Living on the breadline

living on the breadline

By Pamela Head,

This week, a petition was handed in to Whitehall calling for Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith to follow through on his claim that he can live on £53 a week. He is currently refusing to do so, calling the petition, which has 455,000 signatures on it a “complete stunt”. More startlingly, he said he knew “what it was like to live on the breadline”.

What we can surmise from this is that a paltry £53 a week to live on is enough to put you, in IDS’s eyes, on the point of poverty. But this is also the amount a lot of students have to live on while at university.

To push this level further, most students will actually be living on borrowed money, not benefits they don’t need to pay back. According to the Student Finance guide, students who start university this September can get up to £5,500 to cover living costs.

But when you subtract the average rent of £69 a week according to Accommodation for Students, for 42 weeks (which is what most student housing contracts are), you get a figure of £2,898: Around half of your yearly living allowance.

This leaves you with £2,602 to play with, working out at £61 to last you from mid-September when your course starts, through to the beginning of June. This in itself is only slightly more than the £53 people on benefits get and doesn’t take into account the three months you’ve got to cover yourself for during the summer.

When the summer months are factored in (as students still need to live during these months and can’t just sit inside for three months until the new year begins, come on now), students living on the loan actually have to cope with just £50 a week. Who’s living on the breadline now, Ian Duncan Smith?

Of course, students have slightly more to consider than just the day-to-day living costs of rent, food and bills. Every year, as your friendship group changes and people leave for placement years or grow closer to another group of friends, the housing situation changes.

This means that a student will change houses and incur all the additional costs of this too. Administration costs, holding fees, deposits… the list goes on. Something a lot of people forget to factor in when they work out their budget for the year.

With the hike in tuition fees to £9,000 a year leaving everyone in a greater amount of debt when they leave and prices rising continually in every sector due to the recession, making your student loan stretch is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge.

So, Ian Duncan Smith, you think you’ve lived life on the breadline? Try being a student today.