A married couple is afraid to get into debt due to rising prices for heating and electricity.
Gary and Natasha Waterhouse, who always need heat to survive, have already seen their bills double this winter and now fear a life-or-death decision.
Natasha, 50, who lives with her partner and three children in Peterborough, suffers from a spinal cord tumor that affects her body’s ability to regulate temperature.
This means that extremes of hot and cold can hurt her.
Conversely, Gary, who is also 50, suffers from sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and resumes while he sleeps.
And to stay alive, he uses a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that pumps air into his airways while he sleeps.
Gary explained that both conditions require huge use of heat and electricity, including charging critical medical equipment, and force the family to cut costs.
He said Mirror: “We had to prioritize electricity to keep me alive. Without exaggeration.
“So other bills had to take a backseat because we needed electricity no matter what. Because we use a prepaid meter, if we don’t have electricity, it stops.”
The couple have seen their bills skyrocket due to the energy crisis and are currently spending around £200 a month on electricity and £130 a month on gas.
The couple had previously held positions since the age of 14, with Natasha working in an office and Gary in public service.
But after Natasha was given a life-changing diagnosis in 2017, Gary was forced to leave his previously well-paid position to become his wife’s full-time caregiver.
The couple now mostly have benefits, meaning the financial pressures of the past few months have hit them hard.
As a guardian, Gary receives a care allowance of around £69.70 a week.
And he says it will cost him £15 an hour to find someone to do the job for him.
He has since tried to improve their lifestyle by borrowing a car to use as a taxi, but the high interest payments proved unsustainable.
Gary said: “The taxi lasted two months because the engine broke. Now I need to spend money on it, I have no money, so now I’m in a worse position, trying to find a way out of this.
“I tried to make sure that three teenagers were happy, fed and watered. It was hard emotionally and physically.”
As a result, the family was forced to use food banks and rely on their benefits to survive until the end.
But Gary says it’s not enough.
He told the publication: “Guardians in this country are really, unfortunately, forgotten.
“I had an online meeting with Turn2us and Careers UK yesterday and everyone was talking about how much money caregivers are saving the NHS.”
Now Gary continues to work as a taxi driver in the evenings and notes that his children also contribute to the improvement by working part-time.
And ahead of this Christmas, he emphasized: “As long as we get food, that’s the main thing.
“Over the past few years we have cut spending on Christmas, so there won’t be much change. These will be just symbolic gifts for everyone, and then just being together, as the main thing.
“Gifts are material, but time with family is the most important thing for us, and this is what we thrive on.”
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