Beyond the numbers: understanding the real-life impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women’s mental health
By WISH – June 7, 2023
The need for WISH’s services has never been greater, and we are here on the front lines, addressing these challenges head-on.
The cost-of-living crisis has had a significant impact on the lives of the women we work with and support. We are having more self-referrals from all parts of the country, from women who do not know where to turn to for many different issues, particularly inappropriate housing, secured accommodation and rent problems. In Counselling this can dominate the sessions which means more women are referred to our Community Link services to see if anything can be done to help.
Getting advice from Citizens Advice Bureau is now difficult and WISH is increasingly having to do this work where previously, we would have just referred our clients to them.
How the women we work with are impacted:
Many of the women we work with are struggling to manage their finances, resulting in debt and lack of food. The inability to afford heating is a common issue, leading to further financial difficulties and compromises on basic needs.
”One woman who pays for carers has had to use hot water bottles instead of heating. Now she is having to cut down on how often she receives care as the cost has gone up so much. There is more worry about the future and how they will manage and ever-growing feelings of uncertainty and fear.”
Penny Bennett, WISH Community Link Manager
Women who do not have enough money stop going out, stop meeting friends and socialising. This makes them more isolated and affects their mental health. Long term loneliness has serious effects on mental and physical health. Much research has been undertaken into these effects in recent years. Being a woman is a factor, as is poverty.
“I worry about being homeless.”
The child of a WISH client
What we do to help
At WISH, we have redirected much more of our limited internal resources providing dedicated cost of living support and fundraising for individual clients. We provide:
- Guidance accessing payments from the government: sharing information and helping women to access their payments for heating (which is not straightforward if you have a prepaid meter.)
- Help with meal planning: Many women live on their own and we have helped with meal planning and assisted them to cook in their homes, encouraging them to have less takeaway. We have also had to refer more women to the food bank, and while they are waiting give them Sainsbury vouchers as they had nothing in the cupboard.
- Education on spending habits: We are helping women to look at how they spend their money, how they shop, help them to change to different phone tariffs and providers. We are reminding them about saving a little money for emergencies, helping them to open Credit Union accounts, to get debt advice and consolidate their debts so they have a little more income. We encourage saving, having a pot of money for emergencies and using loyalty cards when money runs low.
- Group Support: We have had group chats about what is a luxury or necessity and what we can do without. (for example, drinking tap water instead of buying Coke).
- Basic needs support: We have been redistributing donated toiletries to women with very limited money.
The ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women’s mental and physical health is expected to result in greater demand for counselling and a need for staff to undertake more of this type of work. Addressing loneliness and isolation will also be key as the long-term effects of these issues can significantly further impact mental and physical health.
We are seeking grant funding to sustain and expand our operations and ensure that we can continue to make a difference in the lives of the women who need us most.
If you can help support our work, please consider making a donation.
More information via The gendered impact of the cost-of-living crisis paper by The Women’s Budget Group
- Women have lower levels of savings and wealth than men. Even before Covid-19, women were more likely to be in debt and this has worsened as a result of the pandemic.
- Women’s caring responsibilities mean that they are often less able than men to increase their hours of paid work, as childcare costs were increasing above the rate of inflation for several years before this crisis.
- Women are the ‘shock absorbers of poverty’. They tend to have the main responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food for their children and families,9 and for the management of budgets of poor households.
Particular groups of women are likely to be disproportionately impacted:
- Poverty rates are significantly higher among people from Bangladeshi (53%), Pakistani (48%) and Black (40%) ethnic groups than among White people (19%), making it harder to meet rising living costs.
- Disabled people were already facing on average an extra £583 in costs per month due to their impairment or condition.
- Even prior to Covid-19, over a third of disabled workers were having to cut back on food and heating.
- Single parents, most of whom are women, have been hit particularly badly by Covid-19 with a third in financial difficulty, and 11% in problem debt. Prior to the pandemic 84% of single parents, reported savings of less than £1,500.
- Victims/survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including economic abuse, are likely to find it harder to leave an abusive relationship if they are unsure how they will support themselves and their children as living costs rise.
- Women with ‘no recourse to public funds’, who are excluded from claiming social security benefits are at high risk of poverty, and often destitution, if they lose work, or separate from a partner.