Cost of living crisis: Sheffield families not using their heating and skipping meals to save money
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In a column for The Star, Patrick, manager of the Pitsmoor Adventure Playground projects, writes:
“The vast majority of the families whom we serve, work with and for, at Pitsmoor Adventure Playground have always struggled financially.
Now with the effects of gas and electric prices having risen by an estimated 54 per cent, these families, paying their bills following the rise, are suffering under this increased squeeze.
Many, despite having young children, (a sizeable number with medical conditions and ‘disabilities’), are being obliged to not use their heating at all. Water charges too have gone up and Council Tax, despite the rebate of £150 is further exacerbating the adverse impact upon families.
It has been the case for a number of years now, that we have seen food poverty increasing and the numbers of families we help with food parcels has expanded year upon year. In more recent times this has risen triple fold. The need for us to directly provide clothes and footwear to children, and young people, is also increasing, as families are falling into levels of poverty that we have not seen to this extent, since the early 1980s.
The Food Foundation in 2022 identified that nationally, 4.7 million adults, or 8.8 per cent of households, experienced food insecurity, which was an increase from 7.3 per cent in July 2021. However, the level of food insecurity in our area of Sheffield outstrips this massively. A recent survey conducted by us in our immediate local area, as part of our service planning, highlighted that 69 per cent of respondent families are now saying food bills are unaffordable for them, as opposed to 34 per cent in March 2021.
Parents report going without meals themselves in order to ensure that their children get at least one nourishing meal a day. Acquiring nourishing quality affordable food, as the cost-of-living crisis tightens its grip, is essential but proving problematic.
Food, water, heat, light, clothing and somewhere to live are basic human rights and now these basic necessities are becoming beyond the means and reach of vulnerable children, young people and families.
Under investment by Government in the North has further exacerbated these problems and the cost-of-living crisis will widen the economic divide between northern and southern England, the Centre for Progressive Policy has found too. Of the 31 areas across the country most vulnerable to rising fuel, food and energy prices, 19 are in the north and another eight are in the midlands.
The Chancellor’s Spring Statement, failed to uprate benefits by inflation or properly address skyrocketing costs. Him waiting until the autumn Budget, if it comes at all, may be too late for our vulnerable Sheffield families, who are already suffering at the hard end of these inequalities.
As part of our city’s public health and efficacy planning we need urgently to recognise that we are in a cost of living state of crisis and to thrash out how Sheffield is going to deal with this and when.”