A new national project examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low income families has been launched.

The Covid Realities project – led by the University of York – is calling for parents and carers living on a low income to share their experiences of everyday life during the Coronavirus crisis.

Lead researcher, Dr Ruth Patrick from Social Policy & Social Work said: “There is an urgent need to understand how families on a low income are coping at these difficult, new times.

“To date, the government’s response has not paid enough attention to families on a low income; and has not delivered enough help to support people to get by. By working together with parents and carers, we want to make sure that their experiences are given the attention they deserve; and properly inform the policy response.”

Parents and carers from across the UK are invited to join a safe online space where they can share their experiences and work with the research team to develop recommendations for policy change. Findings from the 18-month project – funded by the Nuffield Foundation – will seek to influence the evolving social security policy response.

Several families across the UK have already shared their experiences with researchers as part of a pilot study, including Sydnie who is a single parent with two young children living on Universal Credit.

Sydnie said: “I’ve been out shopping without the kids; it was hectic, horrible and I don’t want to do it again. My shopping costs have doubled or gone up by a third. I haven’t worked it out to be honest. I just close my eyes and don’t look and hope we can make do.”

Dr Maddy Power, who is working with Ruth Patrick on the project said: “The parents and carers we have spoken to have emphasised that the coronavirus pandemic has introduced new and often extreme levels of hardship and difficulty to their lives. They told us that managing the additional, and often rising, costs of lockdown has compounded the already severe difficulties of living on a low-income.

“Lockdown brought new expenses to finding and securing daily essentials, testing already-stretched budgetary practices and placing additional burdens on people’s mental health. For many parents and carers, the end of lock-down and the ‘future’ beyond that is highly uncertain.”

The project is a partnership with the Universities of York, Birmingham and Child Poverty Action Group. 


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