Life on the streets where families choose between heating and food and “don’t know what to do”


The rising cost of living is pushing Greater Manchester families to the brim.

Gas and electricity bills are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent from April – plunge millions into fuel poverty unless the Government steps in to help.

The huge soar in costs will force many people to choose between heating and eating.

The prospect has left low-income families terrified.

As the UK’s cost of living crisis intensifies, the MEN’s Paige Oldfield spoke to residents in Ashton-under-Lyne and Hyde about their fears for the future.

A young mother pushes her pram through an almost deserted Ashton market.

Workmen take a break in the sunshine. A smartly-dressed woman eats her lunch on a bench.

Teenagers record themselves singing on a mobile phone, laughing as their voices echo around the empty stalls.

It’s a late January afternoon and the air feels warmer. For many across Greater Manchester, this tiny rise in temperature will come as a huge relief.

Soaring energy costs have meant hundreds are currently unable to heat their homes.

The rising cost of living has forced families to choose between basic necessities just to keep their heads above water.

And with energy bills predicted to arise in just three months’ time, there are some who have no idea how they’ll survive.

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“I’m overdrawn trying to pay my gas and electric,” Chloe Burkhill says as she glances down at her one-year-old daughter Bella.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m stressed.

“I have to borrow money off my mum – I’m constantly having to borrow money off people.”

The 19-year-old, from Hyde, found herself £800 in debt with her energy provider when she recently moved house.

Ashton Market

The mum-of-two relies on monthly payments and help from her family to keep her young children warm.

She’s currently overdrawn trying to keep up with her increasing bills.

“I pay for (gas and electric) as soon as I get paid,” she continued.

“When I moved into my house, I was £800 in debt.

“I pay it every time I get paid, but then the money is gone again.

“I did work at a bar but now I have to look after these two.”

Stood next to her is Laura Dobb, who cares for four children at home in Mossley.

Bella-Louise, one, with mum Chloe Burkhill, 19, and Laura Dobb, 33

She’s had to give up treating them just so she can afford to buy food – something she finds “upsetting”.

“I struggle at the moment,” she tells the Manchester Evening News.

“I think when my children grow up it’ll be really expensive. Even the cost of food is expensive, tins are just ridiculous.

“I’m struggling with gas and electric but because it’s so cold, the heating needs to be on.

“It’s the fact it’s cold in the evening but it’s mounted up.

“It’s been so cold over the last two weeks; the prices are ridiculous.”

For Laura and her family, bills have shot up recently.

Where she would usually pay £34 a month, she is now paying £144.

The increase has taken a huge toll.

“I can’t get warm,” she continues.

Ashton Market

“I tell the children to get the cardigans and socks out.

“Now at school they have to play out and they come home freezing. They ask to put the heating on, but they’re only kids. They need to stay warm.

“It’s upsetting. We would normally have treats like McDonald’s, but the heating needs to be on, so it’s a choice.

“I’m looking for warm blankets for when the prices go up.

“We’re stuck in a ruth.”

Yvonne McConnell can no longer afford to buy birthday presents for her grandchildren.

Yvonne McDonnell, 56

Rising costs have meant she can no longer afford luxury items for herself. She keeps the heating off at home and wears her dressing gown around the house to stay warm.

“It’s depressing,” the 56-year-old says.

“The cost of gas and electric is just ridiculous.

“It’s costing us especially when you’re on your pension and the cost of living.

“We’re having to cut back on luxurious items you might have treated yourself before.

“We’re not putting the heating on to save money.

“My husband is housebound and he’s having to wrap up to stay warm. I wear my dressing gown in the house all the time now.

“You have nothing to look forward to. You can’t afford to have family gatherings or anything like you used to.

Yvonne McDonnell, 56

“You can’t treat the grandchildren for their birthdays like you’d want. The older grandchildren notice as well, they don’t complain but it’s not right.

“Especially when we’ve worked all our lives.

“My husband has worked since he was 13 and the way he has to live now is atrocious.”

In Hyde town centre, couple John and Beryl Layland are out shopping.

While they feel as though they are in a comfortable position with their pensions, they’re still concerned about the rising cost of living.

“It will have a big impact. It’s going to impact on us, there’s no doubt about that,” John, aged 80, says.

John Layland, 80, with wife Beryl Layland, 77

“Everyone in the country will have to accept the fact we will be poorer this year. There will be less disposable income.

“The energy company we had just gone bust.

“I was on a special deal until January 16 so I was getting cheap energy. But now I’ve got on the Ofgem limit.”

hyde town center

“Food costs and fuel costs are going up. They won’t come down any time soon,” Beryl, 77, adds.

“It’s the perfect storm.”

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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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