People around the UK are facing impossible decisions

As the cost of living crisis worsens, people with the least are being hit the hardest.

Faced with impossible decisions and unrelenting pressure, people across the country are left with no option but to roll the dice.

Skip meals, turn off heating, miss bill payments. No one can control the dice; the more times you’re forced to roll, the more pressure you’re under.

Many find it hard to imagine what that would be like. By inviting you to throw the dice yourself, you can better put yourself in the shoes of people facing serious hardship.

Roll the dice

What impossible decision will you face?

  1. Click the roll the dice button
  1. Your impossible decision has been made
  1. Read the story below that matches your impossible decision
  1. Share on social media by tagging @trusselltrust

Real stories

These are real impossible decisions faced by people struggling to afford the essentials.

Meet Claudia

Claudia is a mum to three young children.

She feared how the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit would impact on what she could put in their lunchboxes, as well as the school uniform she could afford and how she would cover the bills.

“When Covid first hit in March 2020, I lost my job because the company could not furlough me.

I have three young children who rely on me for everything and the £20 cut to Universal Credit could impact things such as what they have in their lunchbox, electricity, water, and school uniform.

Now the children are back at school I am trying my hardest to find work, but childcare is a massive barrier for me.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Rosie

Rosie lost her job due to Covid and has been struggling to find a job since.

Back in the autumn before Universal Credit was cut by £20 a week, Rosie shared the impact the cut would have on her ability to find work because she wouldn’t be able to afford to use public transport.

“The stigma of claiming benefits really affected me at the start but I have educated myself and I’m very aware of what a lifeline it is to so many people. The £20 cut in Universal Credit will leave me in debt once my household bills are paid.

This means that one of the bills will be unpaid and I will have no food at all and no ability to travel to find work. This is a very vicious cycle and I have no idea how I will manage.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Terry

Terry lost his job due to Covid and has been signed off by his doctor as a result of severe anxiety and depression.

He depends on Universal Credit to support his family, but the little income he receives means he’s left with no option but to fall into debt so he can provide warm clothing for his children.

“I have three kids and we only receive income from Universal Credit, which barely covers our food for the month. Some months I have had to use money from my credit card just to pay for some items like clothes for the kids.

I’m trying to get back into work but with my mental health issues and receiving no help, it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Taking away more money is just making a very difficult situation even worse.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Adam

Adam had to apply for Universal Credit when he was looking for a job after finishing university.

After paying his bills he had only £36.50 a week to live on – which didn’t include food, transport and travel.

Adam is employed now but still remembers how the small amount of income from Universal Credit payments held him back in his job search.

“If I needed to buy a smartphone then finding the money for it would be difficult. Buying a laptop would be virtually impossible. But it’s so needed.

Nowadays Universal Credit is online, and an internet connection is required to manage your claim. Also, employers expect people to have Microsoft Office, graphics editing software and Zoom on their computer, especially as job interviews have gone virtual during the pandemic.

Fulfilling your civic participation with just a brick phone is a thing of the past. Now if I had a job interview and needed suitable clothes and shoes, how could I afford to buy it? I don’t think I could.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Savannah

After being made redundant from the place she’s worked at for 15 years and left by her ex-partner, Savannah needed support to meet the cost of essentials for herself and her son.

But Universal Credit payments aren’t enough to cover the essentials and pay off the loan she had to take out while recovering from an operation.

“I want to work, but it’s been impossible to find the hours I need in another job due to the affordability of childcare and only being able to work certain times and days.

Most nurseries ask for £50 deposit to secure a spot and then a full month’s payment upfront.

I would have to not pay my rent for a whole month to be able to afford that, which is not an option.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Steve

Steve was working in security when he suffered a serious back injury that has affected his health ever since.

He needed the food bank when he first started receiving social security support because it couldn’t cover the cost of his rent.

“I have a serious back injury. My chronic pain condition doesn’t allow me to go back to work. The basic support I was getting wasn’t enough to live on.

I wasn’t able to cover the rent for my studio flat in Hammersmith. That’s when I went to the food bank. I went a few more times over the summer and was struck how lovely all the team were and that there wasn’t any judgement but compassion and empathy.

There is a stigma around people not working and needing social security.  It made me realise that I wanted to make a difference to others too. So, I started volunteering at the food bank and help them share their stories and listening to their problems.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Lydia

Lydia is in her mid-forties and was made redundant due to Covid.

She’s been fighting to get another job ever since but the Universal Credit she receives is just not enough to support her.

Just before the £20 cut to Universal Credit last autumn, Lydia spoke about the impact this cut will have on her energy use.

“I’m single and, until I was made redundant due to Covid, I had always got by okay. £20 a week has ensured I had enough top up for the gas and electric and food plus [the] bus fare to the supermarket.

When I lose the £20 a week, I will not be able to put the heating on in my house. It’s that simple. I’m  on gas key meters in an end terrace that is draughty. I’ve noticed price increases on food, and I would rather eat every day and try to stay warm under extra blankets that I have been collecting from family and cheap car boot sales than heat the house.

I also fear a lot of crime in my area and like to leave a light on in my kitchen to feel safer when I sleep, but I won’t be doing that this winter to save the few pence on the meter.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Faye

Faye is currently living in temporary accommodation with her family, which is poorly insulated and is in disrepair.

Heating is not a luxury we have allowed ourselves this month when the children are in school. I’m careful not to  use anything that takes extra electricity and use the local library for entertainment in the form of books under a blanket.

Most days now I eat once a day, if there is not enough, I will have cereal or a slice of toast as my growing children are a priority. Last month they needed new coats that had to come first.

My children keep me going – it’s a horrible feeling to feel like you’re failing them.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Leah

Leah is a single parent who worked in the NHS before having her son, who is currently in early years education.

She’s looking for work, but is struggling with the constant pressure surviving on a low income creates.

“When Universal Credit increased by £20 a week, I was able to afford my travel fare, food and my bills. I was able to access support for my little boy.

The stress of having to deny us one of these essentials is a hard burden to carry.

Now Universal Credit has been cut, I can already feel the pressure and worry over how we will cope to either buy food or toiletries and have our basic needs met.

I worry how I’m going to cope.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Teresa

Teresa is a 26-year-old single mother of one who has worked for the NHS her entire adult life.

During the pandemic she depended on the £20 increase to Universal Credit to keep her family afloat, but in October this support was taken away – just as the cost of living was set to soar.

“Although this £20 a week may not seem much to some, it will massively impact me.

It’s two weeks’ shopping for me; food on the table and clothes on my child’s back.

I will simply have to cut back on food for myself once this happens, going to work hungry and coming home again hungry.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

The cost of living is having
an impact on all of us

As food and energy prices continue to soar, families across the UK are feeling the biggest squeeze on incomes in a generation.

But for people already struggling to make ends meet, the rising price of essentials is forcing them into decisions that aren’t just difficult, they’re impossible.

Food banks across our network will do everything they can to support people in their communities facing hardship, but it should be our social security system that provides families with the stability and security we all need. But the reality is that over time it has been left to become threadbare, and no longer provides enough support to keep people warm, fed and dry.

This simply isn’t right. No one’s income should become so dangerously low they cannot afford life’s essentials.

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No one should have to roll the dice on their lives. Share your impossible decision on social media to say enough is enough.

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