Written Off: A response to the Spring Statement 

Published on: 
11 April 2022
Written by: 

Jo Barker-Marsh, participant in Covid Realities

I’m Jo, mum to Harry. We live in the North West and I parent alone.

I’ve tried so hard over the last few years to find balance financially, emotionally and mentally. The exhaustion of having to count every penny has seriously impacted daily living and there have been times I’ve been close to sheer panic as I used my bank card. This isn’t unfamiliar to me or to millions of other people in the UK.

On Wednesday 23 March 2022, I, along with so many others, listened to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement. Truthfully, I wasn’t holding out much hope, but there was a possibility he would hear us shouting from here.

After a cold and painful winter we are bracing ourselves for huge increases in our energy bills amongst other crises. I had hoped Sunak’s statement would bring the relief we all need as we career from crisis to crisis: children hungry and cold; parents missing meals; pensioners facing desolate choices between heating their home or eating and so much more.

The statement offered nothing, no hope to those of us on the lowest incomes. We remain trapped in financial prisons with our means of escape blocked by a government unwilling to help us. We all saw, in the pandemic, that the Government, was willing to spend money, and on a massive scale. And now, we can all see the money being held back when we need it most, and above all, we can see that there is nothing we can do to stop them unless we come together to challenge what is patently wrong.

There is not one face of poverty. My son and I are two of many who are experiencing the heartache that a lack of adequate money, support and understanding brings. The shame and stigma of poverty is oppositional. We are poor. To some, we are deserving of ‘pity’, while others judge us undeserving enough or not poor enough to justify support. 

I didn’t go to bed financially secure one day and wake up destitute the next. It has been a slow and painful descent, and many of us would testify to that. Why can our government not see that stopping this descent for people would prove to be economically sound for the future? That above all we have a moral duty to help all of those in need?

I am exhausted writing this. I question every single financial decision I make to the penny. I can’t make it stretch any more, I can’t discount much more from the budget we have without giving up altogether.

I berate myself and my son for not eating properly and complain when we leave anything on our plates. But I can’t always stretch to decent food. I quote the cost of things to my son without thinking because I am always totting money up in my head. I have been ill with lack of nutrition and the jarring cold of our home. I can’t go through this any more, I just can’t. I shield my son the best I can, but it is not always possible. We cannot afford to heat our home.

People cannot afford to cook their food bank food. People are suffering because ‘the powers that be’ refuse to acknowledge this reality. To see energy companies making record profits but literally no mitigations in the spring statement to address the disaster so many of us are living, is actually soul destroying.

My son, Harry, has kept a brave face on things but in late January, he broke down in tears telling me how sick he was of waking up cold. That we couldn’t even be downstairs in our home without freezing. We bundled up in his room, the only one with carpet, but you can’t stay in there forever. How tired and sad of it all he is, how jealous he is that his friends have holidays. This and so much more came tumbling out, and I sat and cried with him.

On Wednesday, after the spring statement, I cried too. Because it surely was a last hope that something would be done to lift us from this nightmare. It was so easily within the government's reach to do something, and they chose instead to offer nothing to those of us who occupy those financial prisons.

I want to keep fighting for us, I want to keep reminding people, hey we are stronger together, but my body hurts and my mind is unclear. It was just too much to believe that they could be moved to do the right thing, wasn’t it? 

However hard times are, I know that we can come together to create change and that keeps me fighting. The Covid Realities project has taught me that we deserve to be heard and we will bring about change. Most important of all, I am not alone.

Note: The Covid Realities project has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the author's and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/