One Year On…
A little over a year ago, 51.9% of those who cast their ballots, voted to leave the European Union. I don’t like using the phrase “the people” as I dislike the hive mind, collective connotations of that phrase. You see, I voted to Remain in the EU. Thus every time someone says “the people” voted to leave they’re stating I’m no longer one of the people. I’m not sure what I am in this case; perhaps the semi-lucid dream of a badger? Who knows, and from what I can gather, who cares?
Have no fear, however. This post isn’t another diatribe about how all the Leave supporters are silly bastards who have fucked everything up for everyone. Without delving too deep into psychology theory, studies have shown that arguing against a position often serves to further entrench people who have taken that position. I’ll freely admit I have done that and I’ll probably do it again. Frustration combined with powerlessness breeds hostility. In my position, both feelings are markedly high right now.
Instead, I’m going to explain the impact of Brexit on me, and presumably many people in similar positions. I do this so that you may understand why I’m not likely to “get over it” anytime soon.
While the UK and the EU negotiate over the terms of our withdrawal, many are left in a state of anxious limbo. The EU nationals in the UK still have no concrete idea about what status they will have after March 2019. Businesses have no idea what, if any, tariffs they might be looking at in the future. Scientists don’t know whether they will still have access to Horizon 2020. There are a lot of people who just don’t know.
Carers: We Ain’t Rich
And then there is me, and people like me – carers. To date, Brexit has not been particularly great for many of us. I’m sure there are plenty of carers who support leaving the EU but for those of us who fall into low-income brackets, Brexit has become really painful.
Carers Allowance is around £62 per week. It is actually the lowest benefit of its type in our welfare system. If you don’t work at all then you can claim Income Support, which is an extra £45ish per week. If you do work, then you can earn up to £110 per week (after expenses) before you lose your CA. I currently have a small job that pays slightly more per week than Income Support, so that and my CA is my income. Even though I work, I am still a full-time carer. My job amounts to a few hours per week and that is the only reason I am able to do it. My mother requires significant help throughout the day. If I couldn’t work from home, or had to work significantly more hours, then I’d be unable to do the job.
Since Brexit, the cost of living for me has increased significantly. Groceries are approximately 20% more now than they were this time last year. The fixed tariff I have on my energy expires in a few months. To date, I have been unable to find a supplier who will not cost an extra £15 per month. Virtually everything is more expensive yet my income has not increased. In fact, if you’re a carer on Income Support, you’ll have received two letters this year; one noting how your CA is increasing by a few pennies and the other about how your IS is decreasing to compensate. Fucking ridiculous.
Living vs Surviving
You might think this is all fine. Certainly, some Tories believe we can survive on less than a pound a day. I have good cause to question this. If something breaks down, it’s a problem. Over the past few years, I’ve had to replace a fridge, a microwave, needed some rather important electrical work doing and call a plumber out twice. We’ve had fence panels blown down in storms, a small sinkhole form in the driveway and a shed collapse. For people on a reasonable income, such things are a nuisance but they’re not a major issue. £70 for a new fence panel, couple hundred for a new fridge freezer, £60 for the plumber, etc. Spread out over a matter of two years, they’re not major expenditures. For people in my position, though, they are.
Prior to the referendum, it wasn’t always a problem. I do not profess to have Martin Lewis’ money management skills, but I have always managed to eek by. Mostly, I’ve been able to carry on by transferring what is left of my money each week into a savings account (now on 0.01% interest, hoorah!). Doing so provided a small emergency pot. However, due to the increased cost of virtually everything, finding a way of transferring money to that pot has grown more difficult.
Luxuries: Risk vs Reward
Although I’ve still been able to afford a few luxuries or treats this year, I do so knowing that I could be shooting myself in the foot if something breaks down. For example, no sooner had I saved all the pennies to buy an SSD to speed up a five-year-old laptop, my desktop PC died. You may well think owning a PC is a luxury, but a) I need one for my work, and b) it also provides one of my few sources of entertainment.
Psychologically, we need some form of mental stimulation. Whether it is watching movies, playing video games, reading books, talking, listening to music or any other thing – our brains crave something to focus on. This is why solitary confinement is a controversial practice in prison, as it deprives the inmate of what their mind needs. You might have noticed that I have not posted any Movie Musings for a while – in part that is because I’ve cancelled most of my subscriptions. As the price of something rises, something else has to go to keep things balanced.
What’s the Point?
Yet if I sacked off everything that provides me with entertainment, what would I have left? What would even be the point of my existence, other than ensuring my mum’s welfare? You might think that the local authority would help with some of the urgent expenses, but that simply isn’t true. Our local authority is unable to offer anything that doesn’t result in either additional expenditure or loans against the property which risk making me homeless after mum passes.
I am already eating less due to the rise in grocery costs. The light is no longer switched on in my bedroom to save on electricity costs. Heck, I don’t even have the boiler on every day for hot water to save on gas. I have cold showers and strip washes instead of baths. More often than not, I’m thinking about what I can shed in order to keep putting into my emergency pot or afford the occasional treat to make my life less shit. Being a carer has never been a comfortable life but now it is becoming increasingly difficult. There is little relent from the soul-sapping tedium of everyday life.
Fear and Anxiety
Worse, however, is the anxiety. Panic whenever a necessary appliance makes a strange noise. Horror whenever a field on my day-by-day budgeting spreadsheet turns red. The worries and concerns that exacerbate my already well-documented sleep problems. It is stressful and something I could really do without.
Oh, I still just about get by and I can still just about squeeze through a few luxuries to make life more bearable for a time. However, since the referendum, I seem to spend more of my time fiddling with my budget to balance everything out than I do on productive things. I know I’m capable of more than my life to date has to show. It is so difficult to explain how anxiety is like a leash that holds you back. When your mind is swamped with negativity, you struggle to set aside the fear and get things done.
Maybe Brexit has yet to be an utter disaster for me but the noose feels like it is tightening as time passes. I can only imagine that for other people in my situation, it’s even more difficult. None of this is meant to encourage Leavers that they’re wrong but instead to explain why I’m unlikely to “get over it” anytime soon. Brexit has made my life more difficult, even less enjoyable and has contributed to increased manifestations of my depression. All this before the UK has even left the EU. As I have to live every day with this constant reminder, I’m afraid I won’t be on board until things start getting better. You won, and I lost a whole lot more than just a vote.