GB News visits England's most deprived town where 'families live on £10 a month'

Paul Hawkins spoke to residents of Jaywick Sands who feel they have been deserted

Published

As we walk to the food bank in Jaywick Sands, a woman mutters to us, “You guys here to film another piece of s**t?”

They added “Sands” back to the town's name to re-brand the place after the way it was portrayed in the Channel 5 docu-series, “Benefits by the Sea”.

Seven years after that series, Jaywick’s 5,000 residents are still angry and suspicious about journalists.

For that reason alone, I feel luck enough to have been allowed to speak to volunteers and food bank users inside the Jaywick Sands Community Land Trust’s Film Bank.

The food bank was only supposed to be a temporary thing, set up 18 months ago to help people cope through the pandemic, but with soaring energy bills and food prices, many people here, already living on the edge, see it as a lifeline.

“It's a bit of a necessity really with the cost of living and everything else rising and people on benefits or low incomes are really starting to struggle”, says David Booth, the Chairman of Jaywick Sands Community Land Trust.

The food bank is only open for 7.5 hrs a week but in that time they give out at least 60 bags of food, collected almost daily from a variety of supermarkets.

One of its users is Lucy. “It's very difficult just making ends meet and there's days where I myself have to just put a knife and fork on the on a plate and leave it and not let my little one see I'm not eating because i've got to put food on her plate.

"I've barely got £10 a month leftover to get food for me and my daughter after i've paid all my bills.

"It's getting ridiculous now. We're having to sit there wrapped up in blankets and three layers of clothing because you just can't afford to have the heating on."

With the Energy price cap set to increase by 54% in April and food costs continuing to rise, everyone - including David - agrees the outlook is dire:

“Life in general everywhere is getting harder but when you are already at the bottom of the pile, it just seems to be that much worse."

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition say that by April, at least 1 in 3 homes in Tendring District - where Jaywick Sands is located - will be in fuel poverty.

That’s twice the rate it was two years ago. Fuel Poverty is defined as household incomings minus outgoings plus the energy efficiency of the home.

Given the way the town has grown and developed in almost 100 years, it’s not surprising that many of the homes - especially in the more deprived parts of the town - Brooklands and Grasslands - are energy inefficient.

They were never intended for long-term living. Many were built as holiday homes in the 1930s so workers could escape the “big smoke” with lungfuls of North Sea air by the Essex coast but after the war destroyed many houses, they ended up becoming permanent dwellings.

Something, they were never designed for. “I spend a lot of time upstairs in my bed. I've got four quilts” says Philomena who's is in her 50s, lives by herself and moved to Jaywick Sands to escape domestic abuse.

She’s agreed to show me around her one-bed house which costs £68 per month to heat. “I can't afford the heating. I also wear my longer coat to bed. I love cooking but I can’t afford to do it. My fridge is empty. I can’t afford to do my washing up. As soon as my money comes it’s gone on keeping warm.

"When i feel like it's got too much i'll go upstairs put the boiler on, heat up the water but if I forget to turn it off I have an anxiety attack.

"It’s really affecting my mental health."

Philomena is hoping to get back to work after a long-term health problem. People here want to be self-sufficient.

The Jaywick Sands Community Land Trust is doing what it can, but it urgently needs more money with bold, ambitious plans for proper fitted windows and doors, a coffee shop, meeting room, toilets, reception and an NHS treatment room.

Local Government has been investing in the area. Tendring District Council and Essex County Council spent more then £6million upgrading the roads and drainage in Brooklands and built ten new high-quality, flood resilient homes with a commitment to build 100 altogether.

There are also plans to build a multi-million pound workspace and covered market, using £2million from central government.

Certainly, the market will help although a lot more is needed to establish a local economy. Many people here admit there isn’t really one.

The big gripe though, is with the government’s “levelling up” agenda.For almost 12 years, Jaywick Sands has been rated by the government’s own analysis as the most deprived part of England.

Back at the food bank, David Booth tells me: “Levelling Up has all gone to the south-west or the north.

"Because it’s (Jaywick) a stronghold Tory area, we don’t need to attract any more votes so why should we put the levelling up money in?

"I’d love to see Michael Gove sit down and a have a conversation as to why levelling up money hasn’t come to East Anglia."

Michael Gove is the minister in charge of Levelling Up. He’s never been to Jaywick Sands.

We’ve asked his office whether he’ll visit and why Jaywick Sands hasn’t been given any levelling-up money. We’ll keep you posted on that one.

If he did visit, he’d meet good, warm, welcoming people sticking together during tough times who want someone in central government to listen, understand and act.

A town that’s extremely deprived, but rich in community spirit.That, plus, Essex’s best-kept secret, *whispers* an incredible beach. Remember, it’s called Jaywick Sands now. Don’t tell everyone though.