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Poverty in the UK.

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.

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By coincidence, I am reading that article right now. I don't want to detract from the difficulty of Ms Spencer's situation, but I do note: (a) that this is after she's bought her weekly shopping and paid her gas and electricity bills and (b) she rejects the suggestion that her family might be described as poor. But why bother listening to her, eh?

I'm guessing she may well reject that suggestion, because she doesn't want to appear self-pitying.

Also (from the article) she can't afford anything more than cheap, poor quality food.

You may be right, but I very much have the impression that the journalist feels that Ms Spencer couldn't possibly have insight into her own situation, because she's poor, and she and her children are being held up as a spectacle for us to gawp at. Also, what's with calling her "Louise"? I must have missed the part in the Guardian style-guide where poor people don't get surnames.

I feel quite sorry for her. I'm guessing that she wasn't expecting a photograph of her living room, shot under appalling light to make it look dingy, to be made into a double-page spread and labelled "A portrait of 21st-century poverty".

What does make me cross is the £600 she owes Lloyds in "fines" for going overdrawn. The argument over bank charges is well-rehearsed, but I think that does throw it into relief. £600 bears no relation to Lloyds' actual cost, it's a trivial amount of money for them and a fortune for Ms Spencer (she could feed her family for over half a year on that amount).

Also, what's going on with her budgeting?

Income: £85 income support, £51 tax credit per week (plus unspecified monthly child support). Total, £136/week.

Outgoings: £20 food, £10 gas, £5 electric, £10 loan repayments, £7 overdraft fees repayments, £5 mobile, £5 nappies. Total £62/week.

So why does she only have £6.80 left by Wednesday lunch-time? Where did the other £55.20 go?

Again, I don't wish to understate the difficulty of supporting a family of three on £136/week (plus child support), but the Guardian do seem to be making the situation out to be even worse than it really is.

Fair play to the government, if the economy gets much worse then average earnings should drop enough for them to meet their child poverty target by levelling the rest of society down.

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