'£9 a week to live on' - survey reveals stark impact of crisis

Cost of living advice

Norfolk Citizens Advice have seen the number of people contacting them about fuel debt rise by 20pc. - Credit: PA

A third of people in the region say they will not be taking a holiday this year as a result of the cost of living crisis, a new survey has found.

The research also found that four out of 10 people have switched to using budget supermarkets to help make ends meet, while one in six have started to take showers instead of baths.

More than 2,500 people took part in the wide-ranging survey, conducted by this newspaper to assess how people in Norfolk and Waveney have been affected by the steep rises in the cost of living.

It also found:

  • One in every 20 people have had to take on a second job
  • One in ten had seen their monthly bills rise by more than £250
  • More than a quarter (27pc) have resorted to selling possessions
  • More than half are cutting down on car journeys (54pc) and on food shopping (also 54pc)
  • Respondents also reported stopping children's pocket money and even opting for a pauper's funeral.

Rising costs were felt by almost all respondents - only 1pc said they had not seen a rise in bills - and 76pc said they were worse off now than this time last year.

But the crisis was felt most acutely among the lowest paid, with 86pc of households earning less than £20,000 per year saying they were worse off than a year ago - compared with 46pc of those with household incomes greater than £80,000.

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Almost all those polled (95pc) said they had seen an increase in food costs, while rises in electricity (90pc) as well as petrol and diesel (85%) were also cited by most people. Only 7pc said they had noted an increase in their mortgage costs.

One in three participants also said their monthly bills had increased by between £201 and £250, with 10pc seeing increases of more than £250.

Among the participants was 31-year-old market trader Denzil Dean, who has drastically altered his approach to finances.

He said: "My heating went off on April 1 and has been switched off ever since.

"It never used to be something I really thought about but now it is a real concern - I'm really worried about how much the bills could shoot up.

"I started a new job recently, which has made me feel slightly better but I worry things will get worse before they get better."

Mr Dean, who works on Norwich market, had been saving for a gym membership, but said he had now reconsidered this.

He said: "It has made me think more about how I am living and how I spend my money.

"I know there are lots of people worse off than I am, I only have myself and my partner to worry about while other people have children but it is still a worry."

One question in the survey called for people to describe the sacrifices they have been forced to make as they look to make ends meet.

One respondent simply said: "Cancel funeral - the council will have to pay."

Pauper's funerals are those funded by local authorities, which are held when relatives are unwilling or unable to cover the costs.

Meanwhile, other respondents spoke of sacrificing activities for their children, prolonged periods without heating and taking on extra jobs.

One respondent said: "I haven't heated my home this winter and I only heat enough water for showers and washing up every three days."

Another said: "It impacts the kids most. The bus to school is becoming unaffordable, extra-curricular is impossible and I've had to stop giving them pocket money.

"My life was already pretty dull but I do like to make theirs fun and easy and increasingly can't."

While a third (33pc) said they would not be taking a holiday, 17pc said they would be making more modest plans. Fifty seven per cent said they were going out less often, while 43pc said they now spent less on 'micro treats' - small, 'luxury' purchases like coffees.

Night nurse's foodbank fear

Night nurse Laura Black, who is working two jobs to make ends meet. Pictured with her daughter

Night nurse Laura Black, who is working two jobs to make ends meet. Pictured with her daughter - Credit: Laura Black

Night nurse Laura Black, 38, from Dereham, took on a second job last year ahead of the increase in the cost of living - and is glad she did.

On top of working three 12 hour overnight shifts at Dereham Hospital, she works as a home consultant for the Body Shop - all while raising four children aged 14, 13, nine and two.

She said she had seen her utility bill rise by £80 per month, her rent increase by £25 a month and an extra £50 added to her weekly food shopping.

She said: "I've been doing the second job for about a year as it helped us pay for everything then, so it's a good job I did now.

"We're not having to have to go to foodbanks just yet, but the way things are going it might not be long before we have to.

"I've cancelled all of my subscriptions - I had Netflix, Audible and Britbox - and I've started to limit the amount of time my boys can play on their consoles. We have a smart meter fitted and once the electricity hits our daily budget everything goes off.

"While the weather is nice it's been okay, because they've been able to play outside, but they have found it a bit tough because all their friends are online, so they are missing out socially."

Retiree's benefit worries

Reginald Dann, who was relocated from his home at Carrow Bridge House in 2017. Picture: DENISE BRAD

Reginald Dann, who was relocated from his home at Carrow Bridge House in 2017. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Reginald Dann, 74, who lives in Sprowston, said that without savings he would be left with just £9 a week to live on.

He said his rent has increased by £100 this year and stands to go up by the same amount next year.

This, coupled with the increasing costs of council tax and utility bills, has left him living on a shoestring budget.

He said: "I've only ever claimed one kind of benefit in my life and that was a care allowance when I was carer for my mum.

"But next year, if things carry on as they are I shall be applying for housing benefits.

"If it weren't for my savings I worked it out that I would only have £9 to live on per week - and these days you can't even get a couple of pints with that.

"I've started cooking one pot meals and limiting the number of baths I have as I don't want to end up in debt on my utility bills.

"I've also given up a few hobbies, like woodwork, as I just can't afford to do it."