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It’s the grind that gets you down, every single day

Some of the million Britons living in persistent poverty have been talking to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation


“I’m one rent review away, one complaint away from being homeless. It’s as simple as that … it’s exactly how it feels. It can’t be felt any other way; that’s the situation and I feel terribly, terribly vulnerable, I really do. It’s the overriding threat hanging over my head; I wake up with it every day, I go to sleep with it every night. There’s no getting away from it; I’m that far away from my whole world being turned upside-down.”

“I am managing but if I fell ill I would be in trouble – I can’t afford to fall ill. If somebody gets in my taxi that’s got a cold, I say ‘Get out!’ I can’t afford to be off for two weeks.”

“I was in a hostel with my daughter, and this was the property they offered me. I did refuse it because of the work, it was really, really bad. … but my housing officer said if I didn’t take it I would be in the hostel for another 12 to 18 months, so that’s why I took it.”

“It took us 13 years to get this house. I went through a lot, 13 years of bidding, fighting up against it, letters from everywhere, from the school, my boy’s school, doctors, psychiatrists, mental health unit, the hospitals … I didn’t really have a choice but to move here. This was it for me. I was told this was it, there was no help going to be given anywhere else.”

“Got to be on your toes all the time…your rent is due on the 5th, you get your Housing Benefit on the 10th, you’re five days late with your rent. I can’t afford to be in that situation.”

“I had to use the credit card, I had to buy my boy a bed, bedding, carpet, blinds I had to buy, curtains, it’s things that we had to have… I had to buy flooring, and then you have to pay someone to come in and do the flooring. So then I had to take out loans. It just never seemed that we were clear or anything… I’m in debt about £2,500, which is quite a lot. I’ve never been in that much debt. But, what was I supposed to do? I can’t tell my boy he can’t have carpet down on his floor, and you can’t have a bed to sleep in yet because you’ve got to wait. You know?”

“I’m always in my overdraft, pretty much always, yes, unless I get a huge inheritance, well I wouldn’t say a huge inheritance, if I got a lump sum of money from somewhere quite unexpectedly that would be nice.”

“We just couldn’t afford anywhere when we were at her mum’s. That’s why we’d save up. It’s all the fees and deposits and everything else you’ve got to put down on houses. It’s these private landlords. I’d love to move into a council house but the list system is ridiculous at the moment. When we were at her mum’s we bid every week for, I think it was a year and we got nowhere.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay for my kids to go to university. That’s something I’d like for them to do. I think they want to learn and get ahead but I just don’t know how I could do it financially.”

“My contract is four hours a week but I do 30 hours a week, so I don’t get a pension, and when I went on maternity leave I couldn’t take my full leave because of my four-hour contract.”

“It’s about 20p an hour more to be a senior care assistant, but you could get sued or go to prison because you’re giving out medication, which you don’t do at my level.”

“You’re a product of your environment. Some of the schools around here are only interested in bums on seats; they don’t have an expectation that you could go on to university. Being from around here means you are looked down on in the academic world.”

“Everyone should have the chance to save up for a deposit or a mortgage – no matter what job they do.”

“It’s the grind that gets you down, every single day. I think what contributes me to being ill was having so many years of having to cope, basically.”

“I’ve never got any of my mental issues diagnosed apart from the ADHD as I don’t want people to perceive it that if I did get benefits for those things I’m scrounging.”

“I’d like to see people on benefits treated with respect. My health has gone downhill since applying for benefits and it has made me lose all my confidence which I’m only getting it back now. A bonus to treating people with respect is a bonus to the NHS as people’s health will improve.”

“When I hear the word ‘economy’ I think of corrupt politicians playing the economy for personal and professional gain.”

“For me ‘economy’ means bills and economising on heating, personal economy. It’s difficult when you’re not earning much or receiving enough. In this country people do not make enough to have a reasonable standard of living.”

“When you do down it seems their main concern is to get you to quit welfare, not even about getting a job. If there’s no job then you always worry you are about to get sanctioned because they say you haven’t tried hard enough. If you’re sanctioned it’s scary because you’ll have to go to the foodbank.”

“I feel I have no voice in society. I don’t have a concept of my voice being heard.”

“The four of us in one room isn’t overcrowded and I think that’s ridiculous. I think whoever thought of that needs to be smacked in the face. How dare you and sit there and say that living in a room with two children who have to share a bed isn’t overcrowded.”

“I may not have food at home at some points as prices have gone up so much. I feel like I’m living on the poverty line sometimes.”

“I voted Brexit because I thought it should make wages rise because employers will have to pay a decent wage rather than exploiting immigrants as cheap labour.”

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