£53 a week: ‘You can live on that money only if you have nothing to live for’

Residents of Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency in Chingford tell him of the reality of life on benefits
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South Chingford’s estates are one of the less affluent areas in the Work and Pensions Secretary’s constituency in north-east London. And Iain Duncan Smith may have been able to save himself a lot of hassle – and the third of a million people (and rising) who have called for him to try living on £7 a day – had he referred to the experiences of some of the low-income constituents he helps, when he was questioned on the radio this week, rather than insist that he could live on such a paltry income himself.

“I would like to see him try,” said Susan Janes, 40, who lives in the London suburb. “I get £100-a-week on benefits: £30 of that goes on my bills and the rest goes on food for the children. He doesn’t have to worry about money, does he?

“I would love to see him do it and to live in a council house with two children. I can’t stand him, I would never vote for him.”

Carole Smith, 62, who lives in south Chingford and is working again after a period out of a job, repeated the call for Mr Duncan Smith to try such a lifestyle: “I would like to see him do it, just to see how he manages. I think it would change his mind. He certainly would not be happy on that sort of money.

“£53 is not enough for people. I don’t think people can survive with that money, especially if you have children. You have to pay your bills somehow.

“There are four in our house, I have to pay for gas and electricity. After that, there’s not much left for the week. You are scrimping and scraping all of the time.”

Jason Winter, a 26-year-old  decorator who also lives in the area, parts of which used to be represented by Winston Churchill, said: “I can’t see him trying this, not with the lifestyle he is used to. You can live on that money if you have  nothing to live for, but some people do have. To even leave your house these days costs money.”

Mr Winter does not draw benefits but said he knows plenty who do. “They struggle, they are always  borrowing money. They never have any cash, even to cover bills. What kind of lifestyle can you have?”

Mr Winter pleaded for more  assistance to give those people who did want to work a leg up.

“If they mean for people just to live, then fair enough. But what can you actually do with that life?” he said. “They need to help people out in other ways, like with education  and training.”

One man, who asked not to be named, said: “He is not going to try it, is he? It would be a nice  experiment, but who does really manage to get by on £53-a-week?”

Paul Seseri, 19, said he thought the issue was simple: “He is grabbing headlines with this £53 budget and, in doing so, is attracting his core voters.

“He said it for their support; the others, he is alienating. I actually think most of his policies have been fairly benign. He won’t follow through on this.”

He added: “Most politicians are out of touch but he has some sort of consideration because of his position.”