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Cost of living is hitting police pockets

Maruf Ahmed

The cost of living is hitting police pockets hard, with the vast majority (86%) saying they have financial concerns and 27% missing meals due to lack of money, according to the latest findings in the Police Family Finance Index (PFFI) from Metfriendly.

In the survey of more than 3,000 serving police officers and support staff, it finds that on all indicators around financial wellbeing, the police family is in a worse position than they were six months ago. “Financial concerns” has increased from 74% to 86% in just six months; “missing meals” – a key indicator of household poverty – has increased to 27% from 22%. Nearly one in 10 (8%) say they have used a food bank to support themselves and their family, according to the police service financial experts.

To help ends meet, 60% of police are doing more overtime, 26% have a second job, 40% are selling their possessions and 37% are thinking about leaving the police force.

Annette Petchey, Chief Executive Officer, Metfriendly said: “To know that more than a quarter of serving police officers and support staff simply cannot afford to eat is unforgivable. The police play a critical role in keeping us safe, yet they are putting themselves and potentially others at risk by having to play financial roulette and making difficult choices between paying bills and feeding their family or themselves.

“However, this isn’t just about public sector pay and the very short-term impact, it is about understanding the financial pressures that are unique to the police force. From having to travel out of public transport hours; to an earning system built around overtime (in a day and age where life was very different to today); to an expectation of a shorter overall working life due to the pressure of the job. These findings horrify us and we are investigating measures that will help the UK’s police family live a more financially stable life.”

Other key findings from the report include that one in six (17%) of police officers and support staff have missed financial obligations in the past year, up from 11%, and more than one in five (22%) report unsecured debt.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “It cannot be right that police officers, the people who society turn to when they are most in need, are themselves turning to food banks, getting into unsustainable debt and choosing not to eat so they can pay their bills.

“We now know that 86 per cent of Met officers and staff are worried about their finances. We also know we are struggling to recruit enough new officers in London’s competitive employment market and I’m certain that pay is a key factor.

“I have called for a pay rise for police officers that is in line with inflation. I urge the Government to accept any recommendation from the independent pay review body in full and without delay.

“Frontline officers have seen their salaries fall by around 17 per cent in real terms over a decade. This report lays bare the very real impact that is having in the context of the cost of living crisis and the urgent need to address it.”

The Police Family Finance Index, undertaken for the first time in 2022, includes insight into the financial pressure experienced by respondents:

“I am unable to pay nursery fees in full for children under 3 and I have not eaten on a couple of occasions as the priority is to feed my children.”

“Because of the position I hold I would get in serious trouble and potentially lose my job, if I don’t pay outstanding balances on financial commitments. As a result on a number of occasions I have had to prioritise paying debt over eating. ”

“Bills come first as long as the bills are paid and the children eat, that’s what matters. Choosing not to eat during shift to save money. This enables me to have more money for fuel bills.”

“End of the month with no money left and credit cards maxing out forced me to skip meals at work so I could leave food at home for the family.”

“Due to financial commitments and our incomes not covering our outgoings ( 3 kids, mortgage , food bills) I have come out of the pension and have accumulated a lot of debts (so has my partner who is also a Police officer) . We recently had to sell our house in order to deal with our financials which was heartbreaking. We did not have a choice as we had to go to a food pantry on a weekly basis and relied on friends and family doing our food shopping. Due to not being eligible, we were not able to access a food bank.”

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