‘We often can’t afford to eat’ – The shocking impact of the pandemic on low income families in York

21 Jul 2020 @ 2.58 pm
| News

The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on everybody – but has had a disproportionately harsh impact on low income families.

Now a national project has launched in York examining how the crisis has affected these families.

Led by the University of York, the Covid Realities project is calling for parents and carers living on a low income to share their experiences of everyday life during the emergency.

And some of those in the city have been sharing their experiences.

Among them is Sydnie who is a single parent with two young children living in York on Universal Credit. 

She said: “I’ve been out shopping without the kids; it was hectic, horrible and I don’t want to do it again.

“My shopping costs have doubled or gone up by a third. I haven’t worked it out to be honest.

“I just close my eyes and don’t look and hope we can make do.”

‘We sold our clothes’

Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

As part of the project York families have been sharing their experiences on a special Facebook page. Here are just two contributions.

“Covid-19 has affected our family financially and mentally , we have always struggled on a low income with high bills and rents and debt and very little left per week to live on.

“I am frazzled as a mum and person mentally and physically I suffer from depression and anxiety anyway and this has tipped me over the edge.

“We earn just a little bit too much to get extra benefits or free school meals but often we can’t afford to eat we sell our clothes and things to get by.”

“Covid-19 resorted in me living on crackers (not dramatised at all) for two weeks as I am coeliac.

“Non-gluten free people were stripping the shelves of GF foods (there is only one tiny area for GF foods) and I couldn’t buy food online as the prices increased dramatically.

“I am really concerned how those with intolerances have been treated throughout the pandemic and it is caused me a lot of anxiety which I still have today.”

Take part

The project is a partnership with the Universities of York, Birmingham & Child Poverty Action Group.  More on the website
For anyone who wishes to participate please contact Dr Ruth Patrick on 0797 054 9801 or email [email protected]

Extreme levels of hardship

Dr Ruth Patrick of the University of York

Lead researcher Dr Ruth Patrick said: “There is an urgent need to understand how families on a low income are coping at these difficult, new times.

“To date, the government’s response has not paid enough attention to families on a low income; and has not delivered enough help to support people to get by.

“By working together with parents and carers, we want to make sure that their experiences are given the attention they deserve; and properly inform the policy response.”

Dr Maddy Power, who is working with Dr Patrick on the project said: “The parents and carers we have spoken to have emphasised that the coronavirus pandemic has introduced new and often extreme levels of hardship and difficulty to their lives.

“They told us that managing the additional, and often rising, costs of lockdown has compounded the already severe difficulties of living on a low-income.

 “Lockdown brought new expenses to finding and securing daily essentials, testing already-stretched budgetary practices and placing additional burdens on people’s mental health.

“For many parents and carers, the end of lockdown and the ‘future’ beyond that is highly uncertain.”