Struggling to survive on £10 a week - Refugee Council
July 1, 2008

Struggling to survive on £10 a week

By Sinead, a campaigner from Edinburgh

A recent story in the Guardian reported that many of us struggle to come back from lunch without a £5 hole in our pocket.  What then of the thousands of failed asylum seekers in the UK, whose support is immediately withdrawn when their claim is rejected?

As part of Refugee Week, members of St Marks Edinburgh Amnesty group have taken on the Endurance Challenge: to live on a food budget of £10 for one week, to give some small insight into the destitution faced by those whose claim for safe haven fails.

Sunday night at Tescos – the food budget was quickly spent though the process was painfully slow.  It takes a long time to shop when you’re out to max every penny. Cheese spread or value cheddar?  And you quickly learn that it’s not just food you can’t afford – ethics cost.  Eggs from happy hens are 40p more expensive; Israeli spuds are on special offer; New Zealand apples are in abundance, reducing their price but doing nothing for their carbon footprint.

There are hidden costs too.  How do you get to the out-of-town hypermarket with its bargain buys?  Transport needs a budget.  The slimmed down budget may well result in a slimmer you on a reduced calorie diet.  But longer term health will also be affected by limited fresh fruit and vegetables, not to mention limited social interaction.

I’ll endure this for a week in the knowledge that for some people, this is an existence.