‘We need to step up and be more grown up’: the young people bearing the burden of rising prices
Report by cost of living correspondent Carole Green
With winter around the corner, inflation at record highs and energy prices soaring, many are thinking about how their lifestyles and habits will change to keep costs down.
That includes young people who have had to help their families as budgets become increasingly stretched.
A recent survey found nearly a quarter of young people have already skipped meals to save money, while a third say they have had to choose between paying for food and energy bills. Nearly half of young people are worried about having money to buy essentials this winter.
Our Cost of Living Correspondent Carole Green has spent time with teenagers at the Wicked Wales film club in Rhyl, as they came together to make a film to share in their own words some of the day-to-day challenges they face.
Dylan, who’s 20, says the burden placed on his family’s budget has forced him to grow up very quickly: “I think it is at that point where we do now need to step up and be more grown up and go ‘right this is a big problem so we need to help’.”
With a big family, Dylan says he feels the pressure to help, but is not always able to: “With my dad just having cancer and then my mum now having two nieces and a nephew, it [looking after everyone] is starting to get a lot harder, especially with me being disabled. Trying to do everything I possibly can, without breaking a bone, is very hard.”
15-year-old Kaitlyn has also felt the need to step in to help her family. She works in a youth club and an art club for people with disabilities and has used her wages to help contribute to the weekly shop.
“I suggested I could help out with the shopping if they [my parents] wanted me to, I could give them my card and they could spend my wages on shopping for everyone. They said ‘oh it probably won’t come to that’, and now we’re at the start of October, and I said this at the start of September, and I’ve had to help out.
"I’m completely fine with it but from the perspective of my parents, they’re having to get their 15-year-old daughter to help with food.”
Kaitlyn’s worried that come the winter, it could be a really difficult situation for many in Wales:
“We probably won’t have the heating on during the dead of winter because we won’t have enough money to pay for it. So they [my parents] said, we’re going to have a blanket in this room, and you’re going to have to wear extra layers around the house, things like that. And we might go out to cafes, if we even have enough money for that.
“I know that kids my age, maybe even younger, are having the exact same conversation with their parents, and having to do the same things I’m doing.”
Kaitlyn is not eligible for free schools meals, as her parents salaries combined are above the threshold, but she says the scheme needs to be widened to include more people.
“I’m not allowed free school dinners because one of my parents has a ‘really good income’ but we don’t have enough money for packed lunches and things like that. I just feel like they need to maybe let more kids get free school dinners.”
Akira is also 15 and is eligible for free school meals but says that the impact of rising prices is being felt at school too, and there’s limited food available.
“There’s barely no food left, like what we usually get, there’s less options. The heating has not been good at all either, it’s freezing for everyone in the school, everyone’s constantly complaining.”
That is having an impact on Akira’s mental health and her ability to study.
“My mental health has deteriorated with everything. With school, at home, me on my own, needing to decide what I should get for breakfast because we usually get a breakfast bar, a banana and yoghurt but now I can only have a breakfast bar. We have exams and mocks and it’s been really hard to stay focused.”
Evie, 16, is also worried about the impact the cost of living is having on studies.
“It’s getting colder, people are struggling to concentrate and can’t write if it’s getting too cold. If it gets worse and worse, it’s going to have a knock-on effect on someone’s education and it’s going to bring more people into poverty than it would have done before.”
For Evie, social media is a key way of sharing the message that people of all ages are struggling due to financial instability at the moment.
“Obviously we can tell teachers, family and friends but they don’t have the authority to be able to do much to help us. The only people that have authority, it’s not like we can go up to them and tell them straight up. That’s a good thing about social media, we can get it out there in an easier way.”
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know
ITV Cymru Wales put the concerns of Dylan, Evie, Kaitlyn and Akira's directly to people in power and here is what they had to say.
Speaking on behalf of the Welsh Government, Jane Hutt MS, the Social Justice Minister, said they are doing everything they can to help young people.
"It's shocking we should be in this situation here today isn't it, so we don't want that to happen. We're calling on the UK Government to up-rate benefits in line with inflation because many of those families will be families on universal credit who are working as-well.
"That's where the benefit system from the UK Government should be helping those families but also, we are doing everything we can to support our young people."
In response, a spokesperson for the UK Government said they are protecting households across Wales.
“We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting 426,000 families across Wales with at least £1,200 of direct payments and supporting more than eight million UK pensioner households with an extra one-off £300 Winter Fuel Payment this year.
“We know that people are worried about their bills ahead of this winter which is why we’ve taken decisive action to hold down energy bills, save the average household around £1,000 a year through our new Energy Price Guarantee and provide targeted support to the most vulnerable.”