The cost of living crisis hit my family hard last winter. Now we need long term solutions

As the nights get darker and the weather gets colder, Laura – who has multiple sclerosis and is mum to Alfie and Leon who both have autism – explains how the cost of living affects her and her family.

At a table, a woman with short dark hair and glasses is writing on a notepad. Next to her, a young man with short dark hair and glasses is looking concerned and typing into a computer.

Even before the money worries really took hold, we were already thinking ‘how are we going to do this?’

My sons Alfie and Leon both have autism. Social communication and interaction are challenging for Alfie because he shows signs of demand avoidance, so he tends to resist instructions.

He gets very frustrated and anxious when he can’t be as independent as he wants to be.

On top of that, I live with multiple sclerosis (MS), so I’m often in hospital.

Having the heating on is not negotiable for us

Because of the MS, I can’t get too cold or I get ill. Having the heating on during the winter is a total non-negotiable for me. Otherwise, my symptoms get so bad that I can’t move, I’m slower and I’m at much higher risk of falling.

Last winter, with energy bills so high, we had to be more frugal. We put the heating on at a different temperature and put blankets on instead.

We tried our best to reduce energy consumption, but with children who have special needs and plus my disability there is only so far you can go with using less energy.

Everybody is going through this while the prices increase, but with disabilities and disabled children you just feel that bit more stressed.

We’ve had to eat less and buy cheaper food to get by

Alfie and Leon have specialist diets, and they are always the priority. Me and my husband Neil make sure they still get full meals and portions of vegetables like they always did.

But nowadays, Neil and I have soup for dinner at least twice a week because it’s cheaper. We buy less meat and choose foods based on price rather than quality.

As the cost of living crisis has gotten worse, we’ve found ourselves with a bigger overdraft than we’ve had before.

We had some money from the government, but even with that and the grant we got from Sense, it started to feel like we were always close to drowning again.

Now, we are working to pay off the debt. Money is very tight, but we’re keeping up with payments so far.

We need long term solutions to the crisis, to stop families like ours struggling every winter

I just wish that rather than the government putting a plaster over the situation, they’d combat the causes and prevent these financial strains on people, especially for vulnerable groups.

Heading into winter again, I’m very concerned that the financial situation could deteriorate. The memories of last winter make it more stressful, too.

I know that most people are struggling, and I feel fortunate that we can afford food, as some people cannot. We both have good jobs but our combined income just does not stretch as far as it should.
Despite the adversity, we try our best and access what we can for the children.

I want them to see me being positive and useful, so I can be a role model to them and make the impact of what’s going on as small as possible. I don’t want the stress to filter down to them.

Have you got a story to tell?

Are your Christmas plans being affected by the higher cost of living? If you’re disabled and are having to cut back your plans for Christmas, we’d like to hear from you.

Sharing your story will help supercharge the campaign to get disabled people more support with the cost of living.