I sold my dead mum’s jewellery to buy a fridge – how 4.8million people live without essential household appliances

TEN years ago single mum-of-three Karen Issac had no choice but to sell her mother’s jewellery in order to buy a new fridge when hers stopped working.

She went to an antique market in Canterbury and handed over a bracelet and ring that belonged to her mum Rita who had passed nine years earlier.

She also sold a Victorian dressing table set that belonged to her grandmother and an art deco plate and some trinkets that she had inherited from her dad Frank. She got just £300 for those irreplaceable family heirlooms.

“I was very close to my parents and some of the stuff came from my dad who was a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps,” Karen, now 62, who still lives in a rented cottage in Canterbury, told The Sun.

“The man told me it was worth quite a bit. I wish I’d held on to it.

“I couldn’t wait or take it round and auction it. I needed the money there and then.

“My biggest fear is that I didn’t get enough money. I felt awful. I’ve recently had to do it again, just to live.”

Karen is one of the millions of people in the UK who has lived without essential household appliances.

Over 4.8million people – or two million households – currently live without a fridge, freezer, cooker or washing machine, according to Turn2Us.

Today the poverty charity has launched its new campaign called #LivingWithout, where it is calling for extra funding from the government towards grants to help those most in need.

Tom Lawson, chief executive of Turn2Us, said: “Household appliances are not luxuries, they are essentials.

“Everyone deserves the simple right to store their own food, cook their own dinner and wash their own clothes.”

How do I search for a charity grant?

TURN2US works with hundreds of charities that are waiting to help those who are struggling financially.

To be eligible for support from a charitable trust, you have to meet its qualifying rules.

You can use the Turn2us online grant search to find what grants you can get.

It works by searching for help based on your location and circumstances, such as age, any medical conditions and any current or past jobs.

You'll need to enter your postcode and provide some personal details to find you what you could be entitled to.

Usually, charitable funds are set up to help people in need who have something in common.

People like Karen who has been helped by Turn2Us, with their staff regularly checking in on her and helping to arrange grants to buy essential appliances when she needs.

She added: “They never judge you. They are so polite. They helped arrange for a new cooker to be delivered when my other one went.

“I couldn’t afford the APR on the high street. I didn’t want to get in debt or get a bad credit rating.

“I had nothing left to sell. It was amazing. I didn’t have to pay it back.”

More than 3,000 charities like Turn2Us, Buttle and Family Fund give grants to help low-income families buy white goods.

What other help is available?

IF you're struggling financially or claiming benefits, you could be entitled to extra help.

Free boilers and loft insultation

You could be entitled to a boiler upgrade or new insulation in your loft under the Energy Company Obligations (ECO) scheme.

Installing new insulation in your home can save you up to £480 a year in energy bills, while a better boiler could save you around £300 a year.

E.on, EDF and Npower all offer to install insulation or boilers either for free or at a drastically reduced price – but you don't necessarily need to be a customer to be entitled to free help from ECO.

You usually need to own your home in order to take advantage of this offer.

Find out more about eligibility and how to claim using this guide by MoneySavingExpert.com.

Home Improvement Grant

You may be able to get cash to help with repairs, improvements, or adaptions around your home – provided you are a homeowner or private tenant.

Grants are usually paid to people who are older, disabled, or on low income, but ultimately it is down to your local authority to decide if you are entitled to help.

To make a claim you should contact your local authority, or find out more from your local Home Improvement Agency.

Disabled Facilities Grant

This grant is used to pay for work to help a disabled person in their daily life.

This can include ramps, stair lifts, or specialist bathroom facilities.

You can only apply for work that is necessary for your needs and reasonable for your home.

Contact your local authority yo find out about the grant, or speak to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureaux.
Cold Weather Payments

The Cold Weather Payment gives you £25 for each week of cold weather between November 1 and March 31 each year, provided you claim certain benefits.

You'll get this payment every time the average temperature in your area drops to, or is forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or less.

The Department of Work and Pensions has a cold weather payment postcode checker where you can track your area's temperature.

The good news is shouldn't need to apply for the cold weather payment as it’s paid automatically.

However, if you think you should have but haven't you should contact the pension centre, Jobcentre, or Universal Credit.

Winter Fuel Payments

If you were born on or before 5 April 1954 you could get between £100 and £300 in Winter Fuel Payments.

You should get this payment automatically if you are eligible and claiming your State Pension or other social security benefit.

The payments are made between November and December, and you should get your money by January 13 at the latest.

If you're eligible but do not get paid automatically, you will need to make a claim online.

I had to keep things in a bucket of water and I struggled to keep my home warm

Like Sheena Stephenson, 63, who used a bucket of cold water for three months to keep food cold as she couldn’t afford to buy a refrigerator when she moved home back in 2012.

Struggling to survive on benefits, the former paediatric nurse had to quit her job due to chronic back pain and her new accommodation had no fridge or washing machine.

For three months during the winter she also had no carpet, just the bare wooden floorboards, meaning heat quickly escaped and left her new bungalow in County Durham freezing cold.

“Life was awful. I had no carpets, I had no fridge,” Sheena told The Sun.

“I had to keep things in a bucket of water and I struggled to keep my home warm.

“I had to go to bed early because if I didn’t, the cold would make my back pain would escalate.

“I could’ve easily got ill from keeping the food in a bucket but I was careful.”

Sheena was moved to a housing association property but wasn't aware of any help that could have been made available to her.

When Sheena contacted Turn2Us she got funding to buy a washing machine, fridge and carpets.

She was also able to get money to help pay her bills and reduce her living costs.

We ate a ready meal for Christmas dinner

While Brian Willis* was forced to give up his successful career as a chartered surveyor due to illness he took early retirement – but he lost his home and was moved into an empty flat.

The 59-year-old, along with wife Josephine, 66, got by with just a microwave and kettle to for a year – including on Christmas Day in 2016 where they ate a ready meal chicken dinner

Brian left his job, after becoming seriously ill in 2011 when he suffered heart failure twice in one year, followed by respiratory failure in 2012.

To make matters worse, Josephine was made redundant from her job as a legal secretary in 2013.

Brian told The Sun: “We had around two to three years of going without. We had no funds and no family to help us.

“We got by and we survived the best we could, especially with being in and out of hospital all the time.

“My wife’s age was also a problem too because she couldn’t get a pension yet.

“When she got made redundant she was doing temp work here and there.”

Turn2Us helped the couple get funding for a new fridge and cooker. They also spoke to their council and they helped get them a washing machine.

Council’s only have so much funding to spend on people who are struggling financially and Brian said they were one of the last families to get help that year.

Brian said: “We are victims of circumstance really and when you come up with hard times, no one tells you anything. No one says ‘if this happens, go here’.

“Turn2Us told us about the welfare at Bolton Council. If we hadn’t gone to that meeting, I don’t know how we would have gone on.”

In total, Brian and Josephine have received £4,500 in support from Turn2Us over the last three years, plus £500 for a cooker and £400 for winter clothing.

* Name has been changed for the purpose of this article

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