I am back on the job hunt. My recent role working with young people who are at risk of becoming involved with county-lines activities has come to an end.
I’m used to it. I’ve always worked short contracts. What I’m not used to is how hard it is to get a proper contract now with a decent number of hours. No one knows what the future holds so employers have become tentative. Any contracts that are given out are small – 18 hours a week, for instance.
I have enjoyed this latest job. What it’s really made me realise is that county lines and exploitation can be traced back to poverty and destitution. Young people are being exploited because their mums work on low-income wages and they don’t have any money. These mums can’t afford to buy them £100 Nikes or whatever it is they’ve seen on Instagram. One young person – a nice kid – I was working with was a phone thief. I asked them why they did it. Their answer: “I can earn £200 to £300 per phone. I’m at home with my mum, my dad’s in prison and there are mouths to feed.”
Rishi Sunak is on a different planet. He’s not seeing the poverty, the destitution, the high cost of living that normal people are experiencing. The cost of living is still affecting me and everybody else but there is also clearly greedflation. There are things I simply refuse to buy now. I saw Bisto gravy granules in Asda for £4. Are you mad? They used to be £2.50. The company that owns Bisto has just announced a 21% rise in sales. The Nescafé cappuccino sachets I used to like for £2.50 are now £3 in Sainsbury’s. Domestos bleach was always £1. Now it’s £1.50. I refuse. I just buy the rubbish stuff instead. I feel like I’m being mugged off. The only power you have is to say no.
We are being squeezed. To me there is something really evil about doing this to consumers; money is being made off our backs. I might be working but I feel like I’m not reaping the whole benefits of my salary.
I don’t even know who I am going to vote for. Keir Starmer has said he is not going to change the policy on the two-child benefit cap. What is the point of voting for a progressive party if they are not going to make change? That policy is what has driven so many children into poverty. Then there’s the way Rishi Sunak has spoken about immigration. He has used the term migrants when we should be talking about helping refugees. He talks about them like they are some new species that is overtaking us.
I went to the theatre the other day with my niece. It was a folk play. I’m part of a literary group so I get free tickets. Our seats were in the corner. There was a couple seated there before us. I said: “Excuse me, these are our seats.” She kept staring at me, not watching the play. In the second half she swapped seats with her partner. When the show finished, I said to her: “I’m sorry that my black skin made you uncomfortable.” What else could it have been?
Racism has been tolerated by the government, especially with the way they talk about refugees like there’s an invasion. I’m going to start calling it out. I’m tired of being judged as soon as people see the colour of my skin.
On a positive note, I’ve got a role in a play called Bread and Roses, part of the Untold Stories series in Enfield. It covers suffragettes and going to war, but also deals with homelessness, eviction and the cost of living. I rehearse every Sunday. I feel like I’m getting to do what I want. Even though I’m not acting full-time, I’m still engaged in it, still performing.
Sharron Spice is in her 30s and lives in London.
Sharron recently performed Windrush Voices monologues at ECA's Windrush Day Celebration at Millfield Theatre.
This article is courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper