Andy Nicholls works three jobs, earns the average UK salary, and lives with his parents but is still struggling to save for a house deposit. Siki Ali works with young people and says even children are talking about the rising cost of bills. Gemma is at college and wants to train as a paramedic but, because of her family’s finances, she says getting a full-time job is more important.
Andy Nicholls, 42, lives in Wigan and juggles three jobs; full-time youth work, part-time in a hotel and as a TV extra. He works more than 60 hours per week and earns around the UK average salary of £38,000 a year. But even then, he had to move back in with his parents to try and save enough money to afford a deposit for his own home.
“I didn’t want to move back in with my parents but it was the only way I was ever going to be able to save and afford my own place.
“I actually don’t know what I would have done without their support, especially now when all I see when I get home at 10pm at night is the news saying about prices rising for everything.
“I don’t get time to socialise really, or even think about going to the gym or anything like that.
“I get up at about 5am each day and maybe hit the snooze button a few times, because I know it’s going to be a long day.
“I work a lot but it’s only because I live with my parents that I can save.
“And that does make me think. When I do get in the place of my own, am I then going to have enough money to pay my gas, pay my electric, pay the water bill? Everything is just going up and up and the panic and worry that puts on individuals, it’s just very difficult.
“And I’m not sure what more I could do to try and earn. I mean now, when I know I’ve done 63, 64, 65 hours and then someone offers me another six-hour shift, I just think, physically, can I? And then I think it’s that little bit of extra money that will go towards this and pay for that and get me that.”
“I know that’s not good for my health and mental health but it’s a really hard time for everyone and we just have to keep on going.”
Siki Ali has been a youth worker at Wigan Youth Zone for the past nine years. The centre provides recreational facilities, job advice, food parcels and support for local young people and their families. More than half of the children that attend the youth centre come from Wigan’s most deprived areas.
“Things are getting tougher than I’ve ever seen them for young people in Wigan.
“I mean, you never used to hear young people coming in here and talking about things like energy bills, but now they do – about rising costs of fuel and electricity. I mean what child should be talking about that?
“We used to think we knew which kids might have families that were struggling, but honestly it’s getting harder and harder to know.
“We are getting more and more asks of support for free food parcels from families where both parents are in work. It’s families like those who are really feeling the pinch, because they are earning just enough to not be able to claim working tax credits – those are the families that we find are needing more support.
“And of course, it has a knock-on impact on children and young people. We have young people who get state financial support to help them through college but most of that is now going to their families, to help bills at home.
“We have children who come here from very deprived areas, where they might be the third-generation of unemployed. We try all we can to support them with various into-work programmes, and there are successes but it’s very hard.
“And for the now the question of university is out the window. If you raise that topic, it’s “nah I just need to go to work.” And some of these kids are ones who can go to uni, excel there and that would, in the future, help them get better jobs. But they need to work, for the now, for the present.”
Gemma Unsworth, 17, lives at home with her parents and siblings. She had a part-time job as a shop assistant to contribute to family finances but she lost this during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is busy finishing a BTECH Diploma in Sports Coaching and Development at a college in Wigan so that she can get full-time work, support her parents and start saving to live by herself.
“Right now, the most important thing is that I get into work. Getting a job, any job really that is full-time and pays, is more important than my own dreams or ambitions.
“I’ve always wanted to be a paramedic but that’s going to have to come further down the line.
“At the moment, as a family, we are struggling a bit and having to cut back on quite a lot of stuff. We used to do a food shop every two weeks, but now we have to budget with our food, so we do one big shop just at the end of the month.
The cost of living: Kay Burley’s road back to Wigan Pier
Why some countries have lower energy bills than the UK
“You never really know what’s going to happen in the future. You never know if you’ll have a job, if you’re going to be let go.
“Obviously with the prices going up on absolutely everything it’s just really hard at the minute. You want to do the stuff you love but obviously you need the essentials as well.
“And the problem is prices keep on going up but wages aren’t. I do hope to rent a place of my own once I start work, but every time I check what sort of things I could afford, I see prices seem to be rising almost every day.”
Watch Kay Burley in Wigan between 7am and 10am Monday to Thursday on Sky News