Unfortunately, like similar articles that the Graun has previously published, there's a lot in the way of "poor me", but no detail on their exact circumstances. Someone could be earning a fortune but spunking the lot on the horses and therefore have no disposable income. I'm not suggesting this is the case here. What we do know about Kerridge based on what she's put out in the public domain is:
- She is married with four children
- Her children are 21, 19, 17, and 11. The eldest doesn't live with them, the 19 year old is doing an apprenticeship, and the other two are in full time education.
- They live in Portsmouth.
- Her husband works in admin full time at above the minimum wage. He earns five pounds a month less than their rent.
- She hints they earn above £16,190, the cut-off point for free school meals, prescriptions, etc.
- She claims that their rent is average for the area and they get housing benefit (she terms it "rent assistance", I assuming that means housing benefit).
- She doesn't receive any disability benefits.
- They are servicing a small credit card debt and paying it back at £40 a month. There are no payday loans or gambling debts and no arrears.
- Council tax is £140, prescriptions are £10, and gas and electric are £250 per month.
- The degree is through the Open University.
- She has a student loan.
- After all of this, they only have around £40 a week for food.
A suitable house for a family of this size with children of those ages would be four bedrooms according to government guidelines. To rent one of these in Portsmouth is around £1,200 a month. That would then make husband's income around £16,500 a year. In addition to this, they'd get around £6,744 in working and child tax credits and £1,768 in child benefit. That's a take home income of roughly £22,800 or £1,900 a month. That doesn't include housing benefit - based on the known details and assumptions, the calculator at entitledto.co.uk reckons on £153.55 per week, so £665 per month. Here's a summary of their estimated incomings and outgoings along with what's left over:
OK, I know that these are estimates* - I've added water as it is an essential and the only bill not covered. Only Kerridge can give exact figures and it's up to her if she wants to make that public. What it does show is that there is a surplus well in excess of the £40 a week. So where is the rest going? Bus fares have been mentioned for the 11 year old but surely not £150 worth? No cars or other transport costs have been mentioned. It's a fair assumption that mobiles and internet are also a cost and not an unreasonable one, unless they are taking out £50 iPhone contracts.
I don't believe that they are living an extravagant lifestyle but neither are they scratching around in the gutter. It's not the sort that they maybe used to have, but it's certainly not poverty. There's clearly something we're not being told as they've got nearly £900 per month to cover all of their other costs. Maybe I've got the sums completely wrong but that would mean that they could rent something else cheaper and save money that way.
There are things they could do improve the state of their finances though. Could the husband get a better paying job (not always easy I appreciate)? Why is the gas and electricity bill so high? Can anything be done about that? Is the 19 year old contributing? If not, why not? Can they revisit disability payments? Given she has trouble getting out and about, surely she must be entitled to something. If not, why not?
I'll be honest here, and while I want Kerridge and family to achieve the lifestyle that they want and for her health to improve, it pisses me off to see someone who is dependent on more than half of their income from the tax payer, then go in the national press and say "this still isn't enough."
* Estimates. Big, big caveat on these. I also don't believe that Kerridge is being 100% truthful, e.g. she says that they aren't entitled to working tax credits but that would mean their income would be much higher than I've estimated and therefore aren't actually living in an averagely priced house for the area. There's inconsistency in the food budget. In the Guardian, it's £40 a week, on her blog it's £45 and £50 depending on which bit you read. Also this:
I’m so cold I can’t feel my fingers as I type this blog about poverty on a computer bought for me by a friend. I will let you sit next to me and we’ll laugh at how you can see your breath misting in the air above my charity-shop desk.Doesn't reconcile with a £250 a month gas and electric bill. She is a fantasy author after all...