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Home Business My kids are now also affected by the financial worries that I used to carry. By turning off the lights, I chase them around the house, Charlie
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My kids are now also affected by the financial worries that I used to carry. By turning off the lights, I chase them around the house, Charlie

Photo by Ritchie Valens on Unsplash

I had always been able to provide a warm home for my kids, but due to the tripling of my energy bills, I had to tell them to put an extra jumper on or sit underneath a blanket to keep warm this winter. I’ve always managed to keep a stocked fridge and cupboards, and made sure my kids never go hungry; now, I’m leaning on food banks to feed them.

When my energy bills went from £83 a month to £283 a month without warning, I had to cancel my direct debit and opt for a prepayment meter instead. Prepay meters are supposed to be for people managing a tight budget, yet they’re on a higher tariff, so I’m paying more for less energy. This was fine in the summer when the sun dried my clothes and kept my house warm; now, I need to power a tumble dryer and radiators if I’m going to keep my kids warm with clean clothes on their backs.

I used to shoulder financial worries myself; now my kids have this burden, too. I’ve found myself timing their showers, and I spend most of my time chasing them around the house, ensuring they have turned off electronics and lights when they’re not using them.

I don’t mind tightening my belt, as I’ve never had loads of money to play with. Being frugal is a discipline I’ve instilled in my kids, so I’m fortunate not to be under pressure to keep up with the latest fashion trends, gadgets and other fads. My kids enjoy spending time at charity shops and discount stores hunting for bargains. Still, I worry that looking after the pennies won’t be enough soon.

I’m a full-time care worker and specialise in elderly care, but I would be better off working in a supermarket or behind a bar due to how little I make. I need a car to do my work, and my employer doesn’t subsidise petrol or other costs that running a vehicle incurs. Compared with the people I work with, though, I’ve got it easy. Some of my clients have spent their whole life savings – sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds – on in-home care. One client, let’s call him Fred, spent £500,000 on care. He paid for his wife’s care before she died, and then he became unwell and needed four visits a day. He worried that he’d lose his house as he watched his savings dwindle away.

I used to plan Fred’s meals carefully, and it was imperative that he stuck to these plans, or he would risk becoming hospitalised. Of course, when his money ran out, my company dropped him, and then another company took over and dropped the care package I had carefully designed for him. So, as predicted, he ended up in hospital, and I never saw him again. He lost everything before he died just because he needed help.

I had to spend more than five hours with another service user last year as he waited for an ambulance after a fall. Five hours while he writhed in pain. Sometimes I leave work in tears, only to come home to more and more pressure.

I do love my job, the relationships I have with my clients and spending precious time with them, but some days I wonder if it is worth the stress. I know people who sit at a checkout all day and make more money than me doing far fewer hours. I love helping people, but this crisis is causing me to think more selfishly, and I hate it.

As told to Daniel Lavelle. Charlie is in her 30s and lives in the north-west of England. Names have been changed

The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that campaigns to end the need for food banks. Show your support at trusselltrust.org/guardian

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