Naturally, when I’ve just got in from visiting my church’s office to ask for help because I can’t manage without paying someone to do household chores and I don’t have the money to pay, want I really want to do when I get in is try to decipher what’s going on with my council tax support.
I’ve been meaning to blog for a while about my entrance into poverty due to the running down of my savings as they are spent on one-off new-house purchases, coupled with the inadequacies of JSA-level Universal Credit and the minimum non-zero PIP award. I’m not the first to try to explain that benefits are too low by reference to income vs outgoings, but I’ve noticed there’s always something for better-off people to point at as a luxury. My luxury is probably my dog, whom I have for the purposes of my mental health because, as well as enjoying time with him, he gets me out of the house and attracts a lot of attention from passers-by with whom I’ll often stop to chat.
I’m not actually well enough to look after a dog, so as well as being dependent on a mobility scooter for getting out, my dog is actually walked more often by borrowers than by me.
Here’s my non-housing weekly income: £73.34 UC + 37% of £40 earnings + £22.65 PIP = £110.79.
The (rounded) outgoings that seem broadly stable: 14% of rent + 17.5% of council tax + £11 electricity&gas + £9 water + £5 internet + £1 mobile phone + £5 insurance (house, scooters, dog) + £10 dog costs (food, vaccinations) + £20 my food + 10% of all income to church= £86
This leaves £25 for variable items. These include personal hygiene, household cleaning products, travel and mending the boiler, which still leaks and has old mouse droppings in it. The boiler itself, averaged over the weeks I’ve lived here, has taken £16/week and despite most of the sources of problems being fixed, it is still leaking from an unknown location. The water appears beneath the boiler, yet the boiler itself seems dry and of course when the plumber comes out the boiler doesn’t leak at all. So it seems likely that a good proportion of the next few weeks’ discretionary spending will go on the boiler.
That £25 is also what any assistance I pay for at home would come out of, so currently I could afford one hour of help so long as I don’t travel, say to my parent’s house, that week and also don’t run out of any cleaning products and nothing breaks. My landline is temperamental about picking up incoming calls – it rings but then doesn’t connect – but I can’t afford to get an engineer out to it or or try buying a new handset and find that that doesn’t work either. My house lacks a kitchen door, but that would take up a whole week’s discretionary spending. The kitchen itself is somewhat lacking in usable space, but some additional cabinets, however basic, would still add up to three weeks’ spending. Sometimes I use my mobile more than my £5 contract allows, so I get extra charges. The £20 for food isn’t what I’ve actually been paying on average; that is nearer £23, but I’m trying to get it down by eating more pulses. Or, indeed, by being too tired to cook and eat at all. I have three pairs of trousers; all three are starting to wear thin. I haven’t actually bought clothes for several years.
This is when I realise that I would end up buying biscuits not cupboards. Because biscuits are cheap, and when it comes to saving money, refusing the basics custard creams or Aldi chocolate bar doesn’t make much difference compared to, say, not visiting my parents.
I started this blog post with Council Tax, because I’ve just received my third ‘new award’ letter since my first one on 24th August, and I don’t know why my CT support award keeps changing. I was going to play ‘spot the difference’ between the letters but having got distracted by thinking about how much money I actually have I now feel really sick, exhausted and my vision is going blurry. I’ll have to check my council tax later, but for now I think one reason it is screwed up is that it changes every time Universal Credit changes what it thinks it should pay me for rent – which so far has been too much and then too little.