Batchley Support Group Sees Increase in Demand for Food
Mark Barron, the head of Batchley Support Group in Redditch, has recently had to order extra food each week to meet the rising demand for their services. Notably, the support group has also seen an increase in employed individuals seeking assistance.
Financial Struggles in Redditch
Redditch, a town with the fifth-lowest average salaries in England and Wales, is home to many individuals with mortgages. One such person is Tony, a 59-year-old resident who is facing the possibility of losing his flat. Despite purchasing the property 19 years ago when he was employed as a lorry driver, Tony’s circumstances have changed dramatically. He suffered brain damage in a street attack and is now disabled, receiving a “limited capacity” disability benefit. As a result, he has struggled to make payments on his tracker mortgage, and the recent interest rate rises have pushed him to the brink.
In Tony’s darkened living room, he shows us a letter stating that his interest rate is increasing by 0.5% from August 1st, and he may face repossession of his home. With £7,000 in arrears and £29,000 left to pay on his mortgage, Tony finds these figures intimidating and impossible to manage. He lives without heating and limited electricity, unable to afford even a single piece of food. Tony has been making monthly payments of £150, but it falls far short of what he needs.
When asked what he would do without the nearby food bank, Tony simply states, “I’d be knackered, I’d be dead.”
Single Mother Reliant on Food Bank
At the Batchley Support Group Centre, we also meet Sarah, a single mother who holds down three jobs, including an NHS technician role, an online teaching job, and acting. Despite her efforts, she still struggles to provide enough food for herself and her family. Sarah lives with her 13-year-old son and her 19-year-old son when he’s back from university. While her landlord hasn’t increased her rent, she describes how everything else has become more expensive.
Sarah can rely on the food bank to provide as much food as she needs for just £1. However, she is also concerned about the interest rates on her credit card, which she relies on to pay for fuel for her car to get to work.
Rise in Employed Individuals Seeking Help
Mark Barron, the head of the Batchley Support Group, has noticed a significant increase in employed individuals seeking assistance. He explains, “We see more working people who are struggling. And that tells us it’s really about disposable income, what’s left once you pay the bills, if anything, what’s left to live on? And that’s a real leveller for people.”
Redditch is not the only place experiencing these financial struggles. Disposable incomes are being stretched or even annihilated across the country. The rise in interest rates is eroding standards of living, affecting people like Tony, who are becoming collateral damage.