Monday, January 23, 2012

Coping with poverty

Just read a bunch of reports about the strategies people have for coping with poverty. It obviously takes considerable effort to get by. Here's a couple of quotes from the report "Just coping" from the Kent city council in the UK:

”Life on a low income is characterised by deep unpredictability. Just one unexpected bill – a new school uniform, or a bank charge – can disrupt the entire weekly budget. The families we met were operating from day to day, in a way that often felt very out of step with the patterns and rhythms of financial help such as tax credits and housing benefits”.

”Men were notable by their absence. Poverty is without question a gendered experience, and it is often women on whom most of the coping work falls”.

"In order to describe the money situation faced by the families, the research team came to use the term ‘Milkybar economy’ after noticing that several of the families seemed to have a predilection for that particular chocolate bar. There are two facts to observe here: first, the ‘Milkybar’ chocolate only costs 15p (about half the price of other chocolate bars) and, second, buying them was a deliberate, economic choice. The cheaper price allowed parents to buy children a sweet or treat with the small change left over from other shopping without impacting too much on budgets.
Of course, not all of the families ‘bought Milkybars’, but these kinds of small margins were a consideration for all."

And here's a quote from the report “You just have to get by - Coping with low incomes and cold homes" from the Center for Sustainable Energy in the UK:

" Overall, 62 per cent of low‐income households had cut back on their heating costs in the previous winter by turning their heating off or down, heating only one room, or using their heating intermittently. However, their experience of cold at home also depended on the effectiveness of any strategies they used to compensate for their loss of heating. These included wearing more clothes, wrapping up in blankets, staying in one room, going to bed early and having hot drinks. The most income‐constrained households were adept at juggling these options as part of their wider strategies for coping on a low income.

The low‐income households who experienced cold homes reported adverse impacts on their mental health, physical health and social lives: nearly half (47 per cent) said the cold had made them feel anxious or depressed, 30 per cent said an existing health problem had got worse, and 17 per cent did not feel able to invite friends or family to the house."

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