Over 250,000 people call for Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week

By staff writers
April 1, 2013

A petition calling for government minister Iain Duncan Smith to live at the poverty level he is helping impose on others has gone viral across the internet.

The petition (http://tinyurl.com/makeIDSpoor), set up by Dom Aversano in relation to claims by the Work and Pensions Secretary in the media, asks him to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.

In just over a day the petition has surpassed 255,000 signatories, with hundreds a minute adding to it and many leaving impassioned comments about the immorality of coalition policies attacking the poorest and most vulnerable in Britain, which Mr Duncan Smith has proudly defended.

Campaigners against welfare cuts have welcomed the moral outrage this represents, but pointed out that a more effective avenue is represented by the WOW petition (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154), which could trigger a debate in parliament if it reaches 100,000. It calls for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform, and a new deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.

Duncan Smith petition drafter Dom Aversano, writing on the Change.org site, explained: "On this morning's Today Programme David Bennett, a market trader, said that after his housing benefit had been cut, he lives on £53 per week. The next interviewee was Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was defending the changes. The interviewer then asked him if he could could live on this amount. He replied: 'If I had to, I would.'

"This petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the Conservative Party's current mantra that 'We are all in this together'.

"This would mean a 97 per cent reduction in [the minister's] current income, which is £1,581.02 a week, or £225 a day after tax."

Mr Bennett earned £2,700 last year (around £50 a week) and has had to borrow money after his housing benefit was cut to £57 a week. Even after tax credits he is left with just £53 a week after paying rent and bills.

He is, say critics of the government, and example of millions of working people who are forced into poverty by austerity and underemployment. But the trader still features in government employment figures.

Because of low pay, 40 per cent of workers in the government department implementing Universal Credit will be forced to claim it. Similarly, housing benefit is being used to subsidise profiteering landlords due to lack of rent controls and lack of affordable social housing.

The coalition claims that a record number of people are in work in the UK, but researchers, charities and unions point out that the unemployment figure of 2.6 million grossly misrepresents the true situation, which is rendered far worse by temporary, part-time, seasonal and low level self-employment.

The IDS petition is being spread across social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, and looks destined to become one of the fastest growing so far this year.

It puts yet more political pressure on Mr Duncan Smith, whose policies are accused of being mean, punitive and ineffective.

He has also been under fire for misusing statistics, for living lives rent free in a £2 million country home with at least four spare bedrooms while introducing a Bedroom Tax for those on housing benefit, for being rude and abrasive in media interviews, for betraying the people of Easterhouse in Glasgow where he promised to "make poverty a priority" some years ago, for ignoring Catholic Social Teaching on social justice, and for false claims in his past CV.

Late last year, Mr Duncan Smith's claims about tax credit were analysed closely and described as "discredited" by Channel 4 News 'Fact Check'.

* View and sign the Duncan Smith petition here: http://tinyurl.com/makeIDSpoor

* War on Welfare petition to trigger a parliamentary debate: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

* 'Duncan Smith and the moral vacuum at the heart of our politics', by Jill Segger: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18272

* More on IDS from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/iainduncansmith

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