Many years ago Chris came to The Archer Project when he was released from prison. He joined a work-based recovery program and began to write poems. Fast-forward a few years and Chris is now a regular contributor to our website, as well as speaking regularly at events and representing the project in many other fantastic ways.
As we all know the cost of the living is rising rapidly, as a charity who helps the homeless and vulnerably housed, it's likely that we will see first-hand, the fall out from this cost of living crisis.
Hear from Chris on how he thinks this crisis will impact the people we support as well as other vulnerable members of the community...
I was shopping last week at our local Aldi. Shopping is not something I enjoy doing but it's a necessity to keep food and supplies stocked up. The first price increase I noticed was my two litres of milk going up by fifteen pence. In our home, we’re partial to a brie and grape sandwich, it's a staple of myself and my partner. Our brie which is usually 75p has now risen to almost 90p, similarly, grapes, lettuce, bread rolls, and our salt and vinegar crisps that accompany our favourite dish, have all risen too.
I'm not quite sure of the precise figures, but my receipt was at least six to seven pounds over what our usual amount is. Although we are not struggling financially, we are not well-off. I was surprised by the increases, but luckily I was able to absorb the costs and still pay for our shopping.
I returned home and was shocked when my partner informed me that we had received a letter from our energy provider to inform us that our prepayment gas and electricity was going to be increasing from £1200 per year to a whopping £2100. In essence our utilities have almost doubled overnight.
We’re told that many issues have combined to drive up the cost of living, Brexit they said, but then we look to Europe and see the increases over there in bread, wheat and other staples. The pandemic has surely contributed too?
Farm workers, fruit and veg pickers and rising transportation costs all contribute to this sudden and rapidly increasing inflation. With the situation in the Ukraine becoming more and more unstable, and our heavy dependence on Russian Gas now restricted heavily by Vladimir Putin, this has surely driven the costs of the resource up massively.
It's the absolute poorest in our society though, as it always is, that will pay the heaviest price of all, but with the least means to offset the deficit. For those of us with stricter budgets to adhere to, this could have had a detrimental effect upon us. Imagine a shopping budget of 40 pounds, you have planned meals for your family of five carefully, but when you arrive at the tills to pay for them you are seven pounds over budget. Does this seven pounds come from your already inflated gas and electric budget, or do you have to put something back instead?
These increases are going to cost lives, especially as people now only begin to recover from two years of lockdown, isolation, furlough and tighter than usual finances. Imagine the light at the end of the promised tunnel, but instead of light we find austerity and financial worry. The Government a laughable, incompetent and inconsistent lame duck throughout all of these crises, who have offered the princely sum off 200 pounds to offset the sharp and huge increases in energy utilities, which might I add, must be paid back in instalments!
Our current financial policies are in the hands of aristocrats who have absolutely no clue as to what a pint of milk actually costs. Meanwhile over 30% of this country's children live in poverty and often don't know where their next meal is coming from. It’s easy for the wealthier folk to implement these austerity measures as they don't see anything wrong with ten or fifteen pence increases on goods as it surely does not affect anybody too drastically right?
Now we’re told that the very poorest will have to pick up the bill once again, to cover the furlough scheme and untold millions wasted in unfulfilled PPE contacts, awarded to close contacts, without a hint of ironic nepotism.
I always try to not mention politics here, but in this instance I'm absolutely furious at what has happened. The real issues are the life and death of citizens relegated secondary to the current trending circus performance that our parliamentary process has become.
Unfortunately I fully expect the amount of people that we support at the Archer Project to increase drastically as more of our most vulnerable fall into further poverty. Food banks will surely be busier than ever, substance misuse will climb as people find ways to deal with the stress of wondering where their meals will come from. These measures, the increases in energy and food staples, will kill people. Why is it that the ones who can least afford it, are going to foot the bill?
Alison Wise of S6 Foodbank tells me:
"Two years ago we were supporting around 150 people every week. Now, that number is around 1200 people, with referrals expected to rise further. Without the generous help from people and businesses across the city, we simply wouldn’t be able to support the growing numbers of people in need."
Charities like ours and S6 Foodbank, are forced to deal with the influx of real human costs without any extra funding. Albert Einstein is one of the greatest minds that has ever existed and his quote has never seemed more pertinent to me: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” We need a new way of dealing with devastating situations like this, but until we come together with a solution, we shall all share the asylum together.