Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 00:07 UK

Living on 50 a week


Suada Hamidi is 19 years old. She left home at 15 and has been living independently since then. She lost her job five months ago and has been looking for work ever since.

After trying to manage on savings and borrowing money from friends and family, she signed on and is now in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. Because Suada is under 25 she gets just £50.95, the lowest rate.

She has both rent arrears and council tax arrears that have to be paid off each week, and must repay family members who have helped her out.

After paying bills, arrears and setting aside £6 to travel to Tonbridge to sign on Suada is left with around £5 for the week, to feed and clothe herself and find work.

And when there is the possibility of work it can mean having to survive on even less - because rates of pay are low and the hours offered do not equal full-time employment.

While making the video diary Suada was offered a job waitressing - but only 30 hours a month, at the minimum wage for under-21s, £4.77. This would have meant losing her council tax benefit and some, if not all of her housing benefit, leaving her considerably out of pocket.

Given that the margins on JSA are tight, this made it a very hard decision to make. She asked for time to think about it but when she called back to take the job the manager had given it to someone else.


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