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NOW CLOSED: Could you and your family live off £85 a week? Take part in the Unum challenge and find out. There are 10 lots of £100 Amazon vouchers to be won.

(103 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 04-Jul-12 11:44:39

Unum, the Income Protection providers, are looking for 50 Mumsnetters and their families to take part in the Unum Challenge. You may remember we recently conducted a survey for Unum with regards to managing your finances. The results to one question revealed that only 28% of Mumsnetters think their family would be able to live off £85 per week - so Unum now want to put this to the test! Last year they ran a project with a blogger and you can read how she got on here and here.

How would you cope if your salary (or your partners salary) was reduced to £85 a week? Why £85 a week? - because this is all that you'd be entitled to if you were unable to work through illness or injury and you were receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). (Of course you may also be entitled to sick pay from your employer or via an income protection scheme).

The aim of the challenge is to show how families cope with living on this amount - the challenges faced and to explore what families see a priority expenditure and what can be dropped. Please note quotes from the challengers may be used on the Unum pages on Mumsnet.

For this challenge Unum are looking for families who have at lease one income earner in the household - and we are looking for those with a range of incomes, a range of family sizes and both those for whom this challenge sounds ok and those who think it's impossible.

If you are selected to take part then Unum say "we would like you and your family to see how you'd cope if one of the wages in your household was reduced to £85 for one week and to tell us about your experiences on a feedback thread. If you live in a household with just one wage, this represents a stiff challenge, but even in households with two wage earners it may well make you think more about what you're spending".

Challengers will need to give diary-style feedback on a thread of what they spent and on what - and how they managed to cut down on spending and what areas where impossible to cut down on. We'd like challengers to behave as normally as possible but to really think about what is being spent and what could be reduced/ removed from the weekly budget. You'd also need to consider other resources you may have access to including savings, benefits, loans and family support.

The challenge will start next Monday 9th July and last a week. Challengers will need to add feedback ideally three times a week across the week along with a final summary of their thoughts and a conclusion as to whether they passed the challenge or not. You don't have to reveal personal spending habits/ income on the thread if you don't want to - and you are welcome to name change.

Please only apply if you are around w/c 9 July to add feedback.

Research conducted by Unum shows 64% of UK private companies only offer their employers SSP if they are off work for longer than four consecutive days. This is the legal minimum they are required to offer by law, entitling employees to only £85.85 a week (in this current tax year), rather than their usual salary.

As a thank you for taking part, as well as hopefully saving some money, Unum can offer £100 of Amazon vouchers to 10 lucky challengers who add feedback as required. You will need to give feedback three times during the week plus a final round up of your thoughts.

So if you'd like to take part in the challenge, please sign up here. It's open to all UK Mumsnetters.

Thanks and good luck!

BoffinMum Thu 05-Jul-12 04:52:50

Btw having a thrift blog, I know how to live off that kind of money, but frankly if you do this for more then a few months in any normal situation your health would start to bomb.

Iteotwawki Thu 05-Jul-12 05:30:16

Given that my rent alone is £250 per week there is no way I could cope on £85.

I can't imagine many people would be able to cover basic housing costs on that much, let alone budgeting for monthly bills, food, transport etc.

InMySpareTime Thu 05-Jul-12 07:09:32

My DH was off work sick for 3 months with pneumonia a couple of years back, but he still got full pay from his super lovely boss who didn't even put him as off sick as he said DH was "doing as much work as he could" even when he couldn't climb the stairs
Logically, I shouldn't lose his wages for this experiment, as he would still be on full pay contractually for 12 weeks, then 75% pay in perpetuity if he remained ill.
But my wages are only £150 a week anyway, so not a major factor in household finances.
Could we manage on £65 a week drop in income? Easily.
Am I ever thankful that DH has a brilliant sick pay package? Definitelygrin.
In fact, given he spent a month in hospital, we had more money coming in as Bupa paid out £100 a night for hospital stays.

TheHumancatapult Thu 05-Jul-12 07:21:52


Know you reckoned have £50 a week spare on your sums but have you allowed the week a child needs new shoes or a school trip or uniform or bigger than expected bill or a cooker or washer or something breaks Down

For example my ds2 got a letter for gcse trip in one week they want £38 add in 2 trips to ds3 school for things this week that's £44 ( have to go on train )

Doing it week after week is misarable far easier doing it for a week and thinking wow this is easy

TheHumancatapult Thu 05-Jul-12 07:27:44

Oh and in the 1990 last time around IS with 2am was £78 a week plus had another £15

Oo most my rent was covered bar £10 a week

And the rest had to cover everything gas /Electric as in winter your at home all day it adds up including nappys and I can tell you it is soul destroying . I did washing by hand for almost 3 months before I could afford new washer and remember sobbing with worry most night .

dementedma Thu 05-Jul-12 07:28:27

genine question here on some people's costs.
£299 a month for a lease car
£2200 for child care
£250 a week for rent.......

Where on earth do you all live? Are these London prices? Or do you just have fabulous homes/cars? grin
I have £100 a week mortgage and£120 a month car loan. Mind you, its a flat and a small car.

InMySpareTime Thu 05-Jul-12 07:50:00

We overpay the mortgage, so if we had a drop in income, we could take a payment holiday for a couple of months. We also have savings for 6 months income, which would give us time to adjust our lifestyle. Our gas and electricity bills are technically negative (£42 a month, and we get around £150 every quarter for electricity we generate via solar PV).

Groovee Thu 05-Jul-12 08:00:19

8 weeks ago we were in this exact position except dh wasn't even entitled to the £80 a week that jsa would have been. Tax credits wouldn't help because it was based on last years earnings, child benefit was all we got.

InMySpareTime Thu 05-Jul-12 08:01:26

Was he not entitled to SSP?

Indith Thu 05-Jul-12 08:04:13

TheHuman not as such, I was wondering what I was missing though as those calculations are with current level of CTC so if we really were on £85 a week CTC would be more so I can easily feed the family on the £50 then the additional CTC would be able to be saved for clothes etc and of course the dcs would get free school meals. (though that doesn't cover boiler breaking down, car repairs etc). But then it can't be that simple, I know it isn't that simple which is why the whole task is unrealistic.

InMySpareTime Thu 05-Jul-12 09:22:19

Indith I don't think it was £85 per family member, it was £85 per wage earner. Does that make the difference?

PostBellumBugsy Thu 05-Jul-12 09:56:31

£85 per week is a total annual income of £4,420. There is no way a family can live off that, unless they are rent free & have some of their utilities paid to.

If I am wrong & there are people out there paying rent, utilities, clothing & food for a family on a total annual income of £4,420 - let me know.

I don't believe there are, & this is why I think this piece of research is flawed.

nailak Thu 05-Jul-12 09:59:25

demented no i dont live a fabulous lifestyle, my house is rubbish

Glitterknickaz Thu 05-Jul-12 11:34:12

Unum are part of ATOS. 70% of their decisions are overturned at Tribunal. People declared fit for work by ATOS have died waiting for their appeal.

They're involved in the decimation of our Welfare system. I'm shocked at HQ's involvement tbh.

gazzalw Thu 05-Jul-12 11:51:24

I'm assuming that this doesn't include utilities etc?

CouthyMow Thu 05-Jul-12 11:51:41

Living off £85 for ONE week is going to be VERY unrepresentative of the REALITY of living on that amount, week in, week out.

You are unlikely to have your cooker, washing machine, fridge freezer, kettle, all break in ONE WEEK, AND have your DC's grow and need new clothes and shoes, and there will be bills that can be put off for ONE week, that couldn't be put off for a YEAR, if you had to live on this amount EVERY year.

Are UNUM doing this research to try to say that SSP is too high? Because while it might be easy-ish to do for ONE week, to do it for a year would be considerably harder...

CouthyMow Thu 05-Jul-12 11:54:43

My thoughts too, Glitter.

Unum. <<Shudders>>

Do some Googling. Seriously.

Then come back on this thread and tell me whether you think MN should be trying to help them with research...

gazzalw Thu 05-Jul-12 12:00:27

I was discussing this with a parent. We decided it would be possible but probably only if you put off buying non-essentials which will need to be bought at some point. For example since Sunday DW has bought DS a new rucksack for secondary school (£10), DCs' friend a birthday pressie (£10), contributed money towards DS's teacher's leaving pressie (£5), paid for DD's school trip (£8.50) and that was all twixt Monday and Wednesday - that's nearly half of £85 weekly budget blown on items that had to be bought although not essential to life.... Personally I think it's going to prove to be incredibly difficult...hmm

CouthyMow Thu 05-Jul-12 12:10:30

Teacher's leaving prezzie - non-essential, it's nice but not necessary. Prezzie for DC's friend - non-essential, don't go to the party. School trip - non-essential, a luxury not necessary when faced with a choice between food and trip. New rucksack - non-essential, sew the old one up. My DC's have had the same school bags for 3 years now.

gazzalw - Those are the decisions that a lot of us have to make in situations like this!

SerialKipper Thu 05-Jul-12 12:24:15

Unum Chairman Ward E. Graffam: 'The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.'

Thank you, Private Eye, issue 874, 16 June 1995, referenced in Soundings.

Unum have been up to their oxters in the dismantlement of the UK welfare state for well over a decade. They were a significant presence at the 2001 Woodstock conference on redefining disability as social deviance. Long article here: "A Tale of two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Government and Disability Charities". Search it for Unum if you don't have time to read it all - but actually they form a major part.

Many of us here are living that redefinition of illness and disability. People too sick to be eligible for JSA are told they aren't sick enough for Incapacity Benefit/ESA. People who are defined as too sick to work by the new narrower definitions are being sent to do workfare (my Jobcentre recently confirmed this to me in person). Carers are being told they will no longer count as carers, although their caring load hasn't changed. And because they aren't carers not only will they not get Carers' Allowance, they will actually be treated as unemployed and penalised if they do not seek full time work.

Why are Unum doing a poorly defined "challenge" on MN? They want you to get scared and buy their products. It's a double win for them really: reduce state benefit payouts and people will go private to fill the gap; redefine disability and the private insurance company doesn't have to pay out either.

Here's p4 of Unum's 2011 Annual Report:
"We also sponsored research in the UK, where consumers face a very similar challenge. With only 11 percent of Britons covered by private disability insurance, the vast majority rely on the government to provide financial support if they become incapacitated. In spite of the huge cost to the government of providing these benefits, however, the level of protection is inadequate for most families to meet their basic needs... As in the US, private sector coverage can better protect the individual while at the same time relieve some of the burden on the government through reducing public assistance outlays.... [my note - no mention of the fact that 'public assistance' is National Insurance that consumers have already paid premiums for]

"... I continue to believe that Unum is uniquely positioned among benefit providers to capitalize on these opportunities.

"Since the value of our products and services extends well beyond the individual, and we now see the impact to public policy, we have taken a much more active role in creating awareness among policymakers in both the US and UK about the the importance of employer-sponsored benefits - especially to those at lower and middle income levels who often lack access to this critical protection.."

Glitterknickaz Thu 05-Jul-12 12:28:45

I think I feel a tweet coming on....

gazzalw Thu 05-Jul-12 12:34:30

Well the rucksack is for secondary school and has to conform to colour regulations so it is essential I'm afraid to say.

I guess we could play the "I can't afford to pay for school trip!" card with Head as I gather payments are voluntary but I'm guessing that she would probably think we were joking...

I don't think we're going to like this very much at all if we are chosen. I already get the impression it will mean not having any type of a life at all!???

SerialKipper Thu 05-Jul-12 12:36:17

p5 of 2011 Unum Annual Report
"Regardless of the environment, looking ahead we believe we have outstanding opportunities to profitably grow our business in selected markets...

"As in the past, if we execute our plans well we will continue to generate excess capital. Our track record shows that we have been very effective in returning that capital to shareholders, and we expect to continue this in 2012."

So there you have it.

You can have a non-profit National Insurance system, where premiums are hypothecated and which exists for purpose of supporting the nation's old, ill and vulnerable.

Or you can have a private insurance system which exists for the purpose of making profit for shareholders, and in which the old, ill and vulnerable are simply a means to an end.

(NB Under both systems non-NI funds will also end up being used to support some of the poorest - the government being insurer of last resort in both cases. Now how does that sound familiar - oh yes, the banks: privatise profit, socialise risk.)

Glitterknickaz Thu 05-Jul-12 13:39:28

Yep, Unum scares people into taking out its insurance whilst reducing Welfare. Nice eh?

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 05-Jul-12 15:52:10

Hi all - thanks to everyone who has applied so far....we'll be closing this off tomorrow am so if you're interested in signing up to take part please do so by then.

Glitterknickaz - Unum have asked me to post the following in response to your comments about ATOS "Unum UK and ATOS are two separate companies and have always been so. We currently have no relationship with ATOS Ltd, although did provide Income Protection to ATOS Ltd for ATOS's staff until September 2009"

Also - there is a link to a Q&A about the myths around Unum here:

Unum also say "We only sell group Income Protection policies, which are bought by employers to provide to cover for their employees as part of their employee benefits package. These are usually fully funded by the employer, so employees are not required to pay any premiums in these circumstances."

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