Staffordshire pensioner says she can't cut back any more as cost of living soars

Carol Lowe says she has made as many savings as she can, Jane Hesketh reports

A pensioner has told ITV News Central she has been forced to claim universal credit a year after the death of her husband as costs of living continue to soar.

Carol Lowe lost her husband a year ago, after caring for him for seven years at home in Chesterton in Staffordshire.

His death meant Carol lost vital income from things like a carers' allowance and his pension.

She says she was left to look at all her finances again to get by, and says she eventually had to claim for universal credit.

Carol Lowe explains how she ended up on universal credit and how she's struggled to pay her bills

Ms Lowe tells ITV News Central: "When he passed away, I lost all my financial income basically, carers allowance... everything just went.

"It was a big impact because you've got to sort everything out and you haven't got the money coming in either, so, you know, what do I do?"

"Unfortunately, I had to claim universal credit, but it's just what you have to do."

Ms Lowe said she should be thinking about retiring, but her finances left her so worried that she got a part-time job at her local food-bank instead.

She says if it it came to the crunch, she would be forced to use the food bank herself too.

"You're sitting there and you're thinking well 'what am I going to do, how am I going to pay my bills?' my rent isn't going to get paid anymore, because we're on pension credit with him being a pensioner.

"Plus you've still got to put money away for your food which is where I first thought of the food bank with my daughter-in-law being there."

"If it comes to it, I'll go to the foodbank myself."

Cost of Living:

  • has hit a 30 year-high

  • energy, fuel, and food prices continue to rise

  • price increase by 5.5% in the 12 months to January 2022

  • inflation rising faster than wages

  • Bank of England inflation forecast rise of more than 7% this year

'I don't know where I'm going to find the extra £45 from because I've cut back on everything I possibly can'

Ms Lowe told ITV News Central she has cut back on all non-essentials. She's one of the lucky ones with family and friends to help her from time to time, but she says her living costs keep going up.

She told ITV News Central: "I had a message off my provider and my direct debit from my electric and gas is going up from £73 a month to £115 so on that rating, I'm not sure where I can find the every £45 because I've cut back on everything I can cut back on."

According to financial experts, Ms Lowe's situation is typical of those hardest hit by the rising cost of living.

Dr Lindsey Appleyard from Coventry University Business School said: "I think we are at a key moment where the government really has to step in to support families and people on low to moderate incomes. 

"To make sure they can pay their bills and receive the support they need.  

"That means an uplift in benefits and making sure people have got secure jobs and a decent level of income."

Protests against the cost of living increases Credit: ITV News

According to debt advice agencies, Ms Lowe is among millions of people across the UK who are struggling to cover their essential household costs nowadays.

Some people are cutting back on how much they spend on food, or eating less, so they can pay for heating.

Many people are falling into arrears, or using credit to pay for essentials, making the problem worse.And, the situation isn't going to get easier, even as temporary support measures are announced, with further challenges are ahead.

More increases on the way:

  • energy bills increasing by an average of nearly £700 a year

  • council tax payments to rise

  • National Insurance contributions increasing for those in work

Many people are finding that wages and benefit payment increases aren't keeping track with these price rises.