Crisis & solutions

1.3 million people are set to be pushed into absolute poverty this year. They don’t have to be.

Inflation is pushing up prices faster than wages, meaning the everyday things we need are becoming too expensive for everyday people to afford.

Poverty is a choice made by the powerful, and this government has chosen not to take meaningful action to help people with the cost-of-living crisis. Many of those delivering essential public services are relying on foodbanks, credit cards and second or even third jobs to make ends meet.



The cost-of-living crisis is a low pay crisis. Wages aren’t keeping pace with prices, especially in the public sector where workers have endured over a decade of pay restraint and freezes. Public service workers need an above-inflation pay rise and the minimum wage needs increasing too.

Debt & Mental Health

This crisis has seen a sharp uptick in people relying on loans, credit cards, borrowing from friends and family and services like Klarna to make it to their next payday, getting deeper and deeper into debt. Worrying about money is stressful, and many public service workers are feeling the effect of this crisis on their mental health.

The Costs-of-Working

It’s unfair that many public service workers are left out-of-pocket just for doing their job. Out of date mileage rates means workers who need to use a vehicle at work are spending more on petrol than they’re reimbursed, and carparking charges result in many staff struggling to commute to work in the first place.

National Insurance

Taxation pays for the public services we all rely on but increasing National Insurance contributions is the wrong tax at the wrong time. The government keep choosing to increase the burden on ordinary workers, rather than tackling inequality. Meanwhile the new Prime Minister is proposing tax cuts for big businesses and the highest earners.

Universal Credit

People who rely on Universal Credit are often working, including many public service workers who need Universal credit to top up their earnings. But there are serious problems with Universal Credit – it isn’t enough to live on, the system is difficult to use, and it penalises people.


Rents are at a record high, and rising interest rates are making it harder for homeowners to afford their mortgages. Renters need protection from eviction and rent increases they cannot afford, households struggling to make their mortgage payments need help to get them through the winter, and there has to be investment in building new affordable homes.

Food Costs

Grocery inflation is at a 14-year high meaning the average UK food bill has gone up by over £450 a year. It’s getting harder to make the weekly supermarket shop add up and many public service workers are cutting back, skipping meals or even relying on foodbanks.


Nursery costs have risen four times faster than wages, so many public service workers are having to take second or third jobs to pay for childcare. Others, especially women, are leaving work altogether because they cannot afford nursery fees. We need to fix the broken childcare market, with proper funding and universal access.

Energy Bills

Energy bills are out of control, but government help isn’t enough. This winter, many households will have to choose between heating and eating, while some big energy companies make record profits. The energy crisis shows no sign of going away – we need urgent action on bills, investment in energy efficiency and green energy, and public ownership.

Fuel Prices

The UK is one of the most expensive places to fill up your car, with prices at the pump hitting record highs after Russia invaded Ukraine. Many public service workers cannot afford to visit friends and family, or even commute to work. For workers using a vehicle to do their job, mileage rates don’t reflect rising costs.


“Together we rise for fair pay” is a UNISON report on the cost-of-living crisis and how to solve it.

This report shares the findings of UNISON’s survey of low paid public service workers, earning £20,000 or lower per annum – and sets their experiences against the wider economic backdrop of this crisis.

Download Report

There for you

Members experiencing financial and emotional difficulties can contact our welfare charity, There for You, which provides a confidential advice and support service for members and their dependants.

Let’s rise together to end the Cost of Living crisis.

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