Britain has now been subjected to over 10 years of austerity. While those at the top were given the biggest state-sponsored bailout in history, the rest of society had to pay for it. For those at the bottom end of the economic ladder, life is precarious.
In 2013 I began documenting people’s living conditions for Save the Children in Keighley, Yorkshire. I met up with three families and spent the Summer recording their daily lives. The town was blighted by unemployment and drugs, and these had affected the families I met. Dean and Vicki both had problems with heroin addiction. They were working very hard to keep their lives active and focused on bringing up their two young boys. Laura and Lee had had a rocky relationship but were trying to make a go of it for the sake of their three young children. Claire and Sean had been together for over a decade and had a strong and close relationship, though it was one blighted by drugs. Sean’s inability to stay off heroin led to their forced separation and subsequently to Sean’s suicide. I’ve kept up a close relationship with Claire and continued working with her in her new home town of Blackpool. She now has a new network of friends, including Colin (with his children) and Rose.
As Universal Credit kicks in, these families are barely surviving from one day to the next, in a landscape devastated by austerity. Last time I saw them Rose was threatened with prison because of her daughter’s truancy. Colin had no money, heating or food until his next pay packet in three days time. Claire is currently appealing against a ‘sanction’ of the loss of two months benefit.