'It's draining, I feel isolated with it' - the reality of the rising cost of living

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People in Bristol struggling with the worsening cost of living crisis say the situation has been getting progressively worse over the past two years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak made his spring statement on Wednesday and said fuel duty and National Insurance would be adjusted to address the issues.

But people who visited St Marks Community Cafe in Easton said the struggles they have faced over recent years may not be fixed easily.

Shane Clark is on benefits and says the rise in the cost of living and the pandemic has made life incredibly tough for him.

Shane says that the community cafe in Easton is a lifeline for people struggling financially.

"Financially it has been pretty hard. I ended up losing my flat as well," he said.

"I have felt isolated recently - it has felt like I am on an island.

"It has been one of the worst periods financially. Trying to keep up with simple things like the electricity and heating bills. I have been trying to do things on the cheap.

"It is emotionally draining, I have gone most of my life with support and there has now been around two years without that.

"It is really tough and a lot of my friends have gone back on to hard drugs and alcohol to block these hard times and feelings. It is actually causing more problems further down the line.

"The announcement could make a difference but it depends how quickly they can bring it in. I know people who are in debt and have lost their houses and benefits and more will find themselves in trouble."

Another individual who visited the cafe, Georgina Copson, recently lost her husband Brian and she said the ongoing financial struggles combined with grief has caused her a lot of stress.

"After losing my husband I am getting used to things - but the hike in gas and electric prices has really annoyed me and made it tough," Georgina said.

"It is one of those things, but it isn't nice that you are constantly seeing the prices rising.

"Those rises mean you either have to choose whether you want to keep the heating on or whether you need to cut down on what you are eating.

"It is cruel at the moment as well - I am not mincing my words but it is incredibly tough trying to make ends meet.

"The government needs to step in and help those people who are on the bread line because at the moment they are suffering the consequences."

Emily Younie with her son Jonah at the community cafe in Easton.

Emily Younie, who is a new mum, echoed the thoughts of others at the cafe, saying making things balance has been really stressful in the current climate.

"It is tight at the moment but we are managing," she said.

"It has been tough and having a little one as well has made it slightly harder. The fuel bills going up is causing a strain on our finances.

"We are trying to save as much energy as possible and we don't have our heating on at the moment. We also try to use public transport as much as possible as well to save on fuel.

"It has been hard to make the books balance but we are now having to find a way to make ends-meet."

The number of people visiting this community cafe in Easton in Bristol has been steadily increasing over the past year.

Its aim though is to give those who are struggling to meet the financial demands upon them the chance to eat and drink whilst paying what they can.

While the numbers have been rising those who run it say that the people who are using it are also changing with more families using it as a lifeline and way to avoid spending a lot of money elsewhere.

"The variety of people who come has changed - It is not longer just those people who have been marginalised in life," cafe manager Lesley Wynne said.

"We are seeing more and more people who are actually just struggling. It is quite sad really how things have changed so much.

"We are beginning to notice it now much more, before the pandemic we used to have around 60% of people who couldn't pay for their food. Since we reopened now it is nearer to 80%.

"We had a lady in last week with her two children and she said that she was making a decision between food and heating. It is incredibly difficult for some people at the moment.

"We need to see if this support and changes that the government have announced will do anything. We need some easing of these challenges to give people some hope."