Just as the Chancellor stood in the House of Commons and announced that the UK had ‘turned the page on austerity’ the world was hit with a pandemic. It wasn’t the news anyone was hoping for, especially people already struggling to make ends meet. Our Client report and energy report, A dark place, based on data from 2019, showed that many people helped by CAP had been sacrificing meals (48%), disconnecting themselves from their energy supply (52%) and sleeping without a bed or mattress (11%).
Already under immense pressure from all angles, can you imagine what a nationwide lockdown, a surge in unemployment, or a sudden increase in household costs would do?
It might just break the camel’s back.
Suffering in silence
One in three (30%) people who seek CAP’s Debt Help waited for three years before making a call. This is often due to fear, shame or thinking they’d be able to sort the problem out themselves. On this basis, CAP isn’t expecting to see the true impact of COVID-19 for many months.
Right now, households will be facing tough choices: trying to live off 80% of their wage, claiming Universal Credit for the first time, or reducing their hours to accommodate childcare. Households will be trying to weather the storm, taking advantage of payment holidays, reducing payments for credit card bills, or using savings. But none of us know how long this situation could go on for.
The impact of coronavirus
We have been closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on CAP clients and you can read the full briefing paper, Life in lockdown, produced by our External Affairs team here.
We’ve found that life in lockdown is disproportionately harder for those living in poverty. For anyone struggling on the brink, even a slight reduction of income is felt. Faced with the constant pressure of rising household costs, prospects of unemployment or juggling health and caring responsibilities. Those classed as being in ‘in-work poverty’ often work in customer-facing roles, such as shop workers, delivery drivers or cleaners, which increases their risk of exposure to others. On top of this, poor health is more prevalent amongst people on low incomes, and therefore the risk of serious illness is higher for those who do catch Covid-19.
Speaking to CAP clients and former CAP clients, has enabled us to engage with people's first-hand experiences. Our clients are experts by experience and can speak into the financial implications of coronavirus, as described below. From our research, we have found that CAP clients are experiencing more income shocks compared to the same period last year. A growing number of clients are unable to progress their CAP Plan because of coronavirus and households are struggling with increased costs.
‘I had to buy a printer and paper, which all adds up. That was for my son with his school work. Because I’m working on my laptop for work, I can’t use that for him. I have to print all the work off.’ - Paula, expert by experience.
Increased household costs
‘The electric is horrendous – because you’ve got to do homework online and because they’re on the xbox or gadgets because they're bored – that’s extra money on the electric. For the three kids, I get free school meal vouchers of £180 every two weeks. I can’t divide the voucher – I have to spend it in one place. Morrisons is cheaper, but they don’t accept vouchers of more than £100, I couldn’t go there.’ - Georgia, expert by experience and CAP client
‘I won’t be online in two days as my phone is Pay-As-You-Go and it is £15 every 30 days. That’s how I’m online. I don’t have a phone or internet in my house. I can’t afford the phone bill. I won’t be able to phone [my family] as I won’t have any credit. It’s been horrible these last few weeks.’ - Diane, former CAP client and expert by experience.
‘Because I live on my own, a lot of people have set up deliveries – but the minimum order is £20 or more. There’s only me and otherwise I would have to throw fruit and veg away.’ - Tina, former CAP client and expert by experience.
Standing in the gap
In addition to our life-changing services for those battling poverty, CAP has the privilege of representing what life is like for such people in places where change can happen. Over the last two months we have identified areas where policies are impacting CAP clients and we are calling for change. COVID-19 will not stop us from standing in the gap for those whose voices are not being heard.
If you’re facing a hard time right now, please don’t be afraid to seek help.
If you’re working in collections or financial services, don’t forget about those who are often overlooked.
And if you’re a supporter, thank you. Your gifts and prayers mean our work continues to be possible.