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Reform Magazine | December 15, 2017

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Niall Cooper: Feeling the pinch

Niall Cooper: Feeling the pinch

Hearing from people feeling the pinch

Are you feeling the pinch? No (in case you’re wondering) this is not a column about dieting – though, for some people, weight loss is involved. Food prices, gas and electric bills, council tax, clothes, rent, bus fares, furniture. Prices are going up, and incomes are static or falling. Everyone is feeling the pinch nowadays. Only some are feeling it more than others.

One in four low-income households struggles to eat regularly or healthily because of a lack of money, according to a recent survey by the Food Standards Agency – the first substantial survey into the scale of food insecurity in the UK. The survey showed that food insecurity was more highly concentrated among unemployed people, over a third of whom reported that they had either reduced the quality of their diet, or missed meals altogether, because they had insufficient cash to buy food.

Whilst our politicians and the media seem to be obsessed with Brexit, things just got a whole lot worse as the latest round of benefit cuts came into force in April. After six years of austerity, it’s easy to get lost with the details, or to be switched off by a lengthy list of cuts to this and that benefit. It’s much more important to focus instead on the impact on individual lives.

Take Steve and Kim Carmichael, from Huyton, who were featured in a recent Panorama episode on BBC One. Kim, an unemployed mother of four, was given just 50p a week to pay her rent after she and more than 7,500 families across Britain had their housing benefits cut. Investigators followed the family over five months to see how their lives have changed since the benefit cap. They used to get £500 a week in benefits to look after their four children but their payments were cut by £120 in November under the changes. …

Niall Cooper is Director of Church Action on Poverty

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This is an extract from the May 2017 edition of Reform

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