A struggling single mother-of-one who has resorted to visiting food banks, asking her pensioner parents for money and now fears she will lose her home due to financial difficulties, stood up and challenged the Home Secretary at this year’s annual conference.
Detective Constable Vicky Knight, who is a North Wales Police Federation representative challenged Priti Patel during the keynote session at the two-day event, asking her “Could you live on £1200 a month? How about £1,400?”
Vicky, who has been in the Force for 23 years, described how she has to borrow money from her 69-year-old mother to help pay for petrol, with her comments sparked by Ms Patel’s insistence that she is committed to improving pay and conditions for police officers.
“I work with the most vulnerable members of our community and I love my job, but if the rates of interest go up, and I can’t pay for my mortgage and I can’t pay for my fuel, I am not going to be able to continue to go to work,” Vicky said, in front of a packed auditorium.
“I went to see an accountant, and the advice was, leave the police, work for 22 hours a week, and claim benefits, and you will be better off.
“I tell this story not because I’m here for sympathy, I just want to be heard. I stand here to represent myself and many people in the Force that are like me.
“We are desperately struggling to do the job that we love and to make ends meet at home. So I need you to be on our team and to help us, to represent us, to get us fair pay.”
Responding to Vicky, Ms Patel said: “I think it just it really illustrates so strongly and powerfully why we need to actually find solutions to pay issues and actually give you the support that you rightly deserve. We have to move this forward. You have that commitment from me, you absolutely do.”
Speaking after the session, Vicky, who works in the child protection and vulnerable adults department, said: “I was reaching out to the Home Secretary, professional woman to professional woman. But she looked dumbfounded, I don’t think she knew what to say.
“I’ve never struggled this much. The cost of living just seems to be going up, as the wages go down.
“It’s embarrassing. I’m a professional woman and I’m begging my mum to let me have some of her pension pot, just to make ends meet.”
If mortgage rates increase as anticipated, Vicky says she will have no other option than to sell her home.
“When it comes close to pay day, I literally haven’t got any money. I have to think about everything, including how much petrol I have and where that will allow me to go.
“How embarrassing, I’m 46-years-old and I might have to ask my parents if I can move back in with them.”
She has a growing 13-year-old son, who regularly requires new school clothes and sport kits.
“My son needs feeding, he needs clothes on his back – and it’s not cheap, he’s a growing lad,” she explained.
“I’m at that point where I literally search for change around the house, so I can pay for petrol. And, by the end of the month, me and my son have to eat whatever we have in the cupboard – literally beans and rice.
“I’ve been shopping in the supermarket before and one of my friends has actually paid for my shopping because he overheard me telling my son we couldn’t afford certain items.
“This is real. This is a real example of what’s happening. The system is totally broken, something has gone majorly wrong.”
Despite struggling to make ends meet, Vicky says her passion remains for the job, which is why she continues to work in the police.
“I love what I do and that’s the sad part. It’s the people I help on a daily basis, they’re the ones that keep me going,” she added.
“Honestly though, I have looked at job vacancies online and seriously considered going for one of them. I have sleepless nights, worrying about how me and my son will eat. It’s a highly emotional time.”
Vicky’s comments come after it was revealed police officer pay had suffered a 20 per cent real term pay cut in the last decade.
“What can be done going forward? The pay needs to be linked to inflation. Even if we’re not better off, we won’t be worse off – like we are now,” she said.
“At the minute, I feel like we’re on the Titanic, you know that bit at the end, when it’s sinking and it’s just about turned – I feel like the scales have tipped and we’re now on a sinking ship.”