OK OK - so I did a poverty rant below, but it's not just me I am talking about - here's the library's synopsis of Polly Toynbee's Hard Work: life in low-pay Britain:
"Could you live on the minimum wage? Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee took up the challenge, living in one of the worst council estates in Britain and taking whatever was on offer at the job centre. What she discovered shocked even her. In telesales and cake factories, as a hospital porter or a dinner-lady, she worked at breakneck pace for cut-rate wages, alongside working mothers and struggling retirees. The service sector is now administered by seedy agencies offering no prospects, no screening and no commitment. Most damning of all, Toynbee found that despite the optimism of Tony Blair's New Deal, the poorly paid effectively earn less than they did thirty years ago. Britain has the lowest social spending and the highest poverty in Europe. As the income gap between top and bottom has widened, so social mobility has shuddered to a halt. The low-paid are caught in an economic double bind that victimises them and shames the rest of us. "
For what it's worth, and in case you think I am exaggerating - in 2002-3 I earned £284 per week (and after super-annuation, tax and national insurance that's a take-home pay of £216 per 5 day week, even including weekend work and my First Aid allowance.) So I am above the official poverty line. DON'T SPEND IT ALL AT ONCE! (And more importantly - comparing myself to show biz friends - hey, they pay me to be on holiday five weeks a year, which never happened when I was self-employed - and they even pay me if I'm off sick.) LUXURY!