It was somehow ironic that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released a report today that shows 700,000 people in Wales (where I live) are living in poverty. More shocking but not surprising was that 51% of this total WORK and therefore are the Working Poor.
My family will be included in these statistics as we are self employed and low paid and get by with the help of working and child tax credits and also care for our youngest son with autism. We are making those everyday choices that other people who are working poor are making too.
We haven't got to the "Heat or Eat" stage like many people who are more unfortunate than ourselves, but we have got to the "Don't put the fire on: get a jumper and a quilt" instead. This autumn has taken a turn for what I personally describe as "Tory Inflicted Narnia" weather wise. However this follows hard upon the Narnia Spring that saw us having to have our heating on until the first week of May 2013. In common with many other rural areas the snow lingered in April and so did the time we needed to keep the heating on.
This is the first year I have put a stop on turning the heating on when the house is cold. We simply cannot afford to put the heating on from September to possibly April 2014. Eight months of heating my house at £100 per month is not an option: not when we pay £110 per month for electricity too on our dual fuel tariff,
Aside from heating, difficult choices are being made in the supermarket weekly. The meat quantities I used to buy are drastically reduced and more minced beef bought as it is so versatile in recipes. You may decide it is a good thing that the treats like crisps and biscuits have been cut entirely. But it's monotonous when you can't have the odd packet of crisps/ biscuits in front of the TV at night. I like drinking chocolate before bed but the price has rocketed so I have cut this out too. Indulgent puddings, fancy cakes, yogurts, all have taken a tumble and my imagination has been fired on how to replace them.. Hence my new blog Big Food for Big families. where I attempt to show how I feed filling nourishing food to bigger families like my own.
There have been occasions, as we are lucky enough to have 2 grandmothers living nearby, where visits to Gran have been arranged "to order". By this I mean the weekly food budget needed a stretch- and a visit to Grans at tea time will feed the kids for 1 evening. Sad but true and I make no apology. I have a sneaky feeling other families with relatives nearby may be doing the same thing on occasion.
When you work you like the Chinese takeaway on a Friday night perhaps, a holiday, decent clothes for the kids - nothing elaborate, just a few things to make work worthwhile. Yet the Working Poor who claim tax credits are being made to feel these odd treats are not allowed for them- it must be nose to the grindstone of Government enforced Dickensian work. Working Poor are being turned against the Poor in society - yet we are all in the same boat vilified by a Government who cannot see beyond their rich privileged noses,
Rhetoric on Universal Credit proposals doesn't help when part time workers, especially those self employed are accused by Mark Hoban of "pursuing hobbies, earning nothing" whilst claiming tax credits. Working is not enough roars the Coalition, - you working poor must work more, longer, harder.
The Governments response is to tell the working poor to work more hours, change jobs, or in our cases cease self employment and find paid employment. This will be more than "encouraged" under plans for Universal Credit where an element of "force" will come in.
The Working Poor have a whole tsunami of problems to face: Bedroom Tax, Council Tax, low pay, caring duties are all in the mix too. It is time Government stopped pouring scorn on those working to get by in austerity and put into practice : A Living Wage, Zero Hours and Agencies outlawed and regulated respectively, an onus on employers to provide more Full Time positions and a complete understanding of the position women especially are facing with child benefit frozen, caring duties, no affordable childcare and no childcare at all for disabled children.
The Working Poor were yesterday's "strivers" Mr Cameron in your Governments own rhetoric. In my opinion ANY government should be "striving" to support people by implementing policies that promote a healthy work/life ethic. This Coalition are positively campaigning against this. They must be stopped NOW!