A single dad on universal credit says he has gone days without a meal amid the cost of living crisis so he can afford food for his children. Anthony Lyman, a 36-year-old from Northampton, faces “sleepless nights” worrying about how he is going to keep his two children warm in the winter. He is finding himself between £200 and £300 behind on his bills each month and, unable to work because of poor health, he has no way of paying that money back.
Lyman is far from alone. Around seven million families in the UK have missed out on food or essentials like showers and toiletries this year because they couldn’t afford them, research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) revealed last week. That’s equivalent to every family in the north of England.
“For people like me in this situation,” Lyman says, “you are risking your personal health. You’re risking even having a roof over your head because something has to give, whether that be council tax or electricity or food or rent. We’re left in a horrible situation where we can’t afford to pay. We’re just falling back further down rather than making progress.”
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Lyman has been struggling financially since 2002, but he reached crisis point and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2019. He previously worked full time as a teaching support assistant in a special education needs school but poor mental health meant he was forced to give up his job and rely on universal credit.
“The reality check came when I was going through the court process for access to both my children,” he explains. “We couldn’t afford solicitors or anything like that. I reached a mental health crisis during that process to the point where I actually checked myself into the hospital for a bit of protection that night. That’s the point where I realised I had to reach out to my mum and my family.”
With support from his family and charities, Lyman was making progress towards recovery. But now, the cost of living crisis is hitting his family hard and he cannot afford the essentials. Until he is told by a doctor he is well enough to go to work, he has to rely on benefits as his only source of income.