UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is warning that after a hard year, families face a bleak 2013 across the UK as they struggle to cope with the on-going recession.
The union’s welfare fund has seen a massive rise in the number of applications for grants in 2012 that fund basic essentials such as school uniforms and heating bills. Applications for help with heating bills went up by a massive 388%, and calls for help with the cost of school uniforms by more than a quarter. In the past year, the charity has paid out more than £750,000 - a rise of 11% on the previous year.
Union organisers are increasingly reporting that public sector workers are being forced to rely on food banks to feed their families. The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK’s largest network of food banks, estimates that the number of people turning to them for help has risen by 100% in the past year.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“It’s not just the unemployed who are struggling; the number of working people in poverty is on the rise in Tory Britain. The Coalition Government is hitting working families and it is hitting them hard.
“Our welfare fund used to pay for wellbeing breaks, but the recession means that holidays are a thing of the past for low paid families. What people need now is help with the basics of life, such as food and fuel.
“Parents say they dread the bill for school uniforms when the new school year begins – in some cases the cost runs to hundreds of pounds and they just can’t afford it.
“It is heartbreaking to read their applications where they spell out the struggles they face and how difficult things have become. The stress of the struggle to make ends meet is making many sick, they’ve lost working tax credits and it has pushed them over the edge. Some can’t even afford the weekly shop and have to rely on their family for help with groceries.
“The government needs to get real about the depth of the crisis. Until consumer spending picks up, our economy won’t grow and until people have money in their pockets and jobs they can rely on, they won’t spend.
“The Government urgently needs a plan for growth and jobs in 2013 – not simply to be ploughing ahead regardless with an economic plan that is not working.”
The union is calling on the government to help families in the New Year by ending the public sector pay freeze which has hit millions of workers for two years, and local government workers for three. A new plan to fuel growth and long term employment is urgently needed to get the UK back on the road to recovery said the union.
UNISON’s school uniforms grant
The number of applications to UNISON’s school uniforms grant scheme jumped by more than a quarter (27%) last year. This year, more than £30,000 was paid out to nearly 450 UNISON members who earn less than £18,000 and are struggling with the cost of their children’s school uniforms.
60% of those who applied said they faced a bill between £100 - £300 for their child’s school uniform.
76% said there was no other help available towards the cost.
71% were worried that their children would be disciplined because they do not have the right uniform.
73% said it was quite or very difficult to meet the cost of their child’s school uniform.
71% say they have to turn to their family as a result of rising living costs.
UNISON’s winter fuel allowance scheme
771 people have applied for help with their heating bills this year, compared to 158 people in 2011 – an increase of 388%.
According to the Trussell Trust, 128,687 people used food banks in 2011/2012, an increase of 100% on the last year.