‘I’m 79 but haven’t been able to afford to have my heating on for 11 months’


Sheila Correll, 79, uses a hot water bottle, burns wood in her fireplace and eats mainly leftovers which she stretches out for days because she cannot afford her expensive bills

Sheila Correll
Sheila Correll cannot afford her bills

Sheila Correll hasn’t used her heating in 11 months because she can’t afford the bills. She keeps warm by running with her dog, Ben, every morning.

At almost 80, she runs 10k most days, then puts on four layers to keep herself warm.

Sheila, 79, uses a hot water bottle, burns wood in her fireplace, and at night she uses several duvets. She eats mainly leftovers which she stretches out for days.

She spent her life working as a flight attendant, a legal assistant and in a car showroom, only to have what she calls an “uncomfortable” retirement.

“I have worked and paid into the system my whole life,” says Sheila, who was widowed 25 years ago.

“It’s sad to be living in this state. The Government has no idea how the other half live. My pension is just pocket money for Boris.”

Sheila runs 10k most days
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Tom Maddick SWNS)

Mike Wagstaff, 53, from Worksop, Notts, works in B&Q Warehouse. His wife works for the NHS.

“My wife is at home on sick leave, but she can’t put the heating on, she just wraps up like an Eskimo,” he says.

“We have the heating on for two hours a night, as soon as the house is warm, we get straight into bed.

“We’ll need an extra £200 to pay for bills and council tax from April. We’ve already made a lot of cutbacks, but we will have to stop visiting family. I can’t even remember the last time I went out. It is no longer, ‘you live to work’, it is now ‘you work to live’.”

Mike Wagstaff said he and his wife cannot afford to put the heating on at home
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collect)

A mum from Wincanton in Somerset, who had to use foodbanks this summer to feed her children, said her family were having to limit time in the shower.

“On the wages I am on it’s already very difficult to get by,” she says. “I’m watching my kids outgrow their clothes and we’re constantly looking for second-hand ones.

“I can’t take them on days out, we have to limit time in the shower and they have to put extra clothes on so we keep the heating bills down. With inflation and gas bills going up, if my wages stay this low, we’re going to be in real trouble.”

These are just three people out of millions in the UK already struggling with the cost of living. Yet, as we fight our way out of the pandemic and the Government fails to deliver a fair Brexit, living costs from food prices to fuel bills are now rising even higher and faster. After 11 years of vicious Austerity cuts, and the pandemic’s own toll on work and livelihoods, millions of families have nothing left to give.

Our Cost of Living team of experts are here to help YOU through a very difficult year.

They’ll be bringing you the latest money news stories and also providing specialist advice.

Whether it’s rocketing energy bills, the cost of the weekly shop or increased taxes, our team will be with you all the way.

Every Thursday at 1pm they will take part in a Facebook Live event to answer your questions and offer their advice. Visit facebook.com/dailymirror/live to watch. You can read more about our team of experts here.

If you have a question – or want to share your story – please get in touch by emailing [email protected]

On Saturday, thousands of people will take to the streets in over 20 locations across Britain from Bangor to Birmingham, Eastbourne to Edinburgh, Lancaster to London, and Derry to Derby.

Further demonstrations are planned for March 5 and April 2.

Protests were organized by the People’s Assembly at news that from April 1, 22 million households will see an annual increase of £693 on their energy bills, with even more for those on pre-payment meters. Some of the most vulnerable customers will see an astronomical increase from £1,309 to £2,017 a year. At the same time, Shell posted profits of £14.2 billion. On Wednesday, the Mirror reported BP bosses saying they didn’t know what to do with all their billions (£9.5bn to be precise).

The rise in energy bills comes on top of Chancellor Rishi Suna’s hike in National Insurance and cut to the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, rising inflation, an increase in Council Tax and higher food and rent costs.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak hosting a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room on February 3
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GettyImages)

Yet the multi-millionaire Chancellor’s only solution has been to take £200 off people’s energy bills – which must be paid back further down the line. Mr Sunak’s advisers include the controversial economist Tim Leunig, who has proposed that workers in northern towns should “accept lower wages”.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England and on an eye-watering salary of half a million pounds a year, wants to see pay restraint for workers at a time when inflation is set to hit 7.25% and workers face what the TUC have called the worst pay squeeze in 200 years.

Gary Smith, general secretary of the GBM union, described Bailey’s comments as a “sick joke”. Meanwhile, Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite the Union, asked: “Why is it that every time there is a crisis, rich men ask ordinary people to pay for it?”

She adds: “This crisis was not caused by working people and we are not going to take wage cuts to pay for it. Why should the public always bail out the markets and policy makers?”

Sheila burns wood as she can’t afford to put the heating on
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Image:

Tom Maddick SWNS)

Mike Wagstaff, a Unite member, echoes her disbelief: “The system is extremely broken,” he says. “The Government gives with one hand and takes with another.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up living like this when I’ve worked since I was 13.”

Pensioner Sheila, who contacted Age UK for support, says the cost of living is making her isolated. She’s stopped having cake with friends.

“I’m active, but there are people who are ill, and they should be able to heat their homes and eat properly, it is a disgrace,” she says. “We shouldn’t be living penny to penny.”

Yet costs are about to go radically upwards. “Well, we won’t be able to live,” Sheila says. “Prices for even the cheapest tin of soup have doubled in price. To buy a piece of meat or fish, you need to take a mortgage out.

“It’s not right, people of our age need basic nutrition. We could be sitting there in a chair with hypothermia. People are going to end up ill.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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