Why Sheffielders fear poverty and mental health will get worse in the next few months
With temporary support measures put in place during the pandemic due to come to an end by September, Sheffielders have spoken out about the “looming poverty and mental health crisis”.
The furlough scheme, the eviction ban on renters, and the £20 uplift for those receiving universal credit, are just some of the temporary protections that were put in place to support people through the pandemic.
As the measures come to an end, it has brought increasing fear to those who face potential unemployment and homelessness in the next few months.
Marie, who asked us only to use her first name, said: “I was let go from my job at the start of the pandemic and am now on universal credit. I do a few hours as a cleaner so the extra £20 has really helped me survive through quite a tough time. When that stops, I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent. I’m trying not to think about it too much but you can’t not. I’m dreading it.”
Roger Taylor added: “I was made redundant. Now on universal credit and can’t get a job. I’m no spring chicken. People don’t want to hire a 50 something year old man. Going from a relatively stable lifestyle to so much uncertainty has been a real adjustment and there's no doubt worse to come - a looming poverty and mental health crisis is what we have to look forward to.”
Many people – including freelancers, job changers and those refusing furlough – have not received any financial support from the Government at all throughout the pandemic and who are facing the same struggles. They are part of the ‘Excluded’ community which is calling for more government action.
Sheffield was named the low pay capital of the UK in 2017 and it was reported in 2013’s Fairness Commission that there was a difference of up to ten years in life expectancy between the south west and the north east of the city.
The city council has committed to making Sheffield “free from poverty” and devised Sheffield Tackling Poverty Framework – 2020-2030, which builds on the 2015-2018 Tackling Poverty Strategy.
The framework seeks to “set out a clear vision and define our priorities in a way that will fit with how we work and the scale of the problem” and “to reflect on what we have done so far to mitigate the worst impacts of poverty for Sheffield people and to use this to inform our next steps”.
It has been reported that poverty has increased in Sheffield and will continue to do so.
Where Government welfare is concerned, the richest fifth of households are expected to be around £390 a year better off by 2023-24, and the poorest fifth of households are projected to be £400 a year worse off, with women from ethnic minorities being most negatively affected.
Poverty is said to be the cause of 50 percent of all mental health issues in the UK, which speakers from various groups and organisations recently addressed at a recent Festival of Debate event.
In association with Citizens Advice Sheffield, the event discussed the need for new responses to the intersectional problems of spiraling poverty and their effect on health outcomes.