The Reality Of £53 A Week – A Student’s Perspective

The audacious claim of Iain Duncan Smith MP that he would be able to live on £53 a week has certainly rankled those who actually do live on such small budgets. As a student who constantly struggles with money management, it certainly annoyed the hell out of me. I have no part-time job and therefore no income of my own. Most non-students’ response to me whenever I grumble about how little money I have is “Yeah, but you’ve got your loan!”

My loan is paid to me in three instalments throughout the course of the year, designed to correspond with the times that most students in university halls are required to pay their rent. Annoyingly, due to the way the loan instalments are proportioned, the rent that I have to pay for my university’s halls is usually about £60 more than the instalment I receive, leaving me with a deficit for the first two payments – as well as nothing else to live on for three months – and then about £500 left over by the third payment.

Even for those students who don’t live in halls and have to pay rent monthly like everyone else, balancing a budget is often not possible. Most of my fellow students are forced into the position of having to find a part-time job in order to survive – unless they have rich parents who will just fund them through it without teaching them financial independence.

Unfortunately for yours truly, I was neither able to find a job – not for lack of trying, mind – nor are my parents rolling in money. They are, however, able to give me enough to get me through the month – but only just enough. They have used this to teach me how to budget, and I am treating it like an interest-free loan with an extended time limit, which I will pay back to them when I am rich and famous (that’s “when”, not “if”, by the way…).

I barely go out drinking, I don’t drive a car, I don’t go to the theatre or cinema every week, I don’t take singing classes (anymore) and I don’t dine in fancy restaurants. Even if I partook in no social activities on or off campus at all – not even one pint down the pub at the German Society’s social – I would still need to live on £66/week, which means I’d be £13 short under Mr Duncan Smith’s claim. So it’s rather galling for a man whose weekly income is £1,264 to tell me that he could suddenly live on an amount which to him would equate to a 95.8% pay cut.

Mr Duncan Smith has been unemployed twice in his life, once in 1981 and once in 1992. Both times he could have claimed from the welfare system, and, as one journalist in the New Statesman (who is undoubtedly more numbers-savvy than me) pointed out on Wednesday, the amounts he could have claimed would have equated to one-fifth and one-seventh respectively of the average weekly wage, whereas recent figures show £53 to be one-twelfth of today’s average weekly wage. I would therefore like to humbly submit that Mr Duncan Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and would be in for a nasty shock if forced to live at that wage in today’s economic climate.

This might force him to get creative with his money management, and maybe then I’ll feel confident in asking him where I’m supposed to get my missing £13 from.