As the Wales Trades Union Congress gathers in Llandudno this week, people across Wales are suffering under the cost-of-living crisis, and the movement is gearing up for a mass demonstration in Central London on 18 June. 

Inflation is at record highs and threatening to go higher - everything seems to be going up, except wages.

In fact, energy prices are now going up 23 times faster than wages.

Living standards are plummeting and as usual, it is the poorest who are hardest hit.

Beneath the media headlines, it felt important for me to get a sense of the real impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on my constituents - so I asked them.

The response has been staggering.

I was hoping for perhaps 100 or 150 responses. I received over 650, and they paint a bleak picture of poverty, anxiety and despair.

It's become clear that the crisis is making life a misery for people in Cynon Valley.

An overwhelming 90 percent of respondents felt worse-off than they did 12 months prior. Only 1 percent of respondents said they felt better-off.

A majority reported that it was gas and electricity bills having the most impact over the last year, and three quarters of them had cut down on heating as a result.

Around half had borrowed money, and over a third had skipped meals.

Things are only going to get worse.

Nearly half of my respondents said they would be cutting down on essentials such as food.

More than two thirds of respondents report that they will significantly cut down on heating, and almost 40 percent of people said they would simply not put the heating on at all.

The toll that this is taking on people’s wellbeing cannot be understated.

Over 81 percent of people in Cynon Valley reported that their financial situation is impacting on their mental health, including 98 percent of those on benefits.

READ MORE: 

Cost of living: Chancellor 'sitting on his hands' as £2,800 energy price cap predicted

LEANNE WOOD: 'Here's my suggestions to counter and reverse the cost of living crisis'

I have no doubt that other constituencies and communities are similarly affected. The numbers affected demonstrate the scale of the crisis, and it’s not an exaggeration to call it a social emergency.

We have allowed poverty to become normalised in our society.

Everyone should have enough money to pay their bills. Everyone should have enough to eat, and to live with dignity.

There is more than enough wealth in this country to secure us those basic rights, but despite that abundance of wealth, the basic needs of the British people are clearly not being met.

The cost-of-living crisis is a political choice. It has been created by people in positions of power. People with the power to tackle this crisis head-on if they want to.

Instead, both the Spring Statement and the Queen’s Speech have come and gone without any meaningful attempts to protect people from falling into poverty.

In fact, the Government has chosen now to force through a national insurance rise, and real terms cuts to both benefits and pensions.

A responsible Government would take action to protect its people.

Instead, the Tories are taking it in turns to offer working class people unsolicited advice on how they can "protect themselves". 

Get a better paid job. Budget better.

I can only conclude that this Conservative Government are happy for this cost-of-living crisis to continue.

I can only conclude that they are happy to see working class people suffer and struggle, and will continue to not lift a finger to do anything about it.

We need a fighting trade union movement that brings people together and instils that belief that they can demand better. That they deserve better.

I look forward to joining the TUC demonstration on 18 June in London.

But we won’t stop in London - I want this campaign to continue.

That’s why, with Rhondda Cynon Taf Trades Union Council, I’m calling our own "Demand Better" rally in Aberdare on 2nd July.

I hope to see you then.

Together, we can build a fairer, greener future for all.

Beth Winter is the Labour MP for Cynon Valley.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.