Opinion

‘Handout’-hater Liz Truss frightens those of us struggling to improve our lives

I watch Liz Truss and I see a woman wearing a Margaret Thatcher mask. But we are not in the 70s or 80s any more: we are in 2022. I watched the Tory leadership contest. Not out of interest, but out of confusion and despair. It was frightening.

Tax cuts? What does that mean to people like me? They won’t do anything to help us. In her speech on Tuesday she barely mentioned the high cost of living, and nothing to do with benefits. My food bills are OK at the moment, but I’m hoarding: tinned stuff that will last a long time in case money gets tight in winter.

On Thursday, she announced that energy bills would be frozen at about £2,500 a year until 2024. When the new price cap was announced, my energy bills were due to go up to £3,500, so this is better – but it’s still expensive. How will we pay this back? I’m really worried. I have been very down. We are the ones who are going to suffer. She blamed the war in Ukraine for the high prices, but my electricity is from E.ON and their profits are outrageous: £3.47bn in the first six months of the year.

I’ve changed jobs since my last column. I was working as a project support worker with adults in supported housing. Even though I had a contract, my manager gave me only one week’s notice before my job ended. I’ve found something else now but it’s just been interviews, interviews, interviews – you get used to it, but it’s draining. I’ve started work on a pilot youth project, on a three- to six-month contract. It’s short term but it could end up being longer.

I’m OK with the uncertainty. I’ve got three or four jobs anyway. I’m still working six days a week: I do other youth work, and have a Saturday job supervising reparation work with young people who are giving back to the community by picking up litter. I’ve also written a play about universal credit – we need urgent reform to the benefits system.

Truss frightens me. That word “handouts”: she was talking to her Tory base. Universal credit isn’t a handout, anyway, because you have to show commitment to work. I am updating my play and I will put it on at the end of September or early October at a theatre in east London.

At one of the job interviews I had, they wanted me to have a degree. Before Covid, I was halfway through a degree in youth justice with the Open University. But with Covid, I had three deaths in the family. My mum passed away in a care home. She had pneumonia, and then Covid finished her off. Then my stepdad fell down in his property, ended up in hospital, got Covid. Then my uncle: he died of complications with diabetes.

It was all in the space of a few months. It was too much. I didn’t have the brain capacity to be studying, so I put the degree on pause. I have decided to go back to uni and do a part-time course, so I will be starting in October. It’s an investment. Once I get that degree, I’ll get a better-paid job.

Covid has shown me that you cannot take tomorrow for granted. Nothing is certain. And if things take off and more opportunities come then I won’t be stuck in this nine-to-five. I will have time to write. I will have time to put on plays.

  • Sharron Spice is in her 30s and lives in London. She tweets at @mSharronSpice

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