Being poor in the UK: “There are days when I prefer my dog ​​to eat and not me”

It’s a hot May afternoon and Brian Turner hasn’t had breakfast or lunch. He maybe he can eat something tonight.

This 49-year-old man lives with his dog Rocky in a cozy apartment on the ground floor of a building located in the town of Ipswich, in the east of the United Kingdom.

6-year-old Rocky is central to Turner’s life.

He was purchased as a puppy by him and his partner Paula Macintosh.

Turner, a qualified waiter, put her career on hold in 2009 to take care of Macintoshwho had serious mental health problems.

In 2019, one night in February Paula died in her sleep due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

He was 54 years old.

A few months later, Turner’s mother, Maureen, died.

And later the global pandemic of covid-19 would be unleashed.

“It’s been tough,” Turner says.

Macintosh photographs take pride of place on a side table and a small wicker basket containing his ashes sits on the windowsill.

Laurence Cawley/BBC
Turner receives social help to survive.

For years, Turner has managed to survive on very little money.

He checks the prices in various stores regularly, scans the sections of discount food from supermarkets and buy in bulk when possible.

very limited budget

Since the death of his partner, he has managed to buy enough food for himself and Rocky for only about $50 dollars a month.

But rising food prices and bills is making living on that amount no longer possible.

“Since we came out of confinement, costs have tripled,” he says. “The cost of living has skyrocketed.”

“I have to ask help neighbors, friends and family.

“I have used the food banks several times.”

Turner’s finances

He gets about $800 a month in universal credit, the British government’s payment to help with the costs of living.

Your monthly expenses are:

  • $401 in rental for his government-owned one-bedroom apartment
  • $125 in electricity and gas
  • $32 in Water
  • $125 in rocky’s foodveterinary plan subscription and pet insurance
  • $125 for food, clothing, travel and any other spent what you may need to cover

The inside of Mr Turner's fridge contains a few vegetables and a tub of margarine

Laurence Cawley/BBC
The day the BBC visited Turner, his fridge contained some vegetables in the bottom drawers, a tub of margarine and a tangerine.

“When I go to Citizens Advice for food, they tell me that are limiting the number of packages foods that I receive to make sure that the distribution is fair for everyone, so that it is not like a weekly purchase for anyone.

“Sometimes I have to search and search.”

And because he is far from the only one who has financial difficultiesthe competition in the discount food sections has become fierce.

“There are more people who have the same thing happen to me,” he says.

difficulty working

He was diagnosed with epilepsy and takes migraine medication. Turner’s attempts to get a job have been unsuccessful.

There was a time when filled up to 15 requests a day for all kinds of functions, from catering to office work, but none were successful.

“I talked to some employers and they turned around and told me that because of the liability insurance they couldn’t hire me by my problems of health“, bill.

“A part of me wants to go back to work because of the cost of living and all that, but there’s another part of me that tells me it’s better to stay safe than to be sorry.”

Turner and Rocky

Laurence Cawley/BBC
Rocky costs more than $125 a month for food, subscription to a veterinary plan and pet insurance.

Almost all of the money you have left over when you pay your bills goes toward food.

But what you spent on food a year ago has doubled and now spends about $100 versus $50 a month before.

As a result of this, he only has enough cash to buy food for a week and a half each month.

“There are days when I only have one meal a day; I’m not supposed to because of the medication I’m taking, which I have to take with or around food. Sometimes it has an impact on the medication.”

However, Rocky’s feeding routine has not been affected by rising costs.

“There are days that I prefer my dog ​​to eat and not me.”

Asked if he would ever give up Rocky to save costs, he replied that “he’s the only thing” keeping him going.

a great friend

“He is the kind of dog that if you want and need a hug, he will come and give you a hug.

“I have to go without food to pay for yours and I have enough for him at the moment to get him through a good couple of months. After that, I don’t know what I’ll do.

“If it hadn’t been for him, I definitely would have lost my sanity.

“Many people I have spoken to are struggling as well.

“I would like the parliamentarians will try to live with the universal credit for three months; they would end up realizing that it is not enough to survive.”

The government said it understands the pressures people are currently facing with the cost of living.

Brian Turner with Rocky

Laurence Cawley/BBC
“There are days that I prefer my dog ​​to eat and not me,” Turner said.

Like a growing number of people in the UK and around the world, Turner’s worries about her finances have become “constant”.

“People trust us more and more regularlysays Sally Harrison, professional services manager for Ipswich Citizens Advice.

“They used to come to us looking for a food bank when they were having a particularly rough month.

“Now it is becoming the norm. They come to us every month because they can’t pay their bills.

“People are worried and panicking because they have seen the huge increases in energy prices,” he explains.

Ipswich is a city in the east of England

Getty Images
Ipswich is a city in the east of England

What does the future look like?

Asked how he would pay travel costs to spend a day out of Ipswich just for fun, Turner said: “That’s not going to happen.”

The last vacation he had was in 2015, when he went away for a long weekend to meet up with some family members.

Can’t afford to get on a bus to drive him into the center of Ipswich to run a single errand, he says.

You need to have several reasons for going to the city to justify the expense.

Before her death, Paula had told Turner that she wanted her ashes scattered at sea.

His last request is still on Turner’s mind.

The truth is that just cannot afford the costs of renting a boat or traveling to shore right now.

“I can’t do that yet,” he admits.

“When things settle down, we’ll think again and go out and scatter his ashes.”

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