Cost of living crisis 'beyond dire' for parents, says school support worker

Karen Bates, family support worker at Toftwood Junior and Infant Schools

Karen Bates, family support worker at Toftwood Junior and Infant Schools, said parents were in an increasingly desperate financial situation - Credit: Karen Bates/Archant

A school support worker believes an increasing number of families are being completely consumed by cost of living worries, adding that the situation is "beyond dire". 

Karen Bates, who works in family support at Toftwood Junior and Infant Schools, said every hour was being spent supporting families in financial crisis. 

Londoners are being impacted by a growing cost of living crisis

Ths cost of living crisis has resulted in thousands of families struggling to pay their bills - Credit: Archant

She revealed one single mum and her children were on the verge of becoming homeless, while another family had just been hit with a crippling rise in rent.

Despite only starting in the job in January, Mrs Bates said she and other staff had been able to gauge the seriousness of the problem. 

She added: "All my time is spent dealing with families who are in some sort of financial crisis.

"Some of the teachers and safeguarding team have never known it so bad.

Karen Bates, family support worker at Toftwood Junior and Infant Schools

Karen Bates, family support worker at Toftwood Junior and Infant Schools - Credit: Karen Bates

"I think the situation has gone beyond dire when you've got a single mum who is working and trying her best to bring up her family, but in two weeks she is going to be homeless.

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"Some of these landlords are putting their rent up to more than double what it is costing others to pay a mortgage."

Mrs Bates revealed that issues at home were having an increasingly detrimental effect on pupils. 

"My role is to support families so their children can get on with their education," she said.

"We have got kids coming in who, in spite of their parents doing their best to keep it from them, understand what is going on. They know their mums and dads can't afford the rent."

From her personal experience of dealing with concerned parents, Mrs Bates cited a lack of affordable housing in the Dereham area - and Norfolk as a whole - as being at the heart of their turmoil. 

Moreover, planning decisions on dozens of new-home projects across the county have been halted in recent months amid pollution concerns

"We need more affordable housing, and we need it in the locality of where these people have built a life," added Mrs Bates. 

Toftwood Infant School at Dereham.

Toftwood Infant School in Dereham - Credit: Archant

"If you take children out of the environment they feel safe in, it has a huge impact on their wellbeing.

"There are all these houses going up, but it feels like someone, somewhere is making an awful lot of money and rubbing it in the face of people on the verge of being evicted."

Support on offer

Mrs Bates said the Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS) had proved a useful tool as she continues to signpost parents to various organisations offering help.

NAS provides financial support for people who cannot pay their living costs, while offering essential household goods and furniture as well as guidance and advice to those who are eligible. 

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council, which looks after the scheme, has a £7.7m support package in place through funding from central government. 

Andrew Proctor, leader of the council, said: "The spiralling cost of living is hitting everyone really hard, whether it’s the cost of food or putting fuel in their cars to get to work.

"The county council has been providing and continues to provide a range of support to those in need and facing hardship, primarily through the Norfolk Assistance Scheme."

To apply for support or find out more information, visit norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health or call 0344 800 8020.