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TheStreet Open House

UK Minister Asked To Make Good On Welfare Pledge

Could a person survive on that? Probably. But he'd be living on pasta and potatoes, with maybe a few eggs and a little bit of ground beef or sausage for protein.

Ubah Abdul, 40, scoffed at Duncan Smith's remark, waving a hand at just a few bags of fruit, bread and other staples that just cost her 41 pounds.

"People will be suffering," she said, warning that tightening the noose too hard could lead to social unrest â¿¿ an unspoken but clear allusion to riots in British cities in 2011.

But it is the totality of the government's austerity program that has activists most concerned. The Trussell Trust, a food bank network, said it had fed more than 300,000 people in the financial year ending in March â¿¿ more than double their previous year's total of 128,000.

The trust's executive chairman, Chris Mould, said political leaders weren't quite grasping how difficult it can be, though he thought it wouldn't hurt for Duncan Smith to walk a mile in their shoes.

Mould points out that many welfare recipients actually have work â¿¿ but it is so low paid they can't make ends meet, and are really exposed when a crisis should hit.

"You don't know what it is like to struggle with the fear of having your washing machine break â¿¿ if you have no capital, you have no savings. You have nowhere to turn where a crisis hits."

A trip Tuesday to a local grocery in London found much sympathy â¿¿ and quick anger at a political establishment that seemed to not understand.

"I'd like to see him put his money where his mouth is," 41-year-old teaching assistant Sharon Howlett said. "I'd like to see him demonstrate that."

___

Danica Kirka can be reached at http://twitter.com/DanicaKirka

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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