UNISON cost of living special

The rising tide

What are the root causes of the cost of living crisis? What is the human impact? And how can we start to find a way out? UNISON investigates

“I don’t sleep very well anymore. You’ll be there at three o’clock in the morning, which is always the ‘dark time’ – even when I’m on shift, that’s the hard time. And it’s scary. You sit there and think, ‘If I lose this job tomorrow, I’d probably lose the house within two months. It would be that quick.

Pat Jones is a care worker for people with learning disabilities, branch secretary of Ymlaen/Forward branch and, somehow, still an optimist. Two months ago, the driveshaft on her car broke and it wiped out her savings. Pat was just relieved that she had a friend of a friend who could do the repair job cheaply for her.

Now, her daughter – a single mother and also a care worker – and two grandsons are due to move back in with her, because her daughter’s home became too costly to repair and she will have to sell it.

For the next 12 months, at least, Pat’s home office will be her grandsons’ bedroom. Her daughter will take her room, and Pat will be on the sofa, with her two dogs and two cats. Pat is just pleased that she’s been able to help her daughter and save her from getting into debt.

The rising cost of living has been a creeping issue for some time now, felt by most in terms of pennies in the pound. A single below-inflation pay deal could be critical for some, placing their finances on a knife-edge. But now, after a decade of inflation outstripping public sector pay deals, with the price of an average shopping basket rising at unprecedented rates, households facing the heaviest tax burden in the UK since the 1940s, and one of the worst energy and gas price surges in living memory – now, the cost of living ‘issue’ is a full-blown national crisis.

Simply put, this is a critical, make-or-break period for millions of people in this country.

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