Almost 1,400 euros in gas and electricity bills: this is the monthly provision amount demanded from Johane, his energy supplier. A sum that has more than quadrupled for this mother who lives alone with her two children. This represents almost 60% of his salary. An amount impossible to pay. And despite her salary of 2400 euros, she is no longer coping. She decided to pay only part of her energy bill.
“I do not intend to pay”: alone with her salary, this mother is no longer doing
When Johane received her monthly bill, she first thought it was a bad joke: “Now, I am asked for 950 euros per month for my gas, and 435 euros per month for my electricity, and I was paying around 250 euros all-inclusive before.” For Johane, it is impossible to pay such a sum: “It’s more or less 60% of my salary every month. I don’t plan to pay. I’ve never done this in my life, I never thought I would have to do this in my life because it’s not du everything in my way of functioning nor in my values, but there, I have two daughters every other week in joint custody who are both in higher education, which obviously also has a cost. I spent a horrible weekend wondering how I was going to make it through this winter. I dare not turn on my heating. Here, it’s 18 degrees, it’s still fine.”
And with her salary, the mother is not entitled to any help: “As a middle class and when you have a reasonable salary, it’s sad to say, but you’re hardly entitled to any help precisely because you don’t fall into the low income category, so you explode at each time the ceilings because of our salary, the cost, we have no help and we really find ourselves in such difficult situations. I have many friends who are in the same situation as me, single-parent families also with dependent children one week out of two. We even think of sharing accommodation one week out of two when we don’t have our children for this winter, which shows how worried we are, we are afraid, we don’t doesn’t know what to do anymore, and we’re all in the same boat.”
“How do we get there?”: the disarray of single-parent families
Johane is therefore not the only one in the case. Many single-parent families with a working mum or dad struggle to make ends meet: “Statistics show that single-parent families are four times more at risk of falling into precariousness as soon as the slightest incident occurs in the process” explains Marie-Claire Mvumbi, from the Liège collective of single-parent families. “What is happening here is that this crisis – which obviously impacts the population in general – weighs disproportionately on the balance of a household that is based on a single income. When you have a single mother who works and who earns around 1700 euros, having to pay a deposit of 700 euros per month just for electricity, it’s impossible. You have to choose between putting money back on your budget meter or filling the fridge.”
Moreover, requests for food parcels have never been so numerous, as Marie-Claire Mvumbi points out: “We received 5 times more requests than usual and we had to refuse families because we didn’t have enough food to distribute. 80% of single-parent families who come to our association for help are all in the same state of mind: how do we get there?
With their single salary, single-parent families say they are surprised that no one takes into account their situation in the face of the energy crisis.