Continue to work in full-time employment or go on benefits?
It’s a question that we’ve been hearing more of recently, showcasing the extent to which the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people who are employed and experiencing poverty. We’ve been exploring the impact of rises in fuel, food, rent and more and you can read about it here to understand the challenges that many are currently facing.
Although employment pays a wage, for many it’s no longer enough to cover the cost of living or supporting a family. Many are working more than one job, doing overtime and attempting to cut costs by walking to work – but even as they push themselves to the point of suffering, they continue to struggle to make enough to put food on the table. Consequently, many are faced with the decision of either continuing to work or going on benefits.
It’s a move made in desperation to maintain a decent quality of life.
There’s a lot of stigma in the UK around benefits, but for those in need, it’s a guaranteed payment of rent and council tax. This keeps a roof over people’s heads, can help to make sure families are fed, and ensures people can continue to look after themselves. Once benefits are obtained, we’re finding some people then seek a cash-in-hand job to supplement the money they receive. This isn’t the sort of benefit-scam that we often seen splashed across media headlines, it’s people looking to make enough money to meet their basic needs. It’s a move made in desperation to maintain a decent quality of life.
Although benefits and cash-in-hand jobs might feel like a short-term solution, it can cause many issues. If someone’s caught doing this, their benefits are stopped immediately, and they end up with nothing. Furthermore, as we become a cashless society, there are fewer places where physical money can be spent, restricting people’s spending, and putting them in another difficult situation.
“I honestly believe that the UK government are deliberately making it hard for people to claim benefits – believing it will save money or force people into employment”.
It’s also not an easy solution. Benefits are difficult to claim and have a lot of access barriers. Applications are now all online, and without support, the process can be daunting and overwhelming. When we spoke to Pastor Mick to ask his thoughts, he said, “I honestly believe that the UK government are deliberately making it hard for people to claim benefits – believing it will save money or force people into employment”.
We shouldn’t live in a society where claiming benefits alongside cash-in-hand work is the only solution for people to survive. Nobody should be living with the bare minimum. There’s a need for urgent reform in the UK to ensure the living wage can meet people’s basic needs and that benefits can be accessed with ease by those who need them.