Over the last few years, austerity measures across the country have been changing the shape and size of Britain’s public services. National and local government have been forced to make difficult decisions about which services to prioritise and which to re-shape or remove. At the same time, families have been tightening their belts, with the rising costs of fuel and food, the bleak economic outlook and the changing eligibility for various state benefits.
In 2012 The Young Foundation conducted a piece of research for Camden council giving an insight into the impact of the cuts on some of the most vulnerable in Camden.
One year later and the public was feeling the effects of a fresh wave of cuts and benefit changes that had begun to take effect following the beginning of a new financial year in April 2013. Over the summer of 2013 we re-visited those that we spent time with before – to build understanding of, and share, their new realities. This time our qualitative study was complemented by a data-based impact analysis from the council which, when combined, give a rich picture of people’s day-to-day lives in the borough and the impact of the cuts.
In both years we heard stories of pressure, stress and anger and learned how people are tightening their belts and making difficult sacrifices to stay afloat. Yet we also heard stories of communities pulling together, of individual resilience and mutual support – a determination to do the best for family and friends despite the circumstances.
This bold piece of research provides an unprecedented level of insight into the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the borough. In bringing people’s stories to light, we hope to build an understanding of how to best support and protect these individuals and communities.