In an editorial on the 2nd of October, 2022, the Guardian newspaper described the Conservative party conference which ended in Birmingham on the 5 th of October as a “Carnival of shame”. I agree with the Guardian newspaper editorial since the Conservative party conference was held at a time when British families are facing the largest fall in incomes for over 50 years, with an increase in energy bills, council tax and the effects of national insurance tax rise as well as inflation hitting a 30 year high of 7 per cent earlier in April. One in five were already struggling financially before the cost-of-living crisis.
I personally have experienced an increase in the cost of living during the past five months. As a result of the high cost of living in the UK it has now become difficult or a challenge for me to pay my usual household bills from June this year compared to the same period last year. Also, during the current period, I have personally experienced an increase in the cost of my energy bills to the extent that I have cut down on my shopping and I am no-longer frequently going out for meals as I used to do. I have also cut down on foreign travel as I cannot afford the costs of air tickets and hotel accommodation.
Against this backdrop of a situation where millions of households across the UK are struggling to make their incomes stretch to cover the rising cost of living, my home city of Birmingham has declared a cost-of-living emergency.
According to the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC), as with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Voluntary, Community, Faith and Social Enterprise sector are at the frontline in supporting people through the crisis. Everyone is affected to some degree; however, it is those that the sector works with, particularly some of the most disadvantaged people who are already struggling to make ends meet, who will be hit the hardest.
To obtain some views on how the cost-of-living crisis has affected many people in the UK, I spoke to some members of the community to hear their views on how the high cost of living has affected many in Birmingham and further afield.
A Birmingham-based warehouse operative, Sekesai Mudzi told me that due to the economic hardships that she is currently experiencing due to the high energy and food costs, she has been forced by circumstances to stop making the monthly donations that she has been making for the past seven years to a cancer charity. “Being forced by circumstances from donating to my favourite cancer charity is indeed a pain in my heart,” Sekesai said.
A live-in care worker Abigay Davis said “As a result of the increasing rise in the cost of living, I will soon be unable to meet the needs of basic items in order to live a decent life. I will find it hard to afford basic things like heating my flat, purchasing appropriate clothes for the winter season or to buy nutritious food” Abigay added that she is being forced by the high cost of living to consume cheap quality food and as a result her health is fast deteriorating.
A car dealership salesperson, Denford Rwizi told me that due to the high cost of living, he is now tightly budgeting his monthly pay cheques which is something that he did not use to do beforehand. “I now in advance plan all lunch costs and avoid buying sandwiches from shops and I have also cut down on all luxuries and the use of credit cards on certain purchases,” Denford said.
Commenting on the cost of living which has been increasing across the UK since early 2021, a London-based medical secretary Ruby Jacobs said she is really struggling to make ends meet due to the hikes in the cost of food, gas and electricity.
Whilst facing increased service demand, third sector organisations are also facing rising costs and an associated impact on their employees, volunteers, funding, and service provision. But they are not giving up. Take BVSC, a charity whose events and training courses I have attended at times. They support voluntary action in Birmingham and surrounding areas by providing an environment where organisations and community groups can pursue their aims and thrive, and they are bringing the sector together to collaborate on the crisis through a Cost-of-Living event.
Participants will be enabled to share experience, plans and ideas to support their communities. The whole day event, funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, will take place on the 1st November, from 9.30am at the Priory rooms, Quaker meeting House, 40n Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6AF. You can book a place at the event by emailing email@example.com.
About the author
Selbin Kabote is a Zimbabwean-born Birmingham based journalist. Selbin has worked for many years as a media trainer in the UK. He worked with migrants and asylum seekers to arm them with the media tools that they need to speak in the media and in public life. The tools also enable them to create their own media platforms for the purpose of telling their stories.
Before coming to the UK many years ago, Selbin worked as a Sub-Editor for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation-ZBC in Zimbabwe and as a journalist producer for the external broadcaster of the South African Broadcasting Corporation - Channel Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Selbin is an activist who believes in the power of highlighting positive arguments for migration as he is of the strong opinion that many migrants who come to settle in the UK have the will and capacity to make the country a great place.
This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story, click here.