SARAH-MAY Buchan has worked all her life but due to recent mental health issues she’s been relying on Universal Credit to get by. But the Aberdeen single mother said the safety net hasn’t been enough to stop her family falling into fuel and food stress.

She said at times she was unable to fill up her fridge due to skyrocketing rates of inflation which have seen food prices soar.

Buchan, 38, lives alone with her 10-month child and says she’s already feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living – and that’s before the 54% rise in energy bills begin.

Buchan used to work for Aberdeen City Council as a pupil support assistant but started on Universal Credit during the Covid pandemic as she dealt with mental health issues.

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She said government policy is failing to reflect the dire circumstances facing families across the UK, including herself. Buchan told The National: “Last time I did my shopping it was around £120 … before it would have been around £80. I buy pretty much the same stuff every time I shop. All these prices are going up.”

“I struggled before. There were some days I couldn’t fill my fridge before my money went in from the government. And it’s really bad that things are just going up and up and up. Even the price a loaf is shooting up.

“It is going to affect everybody. I don’t know how I can budget anymore when I already use reusable nappies so I don’t have to buy nappies or use reusable wipes. I don’t have to buy those.

“It’s all these things I’m already saving money on yet I’m still going to be struggling. So I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to live on rice and peas for the rest of my life?”

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Buchan is fortunate enough to be on a fixed-rate tariff for her energy bills but the thought of her bills surging in May when her contract ends is daunting.

She said: “Because I suffer from anxiety anyway I’m trying not to think about that and trying just to tell myself that’s next month issue but I am really dreading it.

“I’m thinking I’m just going to be sitting in the cold, wearing my dressing gown all the time when the winter comes.”

She said while she appreciated the Scottish Government’s £20 per week Scottish Child Payment, and it is helping, it’s “truly not enough” to counteract the massive rise in the cost of living.

Buchan added that even if she was working, it would be unlikely any wage rise would match inflation.

Even the measures she takes to combat rising energy bills costs money she just doesn’t have. And as for the £350 of government support, she said that’s unlikely to cover the substantial increase in bills.

“It’s quite difficult,” she explains. “Even preparing myself for this kind of thing. Everything that you need to do is going to cost something like now you can get thermal curtains, and I do have curtains on most of my windows anyway.

“But even if I had to buy thicker ones, that’s forking out more money. And even if you buy them pre-loved on Facebook marketplace, which is what I do a lot to try and save money across the board, people are still going to ask for £30 – and where am I getting this £30 from when at the end of the month I can’t even fill my fridge up.”

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