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.