January News Day

Over the past week we have been busy responding to a national awareness of the level and scale of poverty in the United Kingdom, following the publication of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report, and our appearance on Look North and BBC Radio Yorkshire.

On the 18th January the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published their annual report. The format is different to previous years; mapping trends, exploring impacts and recognising characteristics of poverty across the UK. Within the report there is a real call to action to ‘turn the tide on poverty’ and in response, Look North Yorkshire ran a segment focusing on an individual's life within these reported statistics. Rebecca was an Acts 435 recipient who was helped by donors recently. She was interviewed, alongside Acts 435 partners, The Noah’s Ark Centre, Halifax.

Rebecca was incredible in telling her story, initially reported in this BBC News Article. She is a single mother of two children and has recently taken in her 14 year old niece. She had been working part-time, but was forced to give up her job as she could not afford childcare. Rebecca faced a number of sanctions on her Universal Credit, and initially approached Noah’s Ark Centre for support with her debts. These debts were created by loans for small necessities, but there were many of them. Thanks to the support and guidance from Noah’s Ark, Rebecca was able to apply for a Debt Relief Order, which was funded through Acts 435 donors. Andrew Sykes, the Director of Noah’s Ark Centre, was able to explain the importance of their work assisting people to address their financial difficulties and explain the intrinsic link between poverty and levels of poor mental health.

Donations also allowed Rebecca to purchase new bedding for her children, as items were simply not stretching with her niece joining, in time for Christmas. Rebecca’s interview was emotive and moving. She commented on her embarrassment in finding herself in this need, even though she is doing everything she could, and when her young son was interviewed he commented that whilst they were sometimes without heating and milk and bread, they were never without love.

Our Executive Director, Jenny Herrera, was interviewed by Georgey Spanswick on BBC Radio York on Tuesday morning and addressed the Cost of Living crisis. Jenny explained “there is no capacity to cope with rising energy bills”, evidenced by families like Rebecca’s, doing all they can with so little.

A key issue for Rebecca was that her council property was not carpeted, which made the house colder and more uncomfortable for her family. In a somewhat dreadful coincidence, Rebecca’s son was taken to hospital the same night this report aired, as he had a large splinter from the bare floorboards in his foot. In referring to this incident, Rebecca has commented that this is yet another reminder of the poverty they find themselves in, and the sheer lack of hope for a broken system. The problematic nature of this situation has so many layers. Commenting on this particular incident Andrew mentioned ‘the social cost of poverty impacts the NHS in so many different ways’, pointing to the need for a multi-faceted approach to tackling the levels of poverty in the UK.

Jenny also spoke to Amy Garcia for Look North’s evening news, discussing the impact of rising energy prices for families like Rebecca’s. When asked how common stories like Rebecca’s are, Jenny explained “there are a lot of families who are just on low income and they’re doing everything right, but they just won’t stretch for all their basic needs.”

In response to Rebecca’s bravery a number of donors reached out and wanted to help her. Our £1,000 crowdfunding goal was hit just 24 hours later and the generosity reaching Noah’s Ark and Acts 435 was incredible. We are so thankful to be able to support her in carpeting her floors and offering some light in the midst of a dark situation.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has surfaced a number of tragically desperate issues regarding standards of living, that need to be addressed. We join them in a call to action, for our Government and Local Authorities to act and dramatically change the living conditions of millions of people living in poverty in the UK.