How this Christmas will be different for my family

Anna lives in Chesterfield with her three kids, Mac, George and Charlie. She explains how the cost of living is impacting her Christmas plans.

A young man in black clothing and a rain jacket and a woman in a bright patterned overshirt smile at the camera. They're outside on a sunny day.

Charlie can’t monitor his own temperature, so he gets cold easily and if he gets too cold, he could go hypothermic. My eldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with a genetic condition called SPG11 in 2017.

We’re so careful and have an electric heater to heat his room properly, but we can’t always afford to heat the rest of the house. At first, my two other kids Mac and George didn’t understand why the house was so cold, but Charlie’s room was warm.

I just had to be honest.

I told them that because of his illness, he needs to be warm. It’s hard because of course I want to have the heating on full-time for all my kids. Especially when it’s cold and dark outside, I just want them to be able to come home to a warm house.

We have a pre-pay meter. It’s never bothered me because it’s always been manageable but now, I put money on it and it’s gone straight away. I’ve done everything I can, like contacting power companies and being put on priority lists, but I can’t plan for anything else. I just have to take it a day at a time.

Everyone is struggling, but a divide is being created. People don’t understand how important benefits are to families like mine, yet we’re being vilified. It’s heart-breaking.

And Christmas is coming.

Normally I’d be buying lots of little bits but this year it’s one or two things each, and I’m not doing presents for the adults in the family. It’s not a massive deal for me but for the kids it is.

My middle child has asked for pick and mix sweets this year, because he understands that things are different. We go through so much I just want to treat him and make things special for him, but I’ll do that in other ways this year.

My mum and sister live nearby, so we’ll get together as a family. At Christmas, regardless of presents, that’s what’s most important.

We need more targeted support

According to our research, over a third of families that care for a disabled family member say they won’t buy Christmas presents this year because of the cost of living crisis. A fifth will cancel Christmas celebrations all together.  

Disabled people face higher living and energy costs. More energy is used to run essential equipment, such as breathing machines and feeding pumps, whilst heating is vital for those who can’t regulate their own body temperature.

We need more targeted support for disabled people now.