Cost of living crisis: 'My family now uses food banks every week'

·3-min read
Harry Lay, 36, with a foodbank package in Cricklade, Wiltshire. (SWNS)
Harry Lay, 36, with a foodbank package in Cricklade, Wiltshire. (SWNS)

A family has been using food banks every week despite working full time after their bills doubled due to the rising cost of living.

Stepfather-of-three Harry Lay, 36, has said he is “in despair” after household costs soared, including his heating bills which doubled.

The UK's Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation (CPI) rose to 5.4%, the highest since March 1992 when it was 7.1%, the Office for National Statistics said.

Harry, from Cricklade, Wiltshire, fears what could happen if costs continue to rise as he already has to choose between buying food and keeping his family warm.

Watch: Inflation rise: What does it mean?

Full-time cleaner Harry, who lives with hairdresser wife Kittie, 36, said: "We have had to use food banks every week for about six months now.

"We are both working, and receiving Universal Credit, and we still can't afford to buy food for the family and it's so wrong.

"We don't have a single penny spare, not even down the back of the sofa - I once had to choose between buying loo roll or cooking oil.

"Most of our money goes on keeping the house warm enough so the little ones aren't sat shivering - and all we can afford to do at the weekends is take them for a walk.

Harry and Kittie moved into their housing association property in mid-2020 with their three children aged five, eight and 11.

When they first moved in, they would pay around £150 for 500 litres of oil to fuel their oil-powered central heating - which would last around three months.

Harry Lay pictured at his home in Wiltshire. (SWNS)
Harry Lay pictured at his home in Wiltshire. (SWNS)

But Harry said the costs began to creep up last year after Ofgem announced a cap was raised by 12% on energy tariffs - meaning prices could rise to some of the highest seen in the past decade.

From October, the cap rose by £153 per year for anyone not on a fixed-price deal - the same month that the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift was withdrawn - meaning lower-income families suffered a double blow.

Read more:

What is behind the cost-of-living squeeze and where will inflation go from here?

Surging inflation: what can households do to ease the pressure?

Average UK house price £25,000 higher in November than a year earlier

Harry said now the same 500 litres of oil for heating costs £380 - more than double what it was - and the family are left in “complete and utter despair” as a result.

The family are limiting using their central heating as much as possible to avoid needing to refill the oil tank.

In the past, they have even bought large candles to light their home to save money on electricity.

The parents' main focus, they say, is ensuring the kids are "warm and fed" when they're at home so they don't realise the difficulty.

Harry Lay's family have been forced to use foodbanks every week. (SWNS)
Harry Lay's family have been forced to use foodbanks every week. (SWNS)

Harry added: "In the week with the kids at school, it's alright because we're out for most of the day.

"But weekends the kids are at home all day and the house is freezing cold because we can't afford to refill the tank.

"It's not like we can take them out anywhere because we can't afford it - we've been out for a walk for seven weekends in a row, and what kind of life is that for a child?"

Harry is calling for action after years of struggling which has come to a head in the last year and left him desperate for change.

Think tank Resolution Foundation has warned people receiving unemployment benefit on its own are receiving only slightly more than would tip them into poverty.

Further analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggested the poorest adults could be forced to spend more than half of their income after housing costs on rising energy bills which could “devastate” the poorest families.

Watch: How to solve the problem of inflation

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