By Alastair Reid, Chair, CWC
Life is always unpredictable but there are elements of stability which we rely on and make our lives that bit more manageable.
It is hardly a surprise that the situation in Ukraine would have far reaching effects. We’ve experienced the immediate effects on fuel, we are now beginning to see further ramifications of shortages. There are impacts on our basics such as wheat, we import 25% of our requirements from Ukraine and we are seeing shortages of other categories such as vegetable oil.
It’s also not a surprise about the general increase in prices. In this mix we are all aware of the impact of the huge, not gradual, leap in home energy costs. For some these changes can be budgeted for and accommodated for by adjustments in discretionary spending. This still has an impact on the wider economy as it results, in the main, in reduced spending in other areas, which affects businesses and consequently, employment.
There are many and I think its the majority of individuals and families who do not have the resources to manage these increases in this way. My family were poor, there was always food but we all knew that money was extremely tight and it wasn’t unusual to hear that the housekeeping for the week had been used up by Thursday. We managed. Later in life I developed health problems which meant I couldn’t work productively and my business folded. Fortunately my wife was working and we managed. This latter event was an eye opener in many ways, but it was particularly in the realisation of the stress my parents must have been under in the early years of our family.
It seems our politicians have no conception of the way most people manage financially. It also appears they have no idea of the effects of sudden and/or rapid cost increases. They again appear not to have any idea of what its like to have to choose between cooking, heating, buying food, paying the rent, mortgage, credit cards etc. And, with the real possibility of homelessness persistently looming despite best efforts and application for some.
Despite popular myth, most people want to work. Most people want a little enjoyment from life and a small financial buffer to allow some modest discretionary spending and work hard to achieve these.
My personal impression was that the UK economy was in fairly robust shape despite Covid and exiting the EU. My impression now is that the economy is now much more fragile. The effect on the majority of businesses, regardless of sector is becoming noticeable. As said this will affect existing jobs and impact on future job growth. The consequent stress on employees, owners, directors will range from noticeable to very significant. There will be impacts on physical and mental health. More, again as said, will find it hard to maintain rents, mortgages and other financial commitments.
Workplace Chaplains will be needed more than ever.