Statutory Sick Pay in the UK is £88.45 per week. But how far does that really stretch – especially with a 15-year-old son to feed? Amanda Curwood, Head of Tactical Projects at LifeSearch, set herself the challenge of staying within the weekly budget.
My first task is to pay the bills and I’m left with £48 for the week. With careful planning I reckon this is completely doable. I have bought some ingredients ready for my homemade lunches and evening meals that came to approx. £15, so I’m down to £33.
“Mum can you top my account up please?” text from Joe. This is for his dinner money. I hadn’t accounted for this! The minimum you can top up is £5, how realistic is it for a 15-year-old to live off that all week: a tenner it is! £23 remaining.
I haven’t been home yet and both Joe and me are ravenous. Normally on days like this I’d totally be calling for a chippy tea, but as I add up the cost in my head I know we can’t afford it. I go home and make omelettes.
I feel quietly satisfied that I haven’t spent any more of my remaining £23 yet. I have brought my lunch and am making the most of the fruit basket in the work kitchen.
“We’re doing a Costa run, you want anything?”
“No thanks, I can’t afford Costa on SSP.”
“Want a hand-out?”
“No thank you, Nescafé Gold Blend is fine.”
Banging headache so walk to Sainsbury’s for some tablets. Get distracted by an iceberg lettuce and some humbugs – £21.20 remaining.
For the first time in my life I made homemade soup last night, so at least living on SSP is broadening my culinary skills. I’ve brought leftovers for lunch today so still have £21.20 left for the rest of the week.
Arrive home and Joe’s girlfriend is here so seems polite to invite her to stay for tea. The chicken I planned to stretch out for two meals over two days will now be gone and I need to plan something else for tomorrow.
I’m collecting money for a buffet for our night out next week. I haven’t paid my own contribution yet. Dilemma: pay £12 now out of my budget or go hungry when everyone else is tucking in next week? I convince Carl to go halves with me – £12.20 remaining.
Arrive home. The window cleaner has been! If I was on SSP for real I’d have to cancel this luxury and send Joe up the ladder. £2.20 remaining. I’m in for a great weekend… oh and it’s Super Noodles for tea.
I’m starting to get fed up with living on SSP – shameful really, I’m only five days in. There was no milk this morning, Joe’s starting to complain and I can’t say I’m looking forward to my 19p pea and mint soup for lunch.
I call for milk on the way home and remember we also need shampoo. Goodbye L’Oréal and hello Alberto Balsam – 20p remaining! Night out cancelled, which I was really looking forward to, so I’m not in the best of moods.
I hand over a 70p fee for a redirected parcel without thinking. I’m officially in SSP debt. Minus 50p remaining. We take full advantage of free cinema tickets but Joe funds his own bus fare and KFC from his Christmas money. My friend offers to sub me “until I’m back on my feet” to take me out for the afternoon.
I can’t do the laundry as I would normally, due to the fact there is no fabric conditioner or washing powder left. I’m also due to have my nails done and can’t – something I do every fortnight – that now seems like a huge, unobtainable treat. I am feeling pretty frustrated now, can’t wait for this experiment to be over!
I think that’s the key point: this is an experiment. Come tomorrow my cupboards will be re-stocked, I can get my nails done and there’ll be clean laundry in the world again. For many though this could be or is very real and many families are living off SSP week in and week out.
As I reflect, I realise that I haven’t needed prescriptions this week, it hasn’t been Christmas or someone’s birthday, I haven’t needed to provide clothing or pay for a school trip – all basic things that we often take for granted and fork out for without thinking.
I’m sure I would get better at this, planning meals for less and learning to live without, but would I want to? Er, no! I’d love all those clients who decline income protection because they think they can cope to try this themselves. I’m certain they’ll change their minds and take some cover!
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The above article has been provided by Unum Limited.