Cuts are Affecting Everyone: My Wigan Pier Story
Dave Ward, 53, is a retired firefighter and volunteer at Manchester’s Not Just Soup project – a service providing good quality hot food. As he tells Claire Donnelly, cuts to public services are affecting everyone.
I was a firefighter for 32 years, I joined the service at 18, and this was my patch, this part of the city centre so it’s a place I know well. And it’s changing.
There’s a lot of prosperity on the surface but a lot of people aren’t part of that.
There are more people coming here for food than ever, more coming as time goes on – because of austerity, the cuts, all that. For lots of reasons a lot of people aren’t able to cope.
I think a lot of people have been hanging on for a while but they’ve got to a stage where they just don’t have enough money to pay their bills and feed themselves.
Working here means you see that the stereotypes about who uses this kind of service aren’t true.
There are people here who are smartly dressed, who you wouldn’t necessarily think are homeless, but I’ll see them walking miles in the day – walking around the city to access places like this and to get the help they need.
Some of the guys who come here have got a place but they can’t keep a roof over their heads and eat as well, they have to choose.
The help just isn’t there for people. There aren’t people helping them get work or access benefits, the government is trying to stop people getting benefits, so what are they supposed to do?
When I was a kid, if my dad was out of work he went to the Labour Exchange and they helped him out. There were people there to tell you what you were entitled to.
Now that’s gone, the service is so fragmented and confusing it’s hard for anyone to navigate.
The impact of the cuts is everywhere.
The fire service here has changed. It’s being run on a shoestring.
Because the way they respond has changed a lot of firefighters don’t have as much experience of responding to fire
We’re being asked to do even more for less – so crews are being asked to do urban search and rescue, water rescue, and respond to code reds to support the ambulance service.
Because we are spending more time doing all of this, newer recruits have less time to build up fire response experience so there is a skills decay within the service.
At the same time people are retiring but because of the cuts, new people aren’t being recruited.
The banter on the watch is still good between lads but in the service morale is low.
Firefighters will always do their best for the public in any situation but I feel there will come a breaking point.
It is my opinion that the Chief Fire Officer should now say to the government that they cannot go on making cuts without risking the lives of the public and firefighters called upon to help them.
Have Your Say
We are retracing the journey George Orwell made in his book, The Road to Wigan Pier, throughout 2017 to tell modern stories of working and unemployed poverty.
They’ll appear in a regular series in the Daily Mirror newspaper and here on our special anniversary website.
If you don’t live on the route but would like to share experiences of living on a low income or struggling with welfare cuts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org where we are keen to hear your story.
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