The cost of living crisis was a preventable disaster

14 May 2022 Written by Ewan Aitken (originally published in Edinburgh Evening News)
Tom food

This column originally appeared in Edinburgh Evening News on 13 May 2022.

I managed this week to do something very stupid – not unusual, but it doesn’t usually involve so much blood and screaming. Not paying attention saw a very sharp grater grate my thumb right down to the flesh.  Seriously sore, but my screaming was not just the pain but that it was my own stupid fault! 

I had been preparing dinner for the family, batch cooking in the process. The ever-increasing price of food has meant, like everyone else, we have trying to think a bit smarter about what we eat, doing things like cooking larger amounts to save on fuel bills. I know I am lucky to be even able to think of making savings in this way. Even advice like batch cooking to save money isn’t possible for many people because of the cost of buying bulk. It is a moral outrage that in the 21st century, 1 in 5 adults in Edinburgh are skipping meals to survive. I may have a big chunk of my thumb missing but I’m still able to put food on the table. I am angry, very angry, that so many aren’t. 

Most crises happen unexpectedly, but what is galling about the cost of living crisis we’re facing is that we’ve known it was coming for many months, but there seemed little will amongst the powerful to do anything about it. Back in October when benefits were cut, Cyrenians saw a 30% increase in people using our emergency food services, and this month it’s increased by half. We've seen the increases in gas and electricity costs coming for two years but nothing was done, bar the offer of a £200 compulsory “loan” which isn’t enough to put a dent in most bills. It was an interesting response for a government who say they want to get the national debt down but somehow it is ok to add to everyone’s personal debt at a time when money is already tight.  

How we treat those most in need is a mark of any society. Ours is not doing very well right now. 

This week, Cyrenians is launching its spring appeal. We’re focusing on the cost of living crisis, because it’s the thing which is most likely to drive people into homelessness right now. During the unprecedented crisis of Covid, we delivered food for over 6 million meals – it looks like we’ll need to do the same again in the coming months and we’ll need the help of as many people as possible to achieve this.  

The cost of living crisis will affect all areas of people’s lives. Hunger and poverty make it harder to engage with school and work. They deepen tensions and conflicts in families, have far-reaching impacts on our physical and mental health, and eventually feed into cycles of isolation and homelessness. I wish it wasn’t the case and it didn’t need to be. But it is, and we need to do something about it if those in power won’t. We support people with all the ways the cost of living crisis impacts their lives, and often the first step is relieving the stress of where the next meal is coming from. With your support, we can meet the rising need brought by the cost of living crisis.