By midday on Wednesday, Louise Spencer has £6.80 left in her purse to last until Monday, which works out at £1.36 a day to pay for anything she and her two small children might need. She is confident that she will make the money stretch. It’s just a question of careful budgeting.
Frugality is an art she has already perfected. This morning she has done the weekly shop, which came in 67p cheaper than the £20 she had set aside. Providing a week’s worth of meals for three people for £6.66 a head is easy once you work out how, she says. The gas and electricity payments for the week have already been made, so she knows the children will be warm. The only thing to fear is the unexpected – a broken pushchair, a request to buy her daughter’s class photograph.
Louise, 24, doesn’t smoke, drink or take drugs and she very rarely goes out with her friends. She spends pretty much all the money she gets in benefits on her children. She rejects the suggestion that her family might be described as poor. “Oh no,” she says firmly. “We get by.”
For God’s sake, surely this is the issue? And much as I might rant on about deflation/regulation/fiscal stimulus the final measure of our worth is whether or not we help people in similar situations?