Hope in Haringey: “Students face a cold welcome at home”

Omar Alleyne-Lawler, communications manager at youth charity Hope in Haringey, on how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting young people

Dubbed a “cozzie livs” by some young people, our current cost-of-living crisis is being felt by every member of the family.

It’s hard to put into words just how difficult this time of financial turbulence is for so many people in Haringey. In previous years, the long gap between the December and January payday meant it was normal for the start of a new year to feel like a squeeze. It usually means that as we get closer to the end of the month, spirits start to lift as households see a light at the end of their tunnel. This year, however, that tunnel has seemed longer than most with the fallout of financial hardship manifesting in unexpected ways – especially among our younger members of society.

For instance, I recently heard of a playground football match where one team had players who had heating on at home facing off against a team where the heating was off. Whilst I’m glad to see students are finding ways to make bonds in the coldest of circumstances, I’m saddened to hear the ‘heating off ’ team had enough players to field a competitive squad.

But heating isn’t the only way students are separating themselves out against one another. With utility bills at an all-time high, families are listening to Martin Lewis’ money saving advice and electing to turn the electricity off to fight skyrocketing bills. Facing a cold and dark welcome at home, one local teacher I spoke to wondered if some students are deliberately misbehaving so they can stay warm at school by sticking around in detention.

Such a possibility is worrying, which is why we at Hope in Haringey have been proactive in offering more after-school provisions than in previous years. Now offering after-school opportunities in art, media, and a variety of sports, we’re hoping students who want to stay at school have a healthy way of seeing that want realised.

However, not all young people are reacting to the discomfort at home in the same way. A 2007 Duke University
study shows that when the household is financially anxious, children sometimes take on that anxiety and try – or are forced – to help. This is something we’re aware of in our mentoring team as we connect 16–24-year-olds with professionals in the fields they wish to work in. With current anxieties around employment continuing to
build, we’re prepared to take on more referrals in 2023 than ever before to give people the best chance at starting their career on the right foot.

For some families, this opportunity looks set to relieve the pressure going forward, but we know more solutions are needed if families are to shake off financial hardship.

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