Panel Member Blog: The Cost of Living Crisis and Increasing Poverty

During Challenge Poverty Week 2022, we are using our blog and social media to give a platform to members of the Commission’s Experts by Experience Panel who will be sharing their personal views and insights into poverty throughout the week.

The Commission’s principles commit us to amplifying the voices of experts by experience. Contributions from individuals reflect their personal perspectives and opinions are not necessarily the views of our Experts by Experience Panel or the Commission as a whole.

This blog was written for Day 1 of Challenge Poverty Week 2022 by the Commission’s Experts by Experience Panel member Zahada. The theme for the day is ‘The Cost of Living’. #TurnTheTide

In Scotland we believe in justice and compassion. We share a moral responsibility to make sure everyone has a decent standard of living no matter who they are and where they come from.

We have been hit by a tsunami, causing a surge in poverty following the Covid-19 pandemic and more recently the cost of living crisis, plunging more and more people into absolute poverty. The cost of living crisis is impacting, and will continue to impact, our basic human rights to an adequate standard of living –  access to food, housing and heating – health, education and much much more. This cost of living crisis is affecting those families on low incomes, on benefits, disabled people, single parent families, and unemployed people and pensioners, restricting them from making the basic choices between eating, heating their homes and providing essentials for themselves and their children.

Scottish Government statistics show that 1 in 4 of Scotland’s children are officially recognised as living in poverty. 68% of these come from households where somebody is working. We have all witnessed over the years the UK Government’s austerity measures, years of benefit freezes, and incomes of the lowest paid in society increasing by very little. Society is currently suffering the impact of these things, then Covid-19 and now the cost of living crisis. More and more of us are reaching out to 3rd sector organisations running food banks. I don’t think many of us had heard of a food bank 10 years ago, but now in 2022 there are more food banks in the United Kingdom than branches of McDonalds.

Being a disabled single parent who suffers from chronic pain for many years and unable to take up employment has meant I have had to rely on benefits. With family dynamics changing a few years ago, my income halved. Along came Covid-19 and more recently the cost of living crisis, where prices of food and pretty much everything else is dramatically still on the increase. Fuel prices have more than doubled this last year, making it extremely difficult to warm up my house for even half hour a day. Living in the cold is making my health worse as my bones hurt even more as the temperature falls.

As a parent I cannot remember the last time I ate 3 meals a day and taking strong painkillers is causing further health issues to  develop, physically and mentally. Repairs need to be done around the house which I am unable to afford, which is topped off by a weekly visit to the food bank.  Having a few pounds spare a week to choose to go out for a coffee with a friend or going out to the cinema with the kids is a thing of the past.

I feel as if I am existing solely in order to protect my children, rather than living my life and making my own choices.

Preventative approaches to poverty could increase incomes through social security, benefits and employment. This is a simple concept which our governments are failing to grasp or respond to. If people have enough to meet their household expenditure, poverty would be non-existent. To reduce poverty in the long term, both the public and private sector should use preventative approaches to make sure fewer people fall into poverty, rather than just reacting when they are already in poverty.

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