In February, regulator Ofgem confirmed that the energy price cap would rise by a record 54% from April 1. .
Single mother June Butterworth has had to change her job from carer, a job she has had all her working life, to housekeeper working reduced hours at a care home in Bacup to look after her sick elderly mother .
The 44-year-old racked up £10,000 in debt and took out payday loans for his necessities. Her debt for gas and electricity soared to over £1,000, which meant she had to cancel a direct debit from the company and use payment as you go. For the mother of two, the sudden rise in the cost of living was like a bombshell.
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“When I heard the news that the cost of living was going up, I was shocked,” June said. “It’s a nightmare to master. How are people supposed to survive? I can’t stop crying because you work your whole life…it’s hard.
“The future looks like bankruptcy and I didn’t think it could happen to me. Even if you go to a debt company, you can still end up bankrupt. It can happen to anyone.”
Most of June’s debt is council tax and as a result she has been threatened with legal costs, and credentials litter her house. After breaking up with her partner, she had to take time off from work to care for her two young sons, now 26 and 22. Her family helped her look after her children to prevent her debts from piling up.
“My mother helps me a lot, but it’s not fair that she has to keep borrowing money,” she adds. “She’s a pensioner. I find myself in even more debt by borrowing from my family. It’s either paying one bill or the other, or eating, or turning on the heating.
“I can’t afford to turn on my heater, so we layer extra blankets and use hot water bottles.”
June works a 32.5 hour week and earns £1,250 before tax each month, and receives a £100 Universal Credit allowance, but after tax and funding necessities she finds she has run out of change spare. She pays £445 a month in rent and more than £100 a week in groceries to feed herself and her sons – plus gas, electricity and water bills. Even when she worked over 40 hours a week, she still struggled to pay her bills on time.
Her youngest son works part-time, but her eldest has been unemployed since his workplace told him the company could no longer afford to keep employees under the government’s Kickstart program because the minimum wage had increased. She was forced to make sacrifices in her social life to cope with mounting debts and cut back on sharing taxis and buying clothes.
Every month she pays £195 to Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a debt center she has worked with for a year, to pay off her debts and says they told her it would take around two and a half years to to erase. However, since his salaries do not match the recent rise in the cost of living, it will take him at least three years to pay them back.
Brian Harper, 53, from Rawtenstall, was diagnosed with depression when he divorced his wife four years ago with whom he has three children aged 11, 16 and 19. The father of three children has been using CAP’s services for four years. years to help her pay a total debt of £3,000 which includes rent, council tax, gas and electricity.
Brian used to earn £1,000 a month working 30 hours a week in a care home and although he now has a 36-40 hour restaurant job, he still struggles to keep up with the cost of living.
“I buried my head and things piled up when I separated from my wife,” he told LancsLive. “I had a stomach ache when the cost of living hike was announced.
“I don’t know how anyone can survive and it will increase further. I work and I still have trouble. I turned down the heating and even stopped buying things for my children because I can’t afford them anymore.
Brian spends £70 a month on gas and electricity, £150 on maintenance and £37 on water, with his monthly salary of £1,200 after tax. His workplace allows employees to eat for free if they work more than six hours, which has helped Brian cut the cost of his groceries to £80 a month.
But every month he is still short by at least £60 and has borrowed from friends to keep himself afloat. He is currently on a conditional possession order, but if he does not repay his debt to the landlord, he faces eviction. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Rossendale Debt Center offers a free home debt counseling service for people with unmanageable debt in the BB4 and OL13 postcodes. To contact CAP call 0800 328 0006.