THE news that one in five people living in the poorest parts of Bolton earn less than the living wage is no shock to mother-of-one Sandra Baker.
The 53-year-old lives with her daughter, Charlotte, and between them they earn about £10,000 a year.
Ms Baker works as a tutor administrator and earns just £120 a week, while her 21-year-old daughter, who is a sales assistant at a vet’s, earns just £65 a week.
Over the years the mother and daughter, who live in rented accommodation, have had to stick to very strict budgets — and have even had to use food banks when she was in short-term unemployment.
But even now she is working, Ms Baker, from Farnworth, struggles to budget for the rising cost of living, which is affecting a number of working people across the borough.
Recent TUC statistics show in Bolton South East 18.8 per cent of full-time workers are in a job that does not pay enough to cover basic costs — prompting Unison to step up its support for the living wage campaign.
Conservative Cllr Martyn Cox, a former pensions adviser, says simply raising the minimum wage will not eradicate the issue and that instead it can “cause severe economic problems”.
But Ms Baker believes the poorest will only get poorer if the Government does not tackle the issue.
She said: “The Government is not tackling the problem. Cutting all benefits will only make matters worse, people are just going to get more and more into debt. Then those people go to places like payday loan companies, get into more debt and become worse off.
“Sanctioning people isn’t the way to go. They are not people being treated as human beings. They are being treated as a number. I never thought when I was growing up that I would ever struggle to feed my daughter or ask for help the way that I have had to in the past.
“It’s not always been like this for me — it’s only in the last couple of years that I have struggled. I have always worked, but over the course of about 12 months I found myself on jobseekers’ allowance, which is when I had to swallow my pride and visit a food bank.”
The mother and daughter sit down and budget together regularly.
Ms Baker said: “We each have a part-time income and she contributes to the bills too. Then when it comes to shopping we go to Aldi, Lidl or Asda. We can’t afford to be proud.
“Bills have to be paid so food can go out the window sometimes because you don’t have enough for both.”
Last year a study published by the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission revealed 92 per cent of areas in Bolton saw an increase in deprivation between 2007 and 2010.
It said in total 17 per cent of children in Bolton are living in poverty, with Farnworth having the highest rates at 36 per cent.
Ms Baker said: “The Government doesn’t know anything about places like Farnworth.
“It would be really good if someone from one of the parties came to see what it’s like here and visit the food bank.
“Farnworth is one of the most deprived communities in the country. People here feel let down and forgotten. I’m shocked that in the 21st century, people who bring in a wage need to use food banks. They were first used by the most needy at war time. They shouldn’t be needed now.”
Andrea Egan, assistant secretary at Bolton Unison, said: “Our trade union supports the campaign for the living wage.
“Living costs keep on rising but for many people wages have flat-lined in recent years.
“Low paid workers are struggling to make ends meet. We desperately need action to tackle low pay.”
Martin McMulkin, secretary at Bolton Trades Union Council, said: “Low pay is a national scandal in the 21st century.
“Bolton TUC fully supports the fight for a living wage. We would like to see local employers, including Bolton Council, set an example in terms of the living wage and good employment practices.”
Cllr Martyn Cox added: “I recognise that it’s tough for families that are bringing up a family on the minimum wage. Losing benefits is initially difficult for people trying to do this but Government interference to call for a higher minimum wage can cause severe economic problems in the long term and deters employers from taking on more employees.”