Andy Nicholls works three jobs, earns the average UK wage and lives with his parents, but still struggles to save for a security deposit. Siki Ali works with young people and says even children talk about the rising cost of bills. Gemma is at university and wants to train as a paramedic but, due to her family’s finances, she says it’s more important to get a full-time job.
Andy Nicholls, 42, lives in Wigan and juggles three jobs; full-time, part-time youth work in a hotel and as a TV extra. He works over 60 hours a week and earns around the average UK salary of £38,000 a year. But even then he had to move back in with his parents to try to save enough money to pay a deposit for his own house.
“I didn’t want to go back to live with my parents, but it was the only way for me to save money and afford my own accommodation.
“I actually don’t know what I would have done without their support, especially now that all I see when I get home at 10pm at night is the news that prices are going up for everything.
“I don’t really have time to socialize, or even think about going to the gym or anything like that.
“I get up around 5 a.m. every day and maybe hit the snooze button a few times because I know it’s going to be a long day.
“I work a lot but it’s only because I live with my parents that I can save.
“And that makes me think. When I get home, will I have enough money to pay for my gas, pay for my electricity, pay the water bill? Everything goes up and up and the panic and the concern that weighs on individuals is simply very difficult.
“And I don’t know what more I could do to try to win. I mean now, when I know I’ve done 63, 64, 65 hours and someone offers me another shift six hours, I think just, physically, can I? And then I think it’s that little bit of extra money that will go towards this and pay for that and get me that.
“I know it’s not good for my health and my mental health, but it’s a very difficult time for everyone and we just have to keep going.”
Siki Ali has been a youth worker at Wigan Youth Zone for nine years. The center offers leisure facilities, job advice, food parcels and support to local young people and their families. More than half of the children attending the youth center come from the most deprived areas of Wigan.
“Things are getting tougher than I have ever seen them for Wigan youngsters.
“I mean, you never hear young people coming here and talking about things like energy bills, but now they do – about rising fuel and electricity costs. I mean, what child should talk about this?
“We thought we knew which kids might have troubled families, but honestly it’s getting harder and harder to know.
“We are getting more and more requests for support for free food parcels from families where both parents work. It is families like these who really feel the pinch because they earn just enough not to be able qualify for working tax credits – these are the families we believe need the most support.
“And of course that has an impact on children and young people. We have young people who receive financial support from the state to help them during their university studies, but most of it now goes to their families, to help the bills at home.
“We have children who come here from very disadvantaged areas, where they could be the third generation of unemployed. We try everything we can to support them with various integration programs, and there are successes but it’s very difficult.
“And right now the college issue is out the window. If you bring that up, it’s ‘no, I just need to go to work. “And some of those kids are the ones who can go to college, excel at it, and that would, in the future, help them get better jobs. But they have to work, for now, for now.
Gemma Unsworth, 17, lives at home with her parents and siblings. She had a part-time job as a sales clerk to help with the family’s finances, but lost it during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is busy completing a BTECH degree in Sports Coaching and Development at a college in Wigan so she can get a full-time job, support her parents and start saving to live on her own.
“Right now, the most important thing is that I get to work. Getting a job, any full-time, paid job, is more important than my own dreams or ambitions.
“I always wanted to be a paramedic, but that will have to come later.
“Right now as a family we are struggling a bit and have to cut back on a lot of things. We used to go grocery shopping every other week but now we have to budget our food so we are doing a department store right at the end of the month.
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“You never really know what’s going to happen in the future. You never know if you’ll get a job, if you’ll get fired.
“Obviously, with prices going up on absolutely everything, it’s really tough at the minute. You want to do the things you love, but obviously you also need the essentials.
“And the problem is that the prices keep going up, but the wages don’t. I hope to rent a place of my own once I start working, but every time I check the kind of things that I can afford, I see the prices seem to be going up almost every day.”
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