Research published today by Cymorth Cymru has shone a light on the shocking impact of the cost-of-living crisis on frontline homelessness and housing support workers in Wales. Evidence from over 720 frontline workers has revealed the huge financial pressures they are facing as they provide critical support to tens of thousands of people across the country.
Despite delivering essential face-to-face services during the pandemic, putting the health of themselves and their loved ones at risk, a new report Struggles from the Frontline details how low wages combined with higher rents, energy costs, and fuel costs are putting extraordinary stress on their lives.
“I’m just surviving month to month, not really living.”
“I’ve got a staff member who has turned to sex work to make ends meet. It shouldn’t be like this.”
“We are literally just one pay cheque away from financial ruin.”
“I’m skipping meals.”
“I work on average between 45-50 hours per week and I’m looking for a second job.”
A survey of over 650 frontline homelessness and housing support workers showed that:
- 70% have stopped engaging in social activities
- 44% are struggling to pay bills
- 11% are struggling to pay rent
- 7% have started using food banks
Workers questioning whether to heat or eat
Energy costs are already a huge concern for most frontline workers in Wales, with 86% turning off lighting or electrical appliances to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and 79% not putting on the heating. In addition,95% of survey respondents were concerned ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ about the projected increase in energy costs this October. While the UK Government’s plan to freeze bills at £2,500 per year means the increase will not be as high as projected, it still equates to an increase – one that many frontline workers will not be able to afford.
“I am eating less to ensure that I have money to pay bills and fuel costs.”
“I’m supporting people now who are debating whether to eat or heat and I am sitting there thinking the exact same thing.”
“I’m wearing damp clothes to save heating.”
Fuel costs leaving workers out of pocket
The price of petrol is also putting immense pressure on workers who rely on their car for work, travelling to see multiple clients each day across a range of locations. An enormous 89% of survey respondents said increased fuel costs related to work put a strain on their personal finances. They also highlighted how this was affecting service delivery, with many being workers unable to afford to visit the people they support as often as they would like, and others saying they are unable to cover additional shifts due to the fuel costs it would incur.
“Fuel costs are having an impact on support staff, the 45p [allowance] does not cover the costs”
“I’m having to turn down extra requests for visits plus turn down shifts that desperately need to be covered.”
Call for action from UK and Welsh Governments
Cymorth Cymru is calling on the UK Government and the Welsh Government to take action on wages, energy costs, and fuel costs. Otherwise, we risk pushing these critical workers further into poverty and losing people from an already understaffed workforce.
- The Welsh Government should increase the Housing Support Grant budget for 2023/24 so that homelessness and housing support workers can receive a pay increase to help them with the upcoming cost of living pressures.
- The UK Government should take further action to reduce energy prices and provide financial support to help people cope with existing and future energy costs.
- HMRC should increase the mileage rate to ensure that frontline workers are not out-of-pocket as a result of using their car to undertake their work duties.
Cymorth Cymru Director Katie Dalton said:
“It is heart-breaking to hear about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on frontline homelessness and housing support workers across Wales. They have spent years helping people out of homelessness but now face similar questions about whether they can afford to heat or eat – and some of them face the very real risk of being pushed closer to homelessness themselves.
“Our research shows the immense pressure they have been under during the last year, as well as their fear and anxiety about what lies ahead.
“It’s time for both governments to act; for the Welsh Government to fund an increase in wages for this critical workforce and for the UK Government to take further action to reduce energy prices, improve financial support and increase mileage rates so that support workers are not left out of pocket for simply doing their jobs.”
‘Struggles from the Frontline: The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on frontline homelessness and housing support workers in Wales’ can be downloaded in English or in Welsh. It is based on evidence we received from over 700 frontline workers, including:
- 656 frontline homelessness and housing support workers responded to the survey during June and July 2022.
- 68 people attended online meetings of the Frontline Network Wales and took part in discussions about the cost of living.
Cymorth Cymru is the representative body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services in Wales. Our members provide a wide range of services that support people to overcome tough times, rebuild their confidence and live independently in their own homes.
The Frontline Network Wales is delivered by Cymorth Cymru in partnership with the St Martin’s Frontline Network. It aims to give frontline staff working with people experiencing homelessness in the voluntary, statutory and public sectors and those in housing support roles in Wales, an opportunity to share their views and experiences, to make their voices heard and influence policy and practice.
The Frontline Network works at both a national and a local level across the UK to support and empower frontline staff working in the public, statutory and voluntary sectors with people experiencing homelessness.