“You feel guilty because you have to rely on family and foodbanks,” Zowie Dunn says as she shelters her baby from the baking hot sun. “You feel like a burden.”
The mum-of-three is out shopping in Bury town centre on the hottest day of the year so far. While the family would like to treat themselves to some new clothes, second-hand is all they can afford at the moment.
Like thousands across Greater Manchester, the 34-year-old has found herself making cutbacks as the cost of living continues to surge. “I’ve used the food bank on occasion but now I’m using it more than ever before,” she adds.
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The 34-year-old, who lives in Levenshulme with her children Sunny, 10; Ziggy, two and 10-week-old Gabriel, often relies on financial aid from her mother – who uses her pension to help her pay for basic necessities. “I worry about energy bills, really,” she continues.
“Ours have gone up – they’re going up every day. We’ve just had to buy second-hand clothes because we can’t afford new clothes anymore. We’ve had to cut back on toiletries and things you can spare or reduce instead of food. You just have to buy the basics.”
In a few weeks, eight million homes across the country will start to see cost of living payments hit their bank accounts. Only people who are getting certain benefits or tax credits from the government are eligible for the payments, which total £650.
But as fuel costs reach record highs and food prices continue to surge, some fear the cash won’t be enough to help the most vulnerable in our region. “I’m working and I’m still finding it hard,” 50-year-old Michael Wood says as he takes a break in the sunshine.
“I feel sorry for people who aren’t working. I shop around for things more than I would have done – normally I look for bargains. I don’t go out as much or I find somewhere where it’s cheaper to go for a drink.
“I’ve always been quite good at saving money anyway but now I’m doing it even better still. Let’s put it this way, I think people are going to struggle in a big way more so than ever. At the moment, the Government are only thinking about themselves, not the average person on the street.”
Enid Perry says her energy bills have shot up by £60 a month. Filling her car with petrol also now costs £20 more than it did before. She says the increases have left her feeling “depressed”.
“When you go and get petrol, you think, ‘I’ll put that much in,’ and it doesn’t even fill it half way,” the 70-year-old says. “If I were filling my car, it used to be £40 and that would last me two weeks – now I put £60 in. I don’t even want to fill it now because I’m scared.
“My electricity bill has gone up £60 a month. We’ve had to shop in cheaper places and I’ve unplugged my drier – sometimes you need the heating on to dry your clothes. We are depressed about it; it gets your down.”
Denise Lynch sits in the gardens outside Bury bus station. Alongside her is Suzie Chatman, 46, who she cares for.
“I can’t take her on as many days out anymore because fuel is so expensive. Everything is so much more expensive,” the 55-year-old says.
“We used to go to the cinema quite often, we’ve had to cut back on that. To be perfectly honest, we still try and do what we can do. Susie is very lucky because she still lives at home with her mum and step dad so has them as a backup.
“I’ve just paid off my mortgage but what I’m saving from that I’m paying out for gas and electric. If I was still paying for the mortgage, I would be on my ar**.
“It’s a worry at the moment and friends of Susie’s are in worse positions. They’re stuck in the house scared of putting the heating on and worried about what they’re having for their tea. It’s a knock-on effect all around.”
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