The cost-of-living crisis is affecting so many of the young people we support, the majority of whom are on benefits, studying or on a very low income. For Carrie, who has a three-year-old daughter and has just finished her first year of university, food poverty is making things almost impossible.
Being diagnosed with cancer
Carrie received floating support from Centrepoint (where a young person is supported in their own home) when she moved into her own council flat aged 18 after she left the care system. Eleven different foster placements between the ages of 13-18 meant that she had already had a challenging start to life and as if that wasn’t enough, she also battled cancer after she had her daughter, now aged three.
“I remember just crying – I’ve got everything I’ve always dreamed of and now my child might grow up without a mum, the same way I did. It made me really want to fight to live,” she remembers.
Carrie went through seven weeks of radiotherapy and was eventually given the all-clear. The positive prognosis helped her to start looking to the future.
A new perspective
“It made me feel different. I didn’t feel sorry for myself or my situation anymore. I didn’t care about my past; I was just so determined to be everything for my daughter and for our future."
Carrie began a degree in social care in 2021. However, even with her student finance and help from the Centrepoint University Bursary Fund, it is proving almost impossible to make ends meet as costs keep rising.
Trying to stay afloat
“I get my student finance every four months. The clutch on my car went and I had to get it fixed as it’s the only way I can get myself to university and my daughter to nursery on time. Because of that, it’s left me the last month without any money. I’ve managed to pay my bills this month, but next month, I don’t know how I’m going to pay them. It’s money I just don’t have.”
Living hand-to-mouth in this way is taking its toll on Carrie’s mental health. She is often reliant on food packages from her support worker at Centrepoint, but young people like Carrie should not have to rely on food banks and donations to survive.
“It’s making me feel really depressed. I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve been using what we have in the freezer. Today, my daughter is ill and off school and she’s not wanting to leave the house. I can’t get anyone to watch her because she’s poorly. I can’t get out to the shops. I haven’t even got any bread or milk as I’m just getting things when I really need them so that nothing gets wasted.”
“I’m using everything I’ve got in the cupboards rather than buying fresh food. I’m hoping that Centrepoint can send me some more essentials. My key worker has helped me before with little bits here and there, but normally I can just about manage. Sometimes we go to eat at my sister’s which helps when things are tight, but I always make sure my daughter can eat, even if that means I don’t.”
Being a single parent in full-time education is challenging enough, but with student finance not reflecting the rising cost-of-living, Carrie worries whether she will be able to complete her course.
“ I’m now £500 in debit with my energy provider. I just don’t know where the money is going to come from. I just feel anxious all the time at the moment.”
In the last year, the number of homeless young people needing emergency food support has quadrupled.
More and more young people are coming to Centrepoint in urgent need of emergency food support. These young people are stuck in ‘survival mode’ - a mindset brought about by a prolonged state of heightened stress, which can often be caused by not having enough to eat.
And the consequences of this go far beyond hunger. Because when a young person is malnourished, it affects every area of their life – from playing havoc with their sleep and health, to harming their focus and personal relationships. It makes it impossible for a young person to move forward.
As the cost-of-living crisis looks set to force thousands into food poverty, it’s so important we’re here to be a safety net for young people. Your gift today could give a young person like Carrie safety, stability and freedom from worrying about where their next meal will come from.