatrists Against Austerity

The people’s money management skills are good; the State creates problem debts for vulnerable individuals and families, which are linked to the most profound anxiety, anger and suicide.

Recent research has shown that the onset of the recession in 2008, and subsequent rises in unemployment, were associated with an upturn in suicides and an increase in other adverse mental health outcomes. Unlike many recessions however, these trends have not reversed once unemployment levels have fallen.

We have the largest fall in real wages for 50 years and an increase in mental health problems.

David Finch – Resolution Foundation


[1] Households below a minimum Income Standard. To note these figures will be updated next week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

[2] As above

The exact number is 1,109, 309.  Trussel Trust. Latest stats.