The growing cost of living crisis: what it means and what we’re doing
Last week’s Spring statement by Rishi Sunak was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated in years. While attention has focused on Ukraine in the last month, a cost-of-living crisis is worsening in Wales and across the UK. Inflation is predicted to peak at 8.7% later this year; average energy bills increasing by £693 per household in this coming six-month period; and fuel at the pumps hitting record levels. It’s no surprise the Office of Budget Responsibility says living standards will take their biggest hit since record began in the 1950s.
So, what was the UK Government’s response? As ever, it takes time for the dust to settle for the full impact of spending decisions to be known. Headlines of fuel duty cut of 5p, increase in the National Insurance threshold and proposed tax cut by the end of the parliament only tell half the story. For some of those most vulnerable, this simply isn’t enough.
Last year’s cut in Universal Credit of £20 per week is still hitting many people hard, while proposed changes focus on those in employment; benefits will only rise this year by 3.1% at a time when the increase in the cost-of-living could hit 10%. Local Housing Allowances are still frozen. While green measures to cut carbon and reduce bills are positive commitments, they target homeowners, meaning renters could still be left with higher bills at a time they can least afford it.
Tai Pawb has always worked collaboratively to address social justice and poverty through housing. We know that many of those most vulnerable in society are in homes that are poorly insulated, leading to additional energy costs for those that can least afford it. Over the last year our Floored report with TPAS Cymru identified the impact of providing appropriate flooring options to all tenants from a health, environmental and money-saving perspective. We also know there is a ‘premium’ to certain aspects of poverty – for example, disabled people can face extra costs for medical equipment and access to certain services, or if their disability means they use more gas for warmth. Equally, the growing number of multi-generational families from diverse backgrounds can face higher energy bills, for example, due to the number of people living at home, further exacerbated by the benefit cap.
We’re working with RHA Wales on a project with the Future Generations Commissioner and Public Health Wales to better understand how we communicate and engage on the green agenda and the move towards energy efficiency and (hopefully) lower energy bills. Finally, Our Back the Bill campaign in partnership with Shelter Cymru and Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru will seek to ensure everyone in Wales has the right to a home that will be affordable and have comfortable heating.
We know this is just a start. Over the coming months, we’re considering how we can play more of a role in supporting our members as they, in turn, support people across the equalities spectrum affected by the cost-of-living crisis This will be a tough few years for many – not least those who can ill-afford to shoulder the burden – and we know members stand ready and willing (and are making plans) to support their tenants. If you’ve got ideas – we’d love to hear them, so please get in touch!