A report from GMTU, CLASS and leaders from the Aquarius estate in Hulme.
I am having to reduce the quality of food, so I only buy fruit and vegetables at the weekend. Then I can survive on flour-based cooking.
From 11-16 July, a coalition of organisations in the Aquarius Estate in Hulme, carried out a survey across six tower blocks in response to the mounting cost of living crisis.
Community leaders from a dedicated network of groups including Aquarius Community Savers, Aquarius TARA, Epping Street Warriors, and Hulme Tenants Union spent six days knocking on every door across the six blocks and distributing 350 booklets detailing Support & Services available to tenants & residents in Hulme.
Tenants were supported by CLASS and GMTU. Their aims were:
- to signpost residents to the range of support services available to them in Hulme;
- to link as many people as possible into local solidarity and support initiatives;
- to carry out a survey which would take a temperature test of the impacts of rising costs after stories had emerged of people already struggling to pay for electric and food.
83 surveys were completed in total including 13 with residents of the St Georges and Aquarius estates who attend On Top of the World Project's Seanchai café at the Aquarius Centre on Wednesdays.
The findings fit into four broad areas: the impact of rising costs, problems with housing, access to the doctors and other medical services, and access to services and information, particularly around money and debt.
Despite surveying the blocks in the middle of July, over a third of participants were already having to cut back on food and energy use, and some were already skipping meals.
38% described their financial situation as 'finding it quite difficult' or 'finding it very difficult' while 35% said they were 'just about getting by'.
I am using the shower at the local leisure centre so I don't have to use my shower at home. I only shop at ALDI as it is cheapest. I don't have anything switched on except the kettle and the TV. I cook after 11pm as the electric is cheaper at that time.
In discussions with residents, many said they couldn't access the services they need. 12% of participants said they cannot access the local services they need this year. 35% of participants said they can only sometimes access the services they need this year. Only 31% of respondents said they can usually access the services they need.
The three most common services that were raised in conversations with tenants were housing, doctors surgeries, and money advice - including debt advice.
I found your bringing of the sonic landscape into this so important as well. So you talk about people buying houses and no-one objecting to the sound of them going in there, knocking down walls, putting skips on the road, putting up with the noise of having your house refurbished. That isn't demonised, but the sound of young black adults is. Everything in terms of their laughter, the loudness, the music. That indicates criminality. The other indicates wealth and aspiration. Do you think you are more aware of that sound and think it has a strong influence on everyone around, in terms of the changing sound of Forest Gate?
My main difficulty is getting repairs done. Like our toilet. There was a leak from the ceiling from the flat above, and about 2 or 3 months ago they sent a surveyor around. But still now, no-one has come back to repair it, and we are living here with two young children.
While the most significant drivers of the cost of living crisis are national and global in nature, community leaders in Aquarius believe that through local collective action and appropriate collaboration between local agencies, the worst impacts of the crisis could be avoided. Over the coming weeks, GMTU and CLASS will be supporting tenants to use these findings to approach a range of local agencies and explore ways to ensure Aquarius tower block tenants and residents are supported through the difficult winter ahead.
You can access the full report here.
Quotes shared within this article were recorded as close to verbatim as possible during tenant-led interviews for the cost of living survey exercise.