I’m definitely slowing down; it’s the nearly the end of May and I’ve still got seven hundred pages to work through of the CPAG handbook.
I’ve been struck this time by something I really ought to have noticed before now, which is the system’s gradual, creeping dependence on imaginary money: ‘notional’ income, earnings or capital, ‘deemed’ income, treating loans as income, attributing to people the benefits they haven’t claimed, ‘underlying’ entitlements, treating payments that are owed to a claimant as if they had actually been paid, and so on. For those of you who habitually don’t spend their time curled up with the Handbook, here are a few examples:
If your main work is self-employment but your earnings are low, your UC may be worked out on higher earnings than you have. (p 119)
You may be treated as having notional income if … you work free of charge or for less than the going rate ( p 129)
If you fail to apply for income to which you are entitled without have to fulfil further conditions, you are treated as having it from the date you could have obtained it. (p 451)
Capital (unless it is disregarded) is assumed to provide a set rate of income – called ‘deemed income’ (p 477)
You may be treated as having notional capital if:
- you deliberately deprive yourself of capital in order to claim or increase benefit
- you fail to apply for capital which is available to you
- you are a sole trader or a partner in a business which is a limited company (p 501)
You are treated as having ‘notional earnings’ if it is not possible to work out your actual earnings from employment or self-employment when your claim is decided (p 564)
Student loans for maintenance count as income if you could get a loan by taking ‘reasonable steps’, even if you choose not to apply for one. (p 871)
The basic principle is that if people’s income is too complicated, too unstable or too uncertain to declare, the process of means-testing is going to plough on regardless. They may not actually have any income, but we can still pretend that they have one. It’s a wonder that we’ve not thought more about make-believe food. It’s the obvious answer to foodbanks.