Unpaid carers in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire living 'hand to mouth' amid spiralling bills

A former taxi driver from Lincolnshire has spoken about how he and his wife are having to rely on food banks after he gave up work to look after her.

Gary Waterhouse, from Bourne, quit his job after wife, Natasha, was diagnosed with a spinal tumour which has left her with limited mobility.

They are now struggling to make ends meet as bills spiral.

Mr Waterhouse said: "We live hand to mouth. We have to go to food banks – there is a charity locally, the Butterfield Centre, where they give us this too-good-to-go food from supermarkets that donate it.

"You shouldn't be ashamed, but when you have been working all your life it is very against the grain to ask for help to go and get these things."

Figures released by Carers UK show nearly half of those looking after a loved one are worried that higher costs will affect their health.

Among them is Michael Firth Bradford, who cares for his 27-year-old daughter, Suzie, who has complex health needs, which have left her unable to walk, talk or eat by herself.

Michael Firth and his daughter, Suzie

Mr Firth receives respite care, but no additional support.

He said: "It is getting very hard. It is always in the back of my mind – where is the rent going to come from?

"Where is the money to pay the food bills going to come from and having enough money in your bank account at the end of the month? Is it going to run out? Will I be overdrawn? It is a constant worry."

The Government has said it has set out a £21 billion support package, including council tax and energy rebates – as well as extra financial support for those with disabilities, or those who care for them. But for Mr Firth it can not come soon enough.

He said: "On an evening now, once Suzie is in bed I get out a blanket, rather than putting the heating on because Suzie can't regulate heat appropriately. And if anyone went without food it would be me."

A UK-wide survey of over 3,000 unpaid carers, revealed the impact of rising bills:

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said:" I think there is huge anxiety being brought on to carers on top of the last two years where they have taken on a huge amount without a break.

"So we have got a situation here where unpaid carers are teetering over the brink and the additional pressure of energy bills going up next month is just too much for them."