“I feel a bit trapped, to be honest,” says Carly, 36. She’s in the park with her three-year-old son, Ezra, with whom she lives in a two-bedroom flat in London. Despite working 28 hours a week for a charity, as well as a second job in the evening, money is already tight and, as a single parent raising her son alone, Carly is worried about how the current cost of living crisis will impact her.
The cost of living in the UK is becoming increasingly worrying. The price cap for energy bills is set to jump by 54% in April when council tax will also go up. This will compound the already soaring grocery and transport costs, tax hikes and rent prices, which have increased nearly tenfold outside of London while wages mostly remain stagnant.
Single people and people who live alone will be some of the hardest hit by the crisis. According to ONS data from 2019, people living on their own spend an average of 9% more of their disposable income than two-adult households, mostly on the same bills that are set to go up.
As Carly doesn’t co-parent, and both of her parents work full time, she’s forced to work reduced hours at her job while forking out more than £2,000 on nursery fees and rent each month. She then has to factor in her fully electric heating, which, she says, is “very unideal, especially in this crisis.”
“Even before the cost of living crisis, my bills have consistently been way too expensive and unaffordable,” Carly tells GLAMOUR. “Now, there’s additional pressure on top of that with council tax and energy bills rising.”
Single parents will face the brunt of the looming crisis. Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the charity for single-parent families said: “Being a single parent means you only have one household income and it has to cover lots of fixed costs that couples can share, such as housing and heating, both of which take up big chunks of anyone’s budget.
“Once childcare and other essentials are paid for there’s not much money left, which means single-parent families often experience poverty or live with problem debt.”
Losing the £20 Universal Credit increase as well as an £80 stipend for working from home has left Carly under even more financial strain. This means that her disposable income is minimal after paying off debt and putting a little aside for savings.
“I feel like it’s inevitable that I will go into debt [when my bills go up],” she says. “When I run out of money towards the end of the month, I rely on my credit cards, especially for big expenditures like the food shop and bills – and I feel like I’m starting to run out earlier and earlier.”
Understandably, the uncertainty is impacting Carly’s mental health. “It’s the anxiety of not knowing how the increasing costs will impact me,” she says. “I don’t have the potential to do much else. I’m just trying to balance everything while prioritising me and Ezra…and the juggle of it all is exhausting.”
According to an analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, low-income individuals who live alone will spend the most on gas and electricity bills (33% of their income after housing costs).