Households ‘struggling to keep their heads above water’ – CAB chief

CAB Manager Stuart Hellon. GG ENGEMN00120120612163659 ENGEMN00120120612163659
CAB Manager Stuart Hellon. GG ENGEMN00120120612163659 ENGEMN00120120612163659

Households in Boston are financially ‘struggling to keep their heads above water’.

That is the stark warning from the head of the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Meanwhile, the town’s food bank has said it had seen an increase in use of 18 per cent between January and August this year - a figure which is feared will rise as Christmas adds to financial strains.

Boston CAB chief executive Stuart Hellon told The Standard that according to research by the Lincoln Research Observatory (LRO), the average wage in Boston was the lowest in the county.

According to labour market statistics watcher Nomis, where the LRO gets its data, the average wage for full-time employed residents is £21,987. The average wage across the county is £29,082 and the highest average is South Kesteven at £32,743.

Of the Boston wage, Mr Hellon said: “Lots of people who are working on these wages are struggling to keep their heads above water. We know the effect that low wages have on people with debt issues and budgeting issues.

“In an environment whereby the welfare benefit reforms are taking an ever closer look at how much benefits are given to individuals, that can have an inordinate effect on those people.”

He said the Fenside ward in Boston was in the top 10 per cent most deprived wards in the country, according to the LRO. Central, Fishtoft, Witham, Staniland South, and Skirbeck all appear in the observatory’s top 20 per cent.

Ian Evans from the Boston Food Bank said: “In the last few weeks we have been becoming busier and busier.

“People are being forced to choose whether to eat or heat.”

He said visits had come in the form of single people, couples, and families.

“A lot of people have a lot of expenses, then they lose their jobs and they are struggling,” he added.

Asked whether Christmas put extra financial strain on families, he said: “You have only got to look at TV screens and see the toys that are advertised - that must put pressure on parents.

“I just think it’s unnerving and people are struggling - things are not getting better.”

Mr Evans told the Standard that between December 1, 2013, and December 1, 2014, the food bank had fed 1056 adults and 589 children (a total of 1645) but in the first eight months of this year (January to August) it had already fed 788 adults and 501 children (a total of 1289).

However, despite the increase in need, the food bank is confident it is keeping up with demand.

It recently held a three day collection in Tesco and Mr Evans said ‘people have been very generous in their donations’.

Haven High Technology College is also due to make a £1,500 donation to the charity.

Factfile: Average wages across the county

Here are some of the latest facts from the Official Labour Market Statistics.

For the average wage in Lincolnshire for full-time/part-time workers is £29,082/£10,037, for the districts it is:

– Boston: £21,987/£9,681

– Lincoln: £27,015/*

– South Holland: £26,373/£10,797

– South Kesteven: £32,743/£9,956

– West Lindsey: £31,424/ £11,147

– North Kesteven: £30,779/£9,252

* In Lincoln the Official Labour Market Statistics say the figure for part-time average wage has been suppressed as it was ‘statistically unreliable’.