It makes me feel like I have a voice, solidarity, I’m not alone in the financial situation I’m in.
Tuesday 25th April
Sun is shining, sky is blue and its a warm day in Nottingham.
I can still hear the birds chirping which makes me think of my family, my nest and how strong we are emotionally, financially, mentally and spiritually. Today I will take the bird as an example to navigate my self throughout the day. I have to find the courage to care, protect and provide for those around me.
I have a job and roll to fulfill so I have to try and do it well. Today is a good day emotionally and mentally. I am not allowing my mind to think about my debts, bills or future. Today I will think about the here and now.
I enjoy being part of Changing Realities, it's my safe platform to discuss concerns relating to my income and my struggles.
I feel valued and treated with respect. The group is diverse, we all have things in common and share them together.
The CH R Team is super helpful and great to work with!
I really enjoy being part of Changing Realities, and think the team do their best to make participant involvement as democratic as possible.
Changing Realities is also an excellent opportunity for me to raise issues concerning being on UC without impunity because when I'm in Zoom meetings with other participants, who are people from all over the country, with similar views to me, I don't feel as though I'm fighting the battle all alone anymore.
The only thing I can't quite understand is how quickly the time on the project is going!
It's great having a voice that influences things - and to have recognition and renumeration in kind for the time spent. As a disabled working class woman, I often feel invisible and overlooked. The CR project makes me feel valued - thank you!
I have emailed my Conservative MP about raising benefits in line with inflation and scrapping the cap... not expecting a decent response to be honest, but at least I feel I'm doing something., fighting against the status quo. Joined Child Poverty Action Group too. I'm a Careers Advisor now; awful as it is for us struggling to pay all our bills and buy food... it's worse for single parents or those who are struggling to find employment.
For a while now I've been searching for somewhere to channel my frustrations and concerns constructively and effectively. When I first saw the link to the Changing Realities project on social media, I knew instantly, it was something I could and should get involved with. Changing Realities satisfies my need to express a dissatisfaction with systems which urgently need real change.
As a disabled parent, and grandparent, I already know of struggle, hardship and lack. Lack of physical control is demoralising enough. I may lack mobility, but I do possess the wherewithal to speak out about matters important to me. And I have been listened to and my situation acknowledged and addressed.
For someone like me there's no direct control over what is happening in this country and if I can change that by taking positive action to address matters which effect millions, as well as myself all the better for everyone. I'm driven to speak out through shared experience. Something seriously has to change for the better sooner than later.
This year has already been an immense battle to keep afloat financially, emotional and physically. We've been living in economy mode for as long as I can remember. My hospitality has been taken advantage of and abused as my middle child struggled in a difficult relationship along with their own parenting responsibilities. Hence my youngest and I have already had to stretch our money as far as it would go, prior to the current cost of living difficulties. My experience is relevant and real.
Living with a pain condition means not only am I unable to mobilise but I also lack energy as pain is draining. In fact pain is an attention magnet I have to live with but being cold and hungry within your own home is surely not. I'm dreading the heating and shopping bills this winter.
Also, we are still recovering from the expense of moving home in April. This was due to a non-fault eviction from the home we had loved living in for 16 years.
The landlord needed to sell up. As a tenant, I had no rights no protection. We were seriously compromised every which way we turned. My youngest was due to sit exams and my disability, a major barrier, as no practical help to pack and move. Other than throw ourselves on the mercy of the local authority, which couldn't proceed without correct official papers, there wasn't much choice but to leave the old place quick. The landlord purposely avoided the inconvenience and expense of serving us with official papers. He offered us the opportunity to stay put longer, but for more rent with no safety net when the time was up. Consequently, we took the best we could as soon as we could.
We feel we've had more than our fair share of bad luck and misfortune in recent years. Now with a cost-of-living crisis to contend with I long to be able to have my heating operating the 7 hours plus per day we used to enjoy from Oct to March. We've cut back on everything we possibly can cut back on. The laundry the vacuuming the cooking.
My youngest is required to wear business clothes for school. Some of these come at the expense of having dry-cleaning bills. Given the choice I would have shopped around for machine washable items. We've not gone to the dry cleaners yet.
As winter approaches, we are faced with uncertainty and anxiety. We can only estimate how efficient the heating system here actually is. The oven is proving expensive to cook in. I'm not sure we can stretch to buying an alternative cooking appliance. Also, due to disability, I need to buy more pre-prepared foods or order more expensive online groceries with delivery charges. I receive extra to cover this cost but lately I've noticed how little, my money actually gets us. It's really quite depressing to see our money chewed up so readily.
Despite anticipating financial strain since April, we are still no better prepared. Situations cropped up for my family during recent months. Any rainy-day money I had spare, now gone.
Stress makes my condition worse. There's an existing 'smart' meter here, say no more. Even my youngest is mortified looking at the clock tot up pennies into pounds. Everything we use is associated with its cost nowadays. We've been sharing the same bed to save money heating 2 bedrooms.
To term it a choice between 'heating or eating' is a massive understatement. As mentioned, not only have we cut back on shopping, but as a natural consequence of preparing for increased costs we cut back on laundry, ironing anything we can cut back on really. During the summer, cutting back on showers caused a health crisis I can't afford to repeat. I've since found the economy switch on the shower but even so I'm far less inclined to bother having a cold shower within a cold house. besides, I don't really go out or see anyone day to day anyway. Ultimately, at the back of your mind there's the smart meter racking up the cost all the time.
Daytime, it's easier to keep my coat on at home. Heat the person not the home. I've been filling a flask with boiling water to use later during the day. Even then I question whether it's more expensive to boil larger quantities of water than it would be boiling 1 cup, or do I microwave it to save pennies?
Bottom line is, I personally find there's simply not enough clarity about anything regarding the cost of living crisis. There's obviously next to no official guidance either from what I can tell. Yet here we are on the cusp of winter speeding full steam ahead into the most expensive time of year for the vast majority of folk. In addition, it's not only about a focus on heating or eating it's also the knock-on effect of increased groceries that is causing people to go hungry etc. I tend to eat the out-of-date products to avoid waste as is.
Not once have I heard a clear explanation in layman's terms of what £2500 for an average household actually gets you for your money? Has there been something publicised and I've missed it? In my opinion it's irresponsible on the part of the energy companies and the government. I'm no mathematician able to calculate watts and usage based on what we didn't spend here last year. In fact, last year we were on prepayment meters, in a 3 bed semi, 3 people. It's impossible to speculate on usage.
Last month an energy surveyor carried out an efficiency survey on the property. At least he gave me an indication of this property being lower than 'average' whatever 'average' in terms of gas and electric usage actually is? It's beside the point. We are all still paying insane amounts for our energy.
I tried to be proactive. I contacted my energy company to check I was on the cheapest tariffs. They offer electric blankets and thermal imaging cameras to customers but the process for applying is bewildering and has escaped me. It's actually warmer to sit in the car but it's been with the mechanic a full week already with no sign of its return any time soon. This brings more unwelcome expense to factor in. Until its repaired, I'm housebound unless I pay for taxis. There's currently no bus service close enough for me to access independently. It's been the case for 4 months now. Ironically it's down to works on a replacement gas mains nearby.
Feels like we are going backwards in this country. When I was growing up we didn't have central heating on often but least there was always a fire on in the living room to warm ourselves on. It breaks my heart to hear my youngest's remarks when they offered to use their own money to pay for themselves at a birthday celebration for their cousin.
Typically I'm a fairly resilient person and bounce back from situations but its long since become tiring as I'm preoccupied with doing all I can to save money whilst consumed by staying warm. I'm deeply concerned for us all. Are the government looking to give us the final push into destitution and depression?
Posed with the idea of having to endure and sustain living with these increased costs for a long time to come I worry about the effects on mental health of my youngest. I have a good deal of self-awareness myself however it's becoming more difficult to keep compromising our sanity like this i.e. dithering over how far our finances will continue to stretch.
In honour of #ChallengePovertyWeek in England & Wales, here's another poem I wrote:
People Of Worth
I felt productive today.
But the gnawing pain of Fenella,
My inner critic’s voice in my brain
Whispering guilt never quite goes away
Chronic illness is thought a drain.
The resultant disability affects my aim
Of being economically active again.
Yet I’m someone worthy of being helped
When, sometimes, I can barely help myself
As neurons, run ragged by disease
Fire up & stop me;
Feeling ill at ease,
They refuse my aching quest
To push though.
Spasticity calling all the shots, gleeful,
“Ha! Look at you!
You’re weak, you’re lame”
(Fenella’s voice, shrieking in disdain!)
“You’ll never regain
Your competence, your confidence
Your sense of wholeness
Maybe not today, brain, but here’s the thing
You forget - I still have my voice.
I’ll shout, I’ll chant, I’ll sing
(Like no one's listening!)
“So what? I’m still here!
I’ve survived every flaming obstacle that has ever come my way
I deserve dignity & respect
Just like the 14 million plus others, who
Found life turned upside down instantaneously.
You see, Fenella, dear
Adversity is the forge
Upon which my comrades & I
Will hammer out our truths to Power.
Upon their anvils of incredulity.
To those who fail to listen,
Do not mistakenly dismiss us contemptuously.
Our voices, like continuous bouts of tinnitus, will ring out
That we & our communities, are still worthy
Forever bound through hope, courage, love & unity.
Ignore us at your peril!
The last few weeks I’ve been super busy talking about the cost of living crisis. It’s sad that lived experiences and real life stories may fall on deaf ears because there is no operating government in Northern Ireland. The orange and green war continues and it’s such a shambles but at the detriment of innocent people. We need an effective government who get us, who listen and who will stand up and fight against poverty. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the outcome will be but winter is looking bleak.
I wanted to share the absolutely fabulous time I had on Sunday 25th September at the Labour Party Conference Fringe Event in Liverpool as hosted by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) where we discussed the question "Put the kids first: how can a Labour government make child poverty a priority again?"
It's so important to ensure our stories are heard, because after last Friday's mini-budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is beyond doubt that we the poorest people in our society have no worth to the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, or the Chancellor, Kwazi Kwarteng as they chose to put corporate greed above citizen's needs.
I took part in Covid Realities and found that it was both interesting to take part and also impactful to greater society. As such, as an individual that fits the type of participants you are looking for, I felt again I could make a difference and help your research by participating. It also gives me the feeling my voice is being heard by someone as often, it is us who are struggling through life that are often ignored.