Am posting this because I talk to so many people in the exact situation described below. I feel that the ongoing nature of these occurrences needs noting while mainstream press and political worthies devote attention and resources pretty much exclusively to Brexit and Labour infighting, etc.
I talk again and again to people in this sort of situation. Nothing seems to be changing very fast:
Here you see gas and electric fuel cards belonging to Patrick, a pensioner I spoke to at a foodbank and kitchen lunch in Oldham at the end of February.
Short story, this. Patrick had run out of fuel credit. Upshot: he didn’t have working heaters or hot water in his home. He’d come down to the soup kitchen, because he’d heard foodbanks and kitchens had fuel topup money and vouchers.
Patrick said he thought the boiler in his place might have sucked through more fuel credit than usual. Point was – he didn’t have the money that he needed to get the fuel supplies going again, or to keep supplies going for a reasonable length of time while he sorted the trouble out.
Which is the thing.
I know government doesn’t give a damn about this, but I’m saying it anyway. Again. There are people who don’t have £10 or £20 or £30 or £100 or whatever to throw at everyday financial difficulties. When the problems come, they’re major by definition. As soon as these problems hit, people find themselves trying to live without the basics in the space of a day or two.
A new boiler guzzles a few extra quid on a metre and that’s a big worry. People lose a tenner or £20 walking down the street and they’ve got a problem. They miss a rent payment for whatever reason and end up with rent arrears that they’ll never escape. Long story short: there’s a whole bunch of people who can never buy themselves peace of mind for even an hour.
As I see it, people fall into one of two groups these days.
There’s the group of people who always have a few quid spare to throw at life’s everyday crises: unexpected fuel costs, charges for a doctor’s letter, lost money, a lost phone charger, extra phone costs, a torn winter coat, lost trainers, extra housing costs – whatever.
Then, there’s the group of people who don’t. People can either pay their way out of a problem, or they can’t. And that’s it.
You can forget popular political binaries such as The Deserving and The Undeserving Poor. That sort of thematic populist crap couldn’t be less relevant to reality. All that matters in reality is whether or not you have enough money to buy distance from life’s curveballs. There’s a big gap between people who do and don’t. Still.