UK cost-of-living crisis pushes mothers to the brink

At an east London church on a bitterly cold winter’s day, Beautine Wester-Okiya picks her way through boxes of donated baby clothes, toys and other assorted items destined for local people battered by the United Kingdom’s cost-of-living crisis.

It’s the front line of something the special needs nurse could never have imagined before – dire poverty in a developed Western nation.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life here in the UK,” Wester-Okiya, who came to Britain 40 years ago from Malaysia, told AFP.

It’s a similar story of economic hardship 140km (87 miles) north in the central English city of Coventry.

In a huge warehouse, employees of the charity Feed the Hungry pack emergency food supplies not just for children in Nicaragua, Ukraine and Africa, but also for families just a few miles down the road.

Britain is in the midst of the biggest surge in prices in decades, from fuel and heating to food and housing costs.

The crisis has put food banks that have already become a feature of modern British life under even greater pressure, prompting a drive to branch out into offering other services from baby clothes to help applying for welfare payments.

“We have suicidal mums … we have kids who just managed to come through the pandemic only to find this terrible cost-of-living crisis,” said Wester-Okiya.

“Broken mums, broken homes, broken families. The mums are depressed; the kids are crying all the time.”

For the past two-and-a-half years, the Hackney Children & Baby Bank has been flat-out coordinating help for the needy.

But many of those in need of help now are people from the UK who’ve never before faced such economic pain.

“We’re no longer talking of just migrants, we are talking of middle-class people having to sell their house, people like teachers,” said Wester-Okiya.

Faced with a constantly growing crisis – the UK now has more than 2,500 food banks – the baby bank has expanded its operations to include older children, too.

Toiletries are in particularly high demand.

“One teen, 14 years old, wrote a terrible poem about how she’s bullied because she’s not able to wash,” said Wester-Okiya, adding how the girl described her mother cutting a bar of soap into four and giving each family member a small piece.

In Coventry, a city once home to a thriving car manufacturing industry, the “crazy” cost of everything has led single mother of four Hannah Simpson to visit a food bank for the first time.

Simpson, 29, whose youngest is just 12 months old, has been skipping meals to make sure her children can eat.

But that has inevitably taken its toll, leaving her feeling “tired and drained”.

“I try and hide my struggles from them … but my daughter did say to school the other day, ‘I’m worried because mummy hasn’t been eating dinner with us and there’s not enough food to go round’,” she said.

“It’s a lot of stress. I’ve got four children, I’ve got to manage, keep on top of and I’ve got to worry where I’m going to get our next meal from.”

Related Articles

Back to top button