Cost of Living crisis: ‘I’m freezing all the time. There is always someone who is going to be sick because it’s so cold’


Student journalist Flavia Gouveia talks to a group of mothers at a women’s centre in Craigavon

As many mothers struggle with the Cost of Living crisis, a women’s centre in Craigavon, County Armagh, has responded by providing a range of vital services to try and help support them.

Amongst the resources provided by the Chrysalis Women’s Centre are new classes on basic mechanics, cooking on a budget, and a food bank. Director Ruth McKeever said: “We have had to think outside the box to see how we can support the community out there.”

The centre has also created a daily “warm well space” with free meals provided to the elderly and vulnerable. The centre has also produced winter packages, with support from local businesses, for distribution to those who come in.

“What came back to us was expensive things such as washing up powder, shower gel, and blankets. We put these items together after listening to the women who come here,” said Ruth.

She said the women who use the centre’s services just want to know how they are going to feed their families.

She added: “They are worried about Christmas, worried about their kids and how they are going to provide for them. They are worried about the future.”

Helping hand: Ruth McKeever, Director of the Chrysalis Women’s Centre in Craigavon

Amongst the top concerns for women were rising energy and utility costs. Mother-of-two Kat O’Reilly (30), said: “We just got our latest electricity bill, and even though we used less than the same period last year, it was 50 per cent more expensive.” She added: “When we moved into our house last year, our monthly payments to cover utilities and rates were just over £160 a month, and now it’s £375.”

Mother of three, Anna Clenaghan (45), said: “I put in £30 gas at the beginning of the week and it’s already gone. Last night I had to keep the heating on longer because it was really cold.” She added: “£30 before would have lasted me at least a month.”

Dana Henry (52), who lives with four of her children, said: “I’m freezing all the time. There is always someone who is going to be sick because it’s so cold.” She added: “It’s terrible because I was always used to being warm in the winter.”

Rising costs and the resulting financial pressure means that women must make difficult decisions as they struggle to balance their family finances.

Anna said: “The shopping now doesn’t go very far. I used to do a big shop and then the fridge and cupboards would be all full and the kids were used to that, but now I can’t be like that. Now it’s just essentials.” Kat added that her family had cut down on meat. “That cut our food bill by about £20 a week. I don’t buy any branded treats unless they are on discount. Something as simple as cereal is really expensive. I buy everything second-hand. I’ve even bought some of the kids’ presents on the online website Vinted.”

While the women are becoming accustomed to these tough choices, they also worry about the impact this has had on their children. Dana said: “The hardest bit has been saying no to kids and grandkids. It’s hard to make those decisions. When my son says other friends can get it and he asks why I can’t get it, it is hard. I hate saying no, but you have to.”

Ruth said the impact that this was having on children was “unacceptable”. She added that young children shouldn’t have to worry about these things.

She urged politicians “to get back to work” as she expects the situation to worsen.

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