[personal profile] hutchingsmusic
I was fairly pleased about getting some paid work this week. Until I found out that, after the first £5, the amount you earn is deducted directly from your JSA.

It costs me £10 a time to get to the paid work (which is in Glasgow or Edinburgh). The maths isn't difficult.

Hence the following:

Dear Right Honorable Iain Duncan Smith MP,

I am losing money as a result of honestly declaring my temporary work while claiming Jobseekers' Allowance.

I work short 2-4hr shifts in Edinburgh and Glasgow, each paying about £30, but the cost to get there and back is about £10 (I live in Falkirk, equidistant between the two). I sometimes get one or two shifts per week, all on different days. During the Edinburgh Festival I might get three shifts in Edinburgh in some weeks.

I receive roughly £50/wk in Jobseekers’ Allowance. When I earn money during the week, I am allowed to keep the first £5 (the “disregard”, which I note has not changed since the 1980s or gone up with inflation); the remainder is deducted directly from my benefits. This results in the following perverse scenarios:

Shifts worked Amount “earned” JSA received Travel costs Net income
0 0 £50 0 £50
1 £30 £25 £10 £45
2 £60 £0 £20 £40

To sum up, I actually have less money at the end of a week in which I have done paid work and declared it honestly.

This is without taking into account that my income from temporary work is taxed at normal rate (yes, I can claim that back at the end of the year, but that still means I have less cash on a weekly basis) or that I may have to buy lunch in Edinburgh or Glasgow on days when I’m working there.

I hope I do not need to point out that this is perverse, demotivating, damaging to the economy, and likely to encourage benefit fraud. There is absolutely no incentive to declare paid work under this regime when it has costs associated with it (travel, in this case), or indeed to even seek paid work, because it’s costing me money when I do it!

I would like to suggest an alternative, in which half of earnings over the first £10 are deducted from benefits (reflecting the fact that the costs associated with getting to work can be a significant fraction of earnings, for short shifts in a different city). This would change the current farcical scenario to the following:

Shifts worked Amount “earned” JSA received Travel costs Net income
0 0 £50 0 £50
1 £30 £40 £10 £60
2 £60 £25 £20 £65
3 £90 £10 £30 £70

It’s still not great, but it’s much better than actually losing money as a result of working.

I very much hope to hear from you soon, as the current policy is actively damaging to jobseekers, the economy, and the government.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hutchings

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May 2017


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