by Riah, a member of the Better Work Network’s Lived Experience Advisory Group
My name is Riah. I’m a single mother with my children. I live in Lambeth in London and I’ve been living there for nearly 15 years now. It’s a very nice area – it’s busy, there’s lots of shops, lots of different people and cultures, and there’s a library we always use for the children.
I work part-time at a well-known budget shop, mainly stacking the shelves. Before that I worked as a cleaner but had to find a new job due to the pandemic. I’ve now worked at my current job for just over a year and am paid National Living Wage. I have lots of challenges with my job. I wish I could find a job where they could pay me more, but it’s hard, I have to work there. I have to, because it’s hard to find a good job. There’s no easy job if you don’t have good qualifications.
The cost of living crisis is very stressful. Everything costs more at the moment, it’s too much. Bread that was £1 is now £1.20, milk has gone up, oil is getting very expensive. I cope by saying I’m not going to stress myself – let me do the most important things. Bills, food, that’s most important. The things we don’t need, we don’t buy or we reduce. It’s very hard, I cannot save money on my low income – I don’t think about saving, because when you have the money, it just goes on bills and food.
I talk to my friends about what the government is doing to help people. The payments have been very helpful – any payment that helps to cover the bills is useful. And reducing the amount of the price increase is helpful as well. But prices will still go up again in October. Thinking about the coming winter is very stressful. Our house never gets warm, so I have to put the heating on – I have to. And I am just thinking ‘how are we going to pay for that?’.
How is this winter going to be fair for people who earn little money? The government must think about us more. We work so hard. We just want to live. We want a basic life, where we don’t get worried, or think ‘what’s going to happen if I don’t pay my bill?’. We just need a bit more support. Our wages also need to go up – £9.50 an hour is nothing compared to the hard work we do in there. It would make all the difference to us.
Riah is a member of the Better Work Network’s Lived Experience Advisory Group. The advisory group is made up of workers in London with experience of low pay and insecure work. The group meets regularly to inform the Better Work Network’s priorities, utilising members’ valuable insight and experience to think about how to provide better work in the capital.