The 'just about managing'. 'Hardworking families'. 'Alarm-clock Britain'. In recent years British political discourse has been filled with these slogans, as politicians claim to speak on behalf of families who are in work, but struggling to get by. This book allows us to hear from some of these families directly. At a time when the impact of austerity is more relevant than ever, Just Managing? cuts through the debates and sloganeering to give some of the real people behind the headlines and statistics a chance to tell their stories. It tracks the lives of thirty working families in Liverpool over one year, as they struggle to manage on incomes at or around the National Minimum Wage. Their accounts are placed within the economic and political context that has shaped their experiences and that of millions of other working families across the country. This book is required reading for anyone seeking to understand what life is like at the sharp end of 'austerity Britain’.
These are the stories that bring the statistics of austerity and inequality to life. The dignity, work ethic and stoicism of the families in this book should haunt every politician and media commentator who has painted the false picture of a 'benefits culture' and 'shirkers and scroungers'; this illuminating book should be required reading for them.
author (with Richard Wilkinson) of The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
The life experiences reported in Just Managing? were told to community researchers as part of the 2014-15 Getting By? project, which was supported by the Liverpool City Council Action Group on Poverty. The study, conducted over one year, captured the experiences of thirty Liverpool families in which one or both parents were in low-paid employment. Using weekly diaries to track their income and spending, and giving regular in-depth interviews, they revealed the challenges they faced as they struggled to cope in their day-to-day lives.
The Getting By? project culminated in the creation of the gettingby.org.uk website (now archived), a dedicated YouTube channel, and in the publication of this report.
PART I: BACK TO THE FUTURE?
1. Understanding Poverty: Then and Now
2. The Getting By? Study
PART II: THE BIG ISSUES
3. Money Matters
4. Working Life
5. Meeting Basic Needs
6. Home and Family Life
PART III: JUST MANAGING? PERSPECTIVES ON POVERTY
7. Family Views: ‘Who’s to Blame?’
8. Liars, Thieves and Honest Scousers
Appendix I: How the Research Was Conducted
Appendix II: Family Circumstances and Spending