Money Wellness
Woman being crushed by cost of living and bills with food, gas, household, and car bills closing in on her
category iconcost of living
calendar icon05 Jun 2024

“All I do is work to live”: full-time worker confronts PM in election debate

A distressed woman told the Labour and Tory leaders about her dire financial situation as the two went head-to-head in the first TV election debate.  

Paula from Huddersfield demanded Prime Minster Rishi Sunak explain how he plans to tackle soaring energy costs. 

Impossible living costs 

Despite working full-time, Paula said she’s found it hard to “make ends meet,” adding “all I do is work to live”.  

Paula said she can’t use her oven with her energy costs being through the roof.  

“I don’t think you actually understand how this is for people like me,” she told the PM, asking “so what can you do about that?” 

“The government has lost control” 

Apparently taken aback by Paula’s question, the prime minister said the Tories were to thank for falling inflation and the furlough scheme.  

But Keir Starmer said the government had “lost control” of the economy and that people like Paula are paying the price. He admitted that the invasion of Ukraine and Covid had played a part, but blamed Liz Truss for crashing the economy. 

Row over taxes 

During the debate, Sunak claimed that Labour’s policies would cost every family a £2,000 tax rise. He said the figure was based on calculations by “independent treasury officials”. 

Starmer questioned the basis of this figure, and Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accused Rishi Sunak of lying in the debate.  

Two days ago, the Chief Treasury civil wrote to Labour saying the Tories’ assessment “should not be presented as having been produced by the civil service”.  

What help can you get with living costs?   

Household support fund 

If you’re being severely affected by the cost-of-living crisis, you may be entitled to help from the Household Support Fund (HSF). The HSF is a government-funded scheme that offers financial help to vulnerable households through local councils.  

Each council offers different types of support, so it’s best to check with your local council to see what help you could get. To apply, contact your local council or fill out an application on their website.  

Find out if you’re eligible for support in our HSF guide. 

Support from your energy supplier 

If you’re worried about paying your energy bills, contact your energy supplier to find out what kind of help they offer. Ask them for more time to pay what you owe, for a payment break or reduction, or for access to any hardship funds. Your supplier is legally required to work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford. 

Cost-of-living help in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland 

There are government schemes available in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland for those who need them.  

In Wales, the discretionary assistance fund offers two types of grants: 

  1. Emergency assistance payments: help with essentials like food, energy, and travel. 

  1. Individual assistance payments: help with white goods (fridge, washing machine, cooker) and furniture. 

In Scotland, the Scottish welfare fund offers a number of grants, including: 

  • Crisis grant: covers the cost of emergencies like heating and food costs or escaping domestic violence. 

  • Community care grant: offered if you need help settling back into the community, for example, if you’re leaving care or prison, have been homeless, are escaping domestic abuse, or if a child’s health is at risk. 

In Northern Ireland, the Finance Support Service helps with short-term financial problems through: 

  • Discretionary support: provides money for short-term living costs like food, household items, and rent. 

  • Universal credit contingency fund short-term living expenses grant: helps with the cost of living which you wait for your first universal credit payment. 


Check whether you’re entitled to any benefits. For example, you might be able to apply for universal credit if you’re unemployed or unable to work. Carers may be entitled to a carer’s allowance, and those responsible for children could be eligeble for child benefits.  

You can check you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to on our website or you can give us a ring. 

Do you need debt help? 

If you’re struggling to stay on top of all your debts, we can help with budgeting, applying for grants, and checking your benefit entitlement. We can also advise you on any debt solutions that might be suitable for you.  

We give free and impartial advice and budgeting help and offer some free debt solutions and some with a fee. If you’re feeling lost and need help, please give us a call. We’re here for you. 

Connie Enzler

Connie is a multimedia money-wellness-in-work expert, with a master's in multimedia journalism and over five years' experience as a digital writer and podcast creator. Connie is committed to making debt and personal finance information accessible to all.

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