Our cost-of-living case studies look at the real-world impact on people. They’re designed to highlight the decisions that rising prices are forcing people to make. Everyone’s situation is unique and everyone is affected by financial shocks in different ways. We’re trying to bring those ways to life.
Mark, 25, works in the charity sector and lives with friends in London. A politics graduate, Mark spent several months on Universal Credit earlier this year while in-between jobs. During this time he cut back on everything, including the length of the showers he took in his flatshare.
“I got into the system roundabout when the £20 uplift was scrapped, and when fuel poverty campaigns were hitting the headlines again,” he says. “We got a tracker for our water and electricity in our flat, and kept an eye on things like shower times, and our heating.
“Now I notice a world of difference being in full-time employment again, but it was very, very difficult.”
Even now Mark has a permanent job, almost all of his earnings go “towards shouldering the cost-of-living crisis” and paying off student loans.
He is often concerned about money as a result.
“Rent prices are up, and wages haven’t gone up at that rate. It’s still very difficult now that I’m in full-time work. I’m on an entry-level salary, and you find yourself not able to save up. The vast majority of your earnings, and then some, goes towards shouldering the cost-of-living crisis.
“In my case, as it is the case with a lot of my peers, there is that immediate worry and daily anxiety of paying bills, paying for rent and other costs of life.”
Mark is unable to save and is worried about his financial future.
He knows he will have to consider moving away from London due to lack of funds.
“You obviously have this long term anxiety,” he says. “There is a cost-of-living crisis, and the housing crisis. It feels quite similar to climate anxiety for me and my generation – a feeling of impending doom.
“It leaves you thinking 1) should I leave the UK full stop, given the depth of the crisis compared to other countries and the added uncertainty of Brexit? And 2) leaving the cities. London is expensive, and even Manchester isn’t that cheap these days.”
The charity worker, who would be interested in an EWA scheme if offered one, believes employers can do more to create an environment where staff feel safe to raise concerns over both pay and their wider financial worries.
“Employers should be open to employees’ needs and try to be present, whether that’s having regular meetings where concerns on pay, or on management, can be voiced,” he says. “It’s really hard to combat something so structural and ongoing when you can’t even talk about it, when it’s almost taboo or considered a bit strange to talk about pay or struggling. It’s really challenging, so any work that tries to bridge that gap between people’s experiences and actually talking about them is valuable. If an employer can facilitate that happening, it’s brilliant.”