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Find out about Alannah - in her own words

"I live with a range of different long-term health conditions, which means that for a while I was reliant on ESA and PIP for my income. Things were tight and I was being underpaid due to an error, and therefore I had to appeal this to be able to get my full entitlement.

"My partner Jamie also has a chronic illness, and due to the logistics of taking care of both of our health conditions, we decided that he would move in with me. Unfortunately this caused more issues, this time with my housing allowance. I sought advice from the DWP and they stated that as long as Jamie didn’t work more than 16 hours per week it wouldn’t affect my entitlement.

"Despite this, my payments stopped and the new evaluation meant that I’d be receiving only £23 per week."

Needing credit for both essentials and emergencies

"I was told that I had to apply for Universal Credit but the wait for the appointment was long, and therefore I was forced to start using a credit card for living essentials. My washing machine and fridge freezer broke down during this time, so I also bought new ones on finance. In addition, I fell into arrears with my council tax and rent which was really stressful.

"I finally started receiving universal credit in November 2020 but by this time my debts had stacked up and the amount that I was receiving wasn’t enough to cover my living costs and my debt repayments. After receiving some threatening letters from some of my creditors I decided to look for help, and I contacted StepChange for advice."

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Rising costs and managing illness

"At the moment I’m on a payment plan, which means that my debts are under control. However we still struggle, and this is largely down to the increase in cost of essentials – the standing charge for our gas means that we’re often playing catch up with the bill. We also welcomed our son Odin around 9 months ago, which has obviously impacted our budget in a big way.

"What most people might not think about is that we rely on certain items to help us manage our health conditions, and the price of these going up has had an impact on our financial situation. For example, when Jamie gets his stoma regularly cleaned at the hospital he needs sanitary pads to help protect the wound afterwards, in addition to the ones I use. I also need electrolyte sports drinks to help with one of my illnesses and these have increased in price recently. Even trying to find clothes that fit over a stoma bag is a challenge – I’ve taken to scouring charity shops to find items that we can afford.

"I try to help keep us afloat by doing some freelance blogging work, but this type of income is inconsistent and I’m reliant on a laptop to be able to do it. Mine recently stopped working, so I’ve had to get a new one, which wasn’t easy whilst things are so tight. We also really needed a new mattress for my son but couldn’t afford to buy a brand new one, so I prioritised looking for something secondhand so that it doesn’t blow up our finances."

Help is available but things are still hard

"I’m now debt free thanks to help from StepChange but we still struggle due to the increase in the cost of essentials. The standing charge for our gas means that we’re often playing catch up with the bill, and certain products we need to manage our health have markedly increased in price. I also sometimes use Buy Now Pay Later for the food shopping, especially when hit with large unexpected expenses. I really hope that something changes soon to ease the pressure on us financially as it’s hard work trying to manage everything with a young child as well."

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