The UK is experiencing rising energy bills, soaring food prices and cuts in government support. But what is the human cost?
As a caregiver, Fatima has spent most of her life helping others. But in 2021, she separated from her husband and her health deteriorated, forcing her to stop working. Before she knew it, she was selling her belongings and taking out payday loans just so her kids could eat.
Fatima Briscoe was born in Jamaica and moved to London in 1993 at the age of eleven. She went to school in North London, studied graphic design at the University of East London, before moving to Southwark and spending 23 years working in the care and hospitality industries.
She has suffered from chronic pain for decades and in 2011 was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a hormone deficiency that causes fatigue, low blood pressure and, as in Fatima’s case, abdominal and back pain. extremes.
Despite this, she persevered, determined to care for her four children, aged between eighteen and three. In March 2021, she separated from her husband, the main breadwinner. In October, her pain became so debilitating that she had to stop working for the first time in her life.
Fatima said, “My whole world was collapsing in front of me.”
She could barely afford the basics, so when she had to pay for her son’s soccer club and her daughter’s extra English and math lessons, she took out payday loans that soon slipped away. at all control.
She extricated herself from her debts by selling the only luxury she had – her jewellery. She said, “When things come to a head, you have to do what’s necessary.”
The flat she lives in at Rosa Parks House, Munton Road, Walworth had been suffering from dampness for two years, but it intensified over the winter. Her housing association, Peabody, ignored her cries for help and social services intervened because of the danger the mold posed to her three-year-old son with asthma.
She explains that rising energy bills have also made things difficult: “When my son says he’s cold, I can only put the heating on for five minutes.
“My son had an asthma attack because he was too cold. He said “mom, I can’t breathe” and I had to call an ambulance. I was so scared.
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Last month, Peabody finally fixed the dampness in her apartment when she asked lawyers to email them. She also found Alexandra Rose, a charity that gives food stamps to families so they can afford to buy fresh, healthy produce.
Fatima said: “It’s hard to ask someone for help because I’m not used to it. I have never depended on benefits and I have always had income.
“But Alexandra Rose has been a blessing because now I don’t have to worry so much.”
With her health steadily deteriorating, Fatima does not know when she will return to work. She finds it difficult to relax, but she tries to do so by meditating, reading and taking the occasional hot bath. She is currently writing a book about her childhood in the Caribbean and her life in the UK.
Over £60,000 in grants for Southwark residents battling cancer and cost of living
Looking to the future, she said: “If you find yourself in a difficult situation, it does not mean that you stay in this situation. If you have the right motivation, you can change your life and make things better.
“For my future, I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel waiting for me.”
Peabody has been approached for comment.