Leicestershire Cares has today published the findings of a rapid assessment of the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on vulnerable young people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
Our Children and Young People team consulted with 20 young people from across our youth projects to explore if and how rising costs of living were affecting them, the impact of increasing energy costs in particular, what (if any) support they had received, and what their concerns were for the future.
Overall, our findings suggest that the cost of living crisis is already taking a huge toll on young people’s mental and physical health. Our participants reported skipping meals, struggling to afford bills, increased stress about their finances and significant worry about further increases in energy and food prices. Young parents were particularly vulnerable, and described their worries about providing for their children.
The food prices are going up and trying to manage is difficult when I only have a £40 budget to spend over a 3 week period. It is important that support is put in place so young people don't suffer and are able to live a better quality of life.Sophie and Bronwyn, two young people at Leicestershire Cares
Charlotte Robey-Turner, Head of Children and Young People at Leicestershire Cares, said:
“This report shows the mental, emotional and physical impact that the cost of living crisis is already having on the most vulnerable young people in our city and county, and this is only expected to get worse. Many of our young people told us that they are struggling to live day-to-day, and are extremely anxious about what their financial situation will be in the coming months.
“While we welcome the government capping energy prices at £2,500 a year for the next two years, realistically this cap will make little difference to our young people, as a bill of over £200 a month would still be a huge struggle for our participants to pay (for some, up to a seven-fold increase). If further, more meaningful support is not put in place quickly, young people will be at risk of turning to other means to support themselves and their families. Many of our young people are estranged from family, have few support networks, and are extremely vulnerable to being groomed by local gangs and county lines operatives.
“We hope this report demonstrates the need for immediate and wide-reaching action to support young people in or at the edge of poverty to overcome the adverse impacts that rising living costs are having on their current and future lives.”
Key issues young people raised
- The cost of food is a significant concern for vulnerable young people. Our participants were changing where they shop, using cheaper brands, skipping meals and going to relatives’ houses for dinner (if this was an option).
- The rising cost of electricity and gas was also a significant worry for young people. Participants described not turning on lights, avoiding cooking with gas where possible, batch cooking, and staying with friends/family to share resources.
- Rising costs were having a considerable impact on young people’s mental health, due to stress about their financial situation and the pressure on their families. Cutting out gym memberships and social activities to save money exacerbated this.
- Young parents spoke about their struggles affording baby wipes and clothes, and considering at what point they should skip meals to ensure their children could eat three meals a day.
- Young people highlighted the additional cost of living alone, as their individual outgoings were much higher than someone who could split bills with a housemate.
Support received and needed
- Most participants had not received any support on how to manage rising living costs. Some had received food parcels or looked up advice on the internet, but this was limited.
- The cost of living payment for those on Universal Credit had been useful, but the majority admitted that they had not put this aside to cover rising living costs. Young people felt reintroducing the £20 uplift would have enabled them to budget more effectively.
- Other support requested included advice on saving, budgeting and what to do if you cannot afford a bill, as well as support with the stress caused by rising living costs.
Worries for the future
- Young people were very worried about how much living costs and energy prices would increase in the coming months, and especially how much their bills would be in the winter.
- Those living with their families were worried about the pressure that future rises in living costs would place on their parents/carers, and what impact it might have on their siblings.
- Young people also spoke about having to go to a foodbank, struggling to travel to work/college, and their rent and bills starting to exceed the amount they earn each month.