How is the cost of living crisis affecting LandAid’s charity partners and the young people they support?

The cost of living crisis. Currently, a phrase which is difficult to escape from. Costs are rising across basic necessities, like food and fuel, and the knock-on effect that this is having on labour market issues is worsening. With winter fast approaching, concerns are heightening.

Although we are all living this through this, we know that sadly those most vulnerable will likely to be those most affected .

Therefore, how is the cost of living crisis really starting to affect those people most at risk across the UK?  

We know the young people which our LandAid charity partners support, are at the heart of this concern.

We spoke to Lynn Gradwell, Director of Young People and Care Leaver Services at Look Ahead, about the cost of living crisis and how it is starting to affect them.  

Look Ahead is a specialist housing association and provider of tailor-made care and accommodation services. They support thousands of people, including 16 to 25 year-olds, across London and the South East with a diverse range of needs, helping them to make individual choices, achieve goals and take control of their own lives.

How is the cost of living crisis affecting Look Ahead as a charity? 

Like all providers and businesses our costs have increased tremendously – everything from energy bills, to food in services, to supplier costs. Whilst most rent is covered by housing benefit, many are often struggling to meet the costs of service charges. This includes things like utility bills, food costs or other costs they pay directly.  The other area is staff recruitment and retention. The salaries we can afford to pay staff are based on what the local authorities or health trusts pay Look Ahead. Many contracts have not received an uplift based on inflation, so we’re so struggling to recruit and retain staff. The sad reality is that they can earn as much, if not more, at a local supermarket or in hospitality where there is often much less responsibility.

How is the cost of living crisis affecting the young people you support? 

Young people are struggling to make ends meet. Most of the young people we work with don’t have the support of parents or relatives. They are feeling very despondent about the future. Working in often low paid jobs they are on a benefit trap. Universal credit for someone under 24 is £264.55 a month. This isn’t much to live on with no back up.

This is only exasperated when a young person has college or university costs to pay. It is getting more and more difficult for young people to find the money to pay for necessities like travel costs to attend work, college or university. Sadly, this can result in them dropping out or losing their job. The stress and anxiety that comes with this is overwhelming.

man sitting near gray steel roller shutters during daytime

How is the current crisis affecting the supply and demand of accommodation?

We always have a greater demand over supply; the issue is affordability and whether those we support can meet the rising costs of sustaining a tenancy without incurring significant arrears.

The other challenge is, with increasing costs it is becoming ever more difficult to meet the costs in the market to refurbish and renovate property that could be used by young people. In recent months raw building materials and building related costs have increased significantly, impacting on void costs and potential turnaround times.

At a recent Charted Institute of Building webinar on construction costs, the advice given was there had been an average uplift across construction disciplines of 24.5%, from March 2021 to March 2022.

Unfortunately, we know that these costs are only expected to worsen given the conflict in Ukraine and the impact this has had on energy and fuel costs. 

brown and white concrete houses

How is Look Ahead looking to navigate the challenges at hand?

We always want to try and do more for the people we support. To bridge the gap of what we can afford to deliver with the contract income we receive, we are building links with companies and businesses who want to help the young people we work with.  We are lucky to be supported by LandAid and SEGRO, who jointly funded a new bursary scheme for young people. This is already making a significant difference but we also know that we have a long way to go to ensure young people are supported across all elements of life.  We are therefore always looking for new partners to help our young people build the skills they need for a better future and support them with resources essential for their journey to independence, like IT equipment and travel costs.

three people sitting in front of table laughing together

Is there anything that might help you to overcome the current challenges you are facing? 

Obviously good business planning and budgeting is more key than ever before. The challenge is we are in uncharted and unprecedented times as we face labour market issues within the sector alongside rising costs.

We are also seeing increasing hardship for both those we support and our staff. Look Ahead is doing all we can to recognise and reward staff for their vital and amazing work to keep our services running.

Continuing to deliver accommodation, care and support services to meet our young people’s needs over the coming months and years is not going to be an easy task! Alongside what we are already doing, we are looking for fresh approaches to help us recruit support workers into the sector.

Access to additional funding and resources to deliver much needed projects and additional homes for young people is sadly more vital than ever.

This has led to the creation of the the Young Londoner’s Winter Relief scheme where cash grants are beginning to be offered to young people to meet their spiralling costs of living, ensuring they are not pushed back into homelessness.

LandAid are already looking at future solutions to this issue that can be rolled out on a national scale.

If you or your organisation feel you could support charities like Look Ahead and other LandAid charity partners through this difficult period, please contact