Robert Burt waits for his camera to be valued outside a pawnbrokers shop in Wythenshawe town center. He doesn’t want to part with it – but his desperate situation has given him no choice.
The 42-year-old ends up receiving £ 50 for a camera he originally bought for hundreds. For his struggling family, this small sum is better than nothing. It means they get to eat more than one meal today.
“I’ve never been this bad in my life,” the dad-of-four says. “This financial situation is the worst we’ve ever been in. 1982 was the last time we were this bad.
“I’ve had to take my camera to Cash Generators to get a bit of money. I don’t want to, but when you have nothing in your house, £ 30 or £ 40 can make a difference.
READ MORE: Woman whose conviction for killing neighbor was overturned insists her death ‘was nothing to do with me’
Robert, who formerly served in the Army, lost his job as a warehouse worker following an accident 15 months ago. He suffered nerve damage in his lower back after getting trapped by a forklift truck and has struggled to find work ever since.
“When they put all the benefits together, that was the worst thing they ever did. You don’t get half as much as what you used to, ”he added. “You can’t eat if you don’t have electricity to put the cooker on. You can’t make food if you don’t have electricity. It’s a vicious cycle. ”
Robert and his partner Theresa Downs live together in Wythenshawe. The pair have recently found themselves struggling with the rising cost of living, which has led to spiralling debt.
The couple limit themselves to one meal a day and charge their teenage daughter rent to help out with bills. “I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. It’s the council tax, water and piling £ 30 to £ 40 on gas and electric bills every week. It’s ridiculous, ”says Theresa, who can’t work due to having epilepsy.
“At the end of the day, you can’t see MP’s cutting their wages. “I don’t use food banks. I would rather not eat. My daughter is 17 and she’s just started to work. She will help out when she gets her pay.
“Me and her dad said the first months’ salary is hers and then after that she will have to pay £ 25 a week in rent. We’re suffering.
“Council tax is more of a worry because you can lose your house and they can take you to court. It’s making me depressed. It’s the same every day stuff when you’re worried about gas and electricity and food. You’re worried.
“We live off basics like bread, milk, spuds and the basic food. We have one meal a day. It affects you day-to-day. When you don’t eat, you don’t have the energy to do anything. ”
Paula Moulton has several health conditions which mean her home is full of electrical medical equipment which needs to be switched on at all times – even down to her mattress and bed.
Over the last couple of months, she’s seen her energy bills double. While she isn’t struggling just yet, she fears she may find herself in financial difficulty when prices rise again later this year.
“I’m an all-electric household, I have lots of vital medical equipment that I can’t t urn off, down to my bed, my mattress and my phone which I have to have charged at all times because I use it for alarms, ”she told the Manchester Evening News.
“It simply came to our notice then. I’ve swapped my lightbulbs over; we’re turning stuff off and my heating has been off for ages but I don’t know where we’re expected to find the money. I’m already shopping at Lidl, where do you go if you already shop there?
“I’ve not struggled but I will be struggling. It’s making me feel frustrated because I’m being penalized for having a medical condition and being ill. ”
Paula receives Personal Independence Payment, or PIP, but it doesn’t come close to covering her costs. “The equipment is vital – I have no choice. What do I do? Do I say to the nurses and doctors ‘Sorry, I can’t have an air mattress or a hospital bed, I can’t afford it’,” she added.
“I need electricity to run the equipment in my house. If I don’t, I will get seriously ill. I have to pay for specialized food because I’m on a soft diet. I have an assistance dog so there’s her costs as well. My PIP will only go so far.
“My bills have doubled in a month. I’m just terrified as to what’s going to happen with the next price hike. When are the government actually going to do something? I don’t understand where we’re meant to go and what we’re meant to do. What else do you cut out? ”
Barbara Brookes takes a break in the sunshine at Wythenshawe Civic Center. The 73-year-old has recently made cutbacks in the amount of food she buys after noticing a rise in costs.
“I’m not doing so bad; I’m just existing, ”she says. “I don’t buy as much food because there’s only me in the house so I’m not too bad – not yet.”
Sign up to the MEN email newsletters to get the latest on sports, news, what’s on and more by following this link