Life stories from austere times

Embarrassed by low income

22%
of adults feel embarrassed because of their low income.

Life Stories is based on the PSE UK qualitative research into ‘Understanding experiences of low income during recession’. Sixty-two video testimonies were collected during 2012-2013, in Birmingham, Glasgow and Gloucestershire. The report of this qualitative work, Life on a low income in austere times, provides full details of the research and its findings. It finds that while the experiences of poverty had not changed greatly post the the 2008 recession and at the start of the era of austerity, people on low incomes reported feeling under greater pressure, more insecure and more marginalised. Four videos based on extracts from the videos recorded can be viewed below. These videos illustrate some of the main themes found in this research.

Life on a low income in austere times: Part 1 details the real choices that the rising cost of living impose on low income households and the items and activities people are forced to go without. Participants also explain the impacts of cuts to services that they have observed within their communities and the consequences for already fragile household budgets.

Life on a low income in austere times: Part 2 documents the emotional impacts of low income. Participants discuss the embarrassment and guilt of not being able to afford things that others take for granted. The stigma of claiming benefits and services, as well as the stigmatising impact of media debates and portrayal of benefits claimants are also detailed.

Life stories


© 2013. All films are the copyright of the PSE: UK project and must not be reproduced, posted or downloaded.

Life on a low income in austere times: Part 3 documents the strategies that people on a low income deploy to make ends meet. In particular, participants  discuss the lengths they go to in order to minimise expenditure and the items and activities they ‘go without’ due to a lack of money. The testimonies make continual reference to the ‘constant struggle’ to make ends meet and the levels of sacrifice and restraint required to do so.
 
In Life on a low income in austere times: Part 4 participants discuss the lack of choice and control they exercise over their lives, which often manifests in feelings of powerlessness.  The lack of certainty in our participants’ lives in relation to work and the social security system give rise to a continual sense of insecurity. Feelings of uncertainty often impacted our participants’ experience of anxiety and stress.
 
 

© 2014. All films are the copyright of the PSE: UK project and must not be reproduced, posted or downloaded.

Reduced standard of living

22%
of adults have reduced their standard of living in the last two years.

'Life on a low income in austere times' Parts 1 and 2 were first shown on November 6, 2013, at the Watershed, Bristol, for  ‘Living with Poverty’, an event organised by the PSE UK team as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Sciences programme on ‘Thinking futures’ organised by the University of Bristol. 'Life on a low income in austere times' Parts 3 and 4 were first shown at the 3rd Peter Townsend  Memorial Conference held in June 2014. This conference presented the findings of the 2012 PSE research.

The first stage of this part of the qualitative research was a literature review, A review of the qualitative evidence relating to the experience of poverty and exclusion.