Funny old saying that…
According to research by Shelter, 1 in 3 families in the UK are only one monthly pay- check away from losing their homes. A staggering 37% of working families wouldn’t manage to cover their monthly bills if one partner lost their job. The statistics for those who are single parents and those who live alone are worse.
With high housing costs, credit card debt and zero hour contracts is it any wonder that there are over 16.5 million working age adults in the UK with no savings at all. This isn’t just unique to the UK, most English-speaking Western economies, including the US, Australia and Canada are finding their citizens are struggling to survive from month to month. The “working poor” of these countries have no emergency savings for healthcare or essential expenditure such as car and house maintenance.
I remember in the early 1990’s 100% mortgages were the norm, people bought houses on credit cards, you could borrow 5 times your salary at any major bank. But then the recession came, interest rates went out of control, house prices plummeted and negative equity took hold. I remember friends handing back their house keys to the bank. The pressure and sheer exhaustion of trying to ride the recession rollercoaster was just too much. Many moved in with friends and family or rented a sofa from a friend or colleague. How far were they from the streets, how far would they be, or you be if it were to happen again today?
Any one of us could find ourselves in this position. Whether by losing a job, through ill health, sudden disability or bankruptcy we all hit bumps in the road now and again. As a “successful businesswoman” not many people would expect me to have any experience of these bumps. But not so long ago, after a financially crippling divorce, I had two unforeseen events in my business, in succession, which made me vulnerable to financial disaster. Without adequate reserves, I found myself in a spiraling downward cycle of debt, I literally couldn’t take a wage for months. I asked for a payment break from my mortgage, a much easier option than if I had been renting of course, and had sleepless nights about letting employees go. Employees that I knew were living month to month too – how would they pay their rent?
As it happens I made some difficult decisions, and worked my way back out of that black hole. Would I have ended up on the streets? No of course not, because my resilience and social capital is good, family and friends would have intervened. But what if our resilience is damaged, our social capital low, or we are isolated far from home, it is easy to see how a simple chain of events can leave any of us hurtling towards homelessness.
We are all only one paycheck away…. it’s a funny old saying that…
Throughout the semester members of the student committee will take turns to write a blog. It might be about organising the Festival, it might be about something else they are doing in or away from Brookes, it might be thoughts on our theme of home. Check in regularly to find out!