“I can make a meal out of a tin of beans. Sometimes there’s not a lot in the cupboard, you know?” Richard, 57, explains from his one-bed flat in Kingston upon Thames. Richard has a degenerative spinal disease as well as arthritis and breathing problems: a walking frame is his only way to move around the flat, and he needs a ventilator at night. It’s been over a decade since he was well enough to work – as a stager fitter and then a chauffeur – and his only income is disability living allowance. His wife is a nurse but with no pay NHS rise in years, in Richard’s words, the two of them are “absolutely broke”.
Richard has gum problems but he can’t afford a dentist. The rent on the flat alone sets them back £1,100 a month. It’s one of eight crammed into a converted Victorian house. The walls are so thin, Richard explains, that they can hear their neighbours’ conversations at night. “I paid £35 a week in my teens round here,” Richard tells me. “Nowadays, people just think of a number and double it.”
So, let’s go back to the teens of someone now 57 shall we? Erm, meh, call it 1976?
4.33 times the weekly rent to get us monthly. £151.55. That’s in 1976 money, which in 2016 money is £1,001.00. That’s just the straight inflation change there, not the wage or income value.
We’ve a real term rise of 10% in that rent over near four decades. That really doesn’t sound like the Terror of the Ages now, does it?
Further, what does a nurse make these days? Obviously this is one who has done this for some time. £30k (don’t forget, seniority brings rises, as does some portion of London Weighting)? What’s he going to be getting in that disability allowance? Looks like higher rate for mobility, and just add in lower for care. £80 a week?
Sure, that’s not a lot. Pretty shitty life for 2 people in fact. It’s also over median household income isn’t it….actually, it’s substantially over it. And it also means that rent is only a little above 30% of income, which is usually the “affordability” cut off, isn’t it (that’s a US definition by the way)?
After rent, council tax, gas and electric, there’s not much left for food.
Actually, the killer there is more likely to be income tax and NI. Showing that the problem might well be too much government, no?
But as ever, actually shuffling through the numbers presented by Frances Ryan tells us that these people suffering in that absolute poverty she rails against aren’t in fact doing that badly.
Anyone who knows more about this than I want to actually run through that household budget? For I can’t see that they’re trying to eat on £20 a week or anything. The major assumption is going to have to be what’s her nursing pay rate.