There is a lot of frustration from women who work within the working poor structure, as they feel that they are not supported by the system. Many women are in Low-paid work therefore struggled to make end meet on low incomes often without any access to help/support with their bills. They noted that there is a significant lack of financial support available to working families. Given the significant rise in inflation (approximately 10%in October 2022) and cost of living pressures, those in low-paid employment struggle to balance budgets. The Household Expenditure Tracker, developed by the Consumer Council Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research, has shown that those on the lowest incomes had just £29 per week left after paying bills and other living costs.
These Families are finding it impossible to pay their bills, buy fuel, food, gas, electricity, clothing etc. The constant rising costs from Energy Suppliers, Mortgage increases and ever-changing costs in supermarkets have made it almost impossible for working families as well, many find themselves using credit cards to replace white Good Items in their home or help with car repairs. These families didn’t qualify for the one-off Cost of Living payments that were being given out by Government to help alleviate some of the financial pressures. Being in employment does not guarantee a better standard of living poverty is poverty. A lot of these working families are accessing food-banks and community groups for support because once they pay their bills they have no money left for essentials.
I did a small experiment in 2021 to see the difference £20 could make and how far it could go, my shopping contained 29 items and totaled £19.88 I created a mini shop with breakfast, lunch and dinner for 5 days from a well-known supermarket, 2 years later I did that exact same shopping list yesterday and it now costs £27.68 that’s a difference of £7.80 and an increase of 35%.
The community and Voluntary sector have now become responsible for keeping these families from destitution due to a lack of Government and lack of Funding. It has become the role of all community organisations to initiate and facilitate Social Supermarkets, Foodbanks, Breakfast Clubs, School Uniform Schemes, Winter Clothing Schemes etc. We are constantly trying to access new avenues of support from Self Fundraising activities to private donations and Funding organisations outside N.I. This is adding extra work to an already over-worked Community & Voluntary Sector, we are stretched to our limits and feeling the pressure immensely. The people of N.I have been abandoned by their Government to a system that is failing them in every way possible, without proper support these women have no chance of changing these circumstances or moving past any of these barriers.