Half Mag / Half Zine

A seriously ill couple who have battled heart attacks and cancer moved 300 miles away from London to Newcastle to cope with the cost of living crisis.

Nick Wild and his partner Phil Burden, 61, have worked a combined 80-years in the care industry, but now find themselves unable to work and in need of financial support.

Circumstances have become so dire for the pair they have been forced to relocate to the other end of the country where rent is much cheaper.

And now they are raising money for furniture and to help care for their sick dog as they struggle with the rising cost of living.

The couple, who are on benefits, were paying £819 per month for a one-bedroom council flat in Islington, London.

Now in Newcastle their rent is £350, and the property, located near Byker, has an additional bedroom.

A cost of living crisis is raging in the UK with many households struggling to pay their way – as experts predict things will soon get even worse.

Inflation has reached 9.4% in the UK and is tipped to reach more than 13% in the coming months.

Food prices have been soaring while energy costs have spiralled in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Analysts fear the energy price cap on bills could be lifted to more than £3,000-p-a in October and may surpass £4,000 next year.

Homeowners also face a further squeeze after the Bank of England last week hiked interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75% – meaning mortgage repayments are set to soar.

Nick said: “£800 when you’re on minimum wage or benefits is not affordable.”

The 53-year-old said: “I don’t want to be on benefits, I want to play my part in society”.

Social worker Nick, who helps adults with learning disabilities, said: “I was on a phased return to work when I had what I thought was really bad indigestion. Except it wasn’t, it was a heart attack.”

In March 2022, doctors performed an angiogram on Nick and fitted a stent – a short, wire-mesh tube that acts like a scaffold to help keep the artery open.

To his horror they informed him he had suffered multiple heart attacks prior to this one.

Nick, who is on 16 different medications to help with his health conditions, has been given a 45% chance of surviving five years and a 30% chance of living 10 years.

Professionals say he cannot return to work and he is waiting for his medical pension to begin.

Partner Phil also cannot work as his health was damaged following radiotherapy treatment for cancer.

Nick receives Universal Credit, which combined with his half salary, equates to around £1,200 per month.

He said: “When I go shopping, I tend to buy food items with the yellow stickers, but that makes it really difficult to plan a menu and if you can plan a menu, you can keep the prices down.”

At Nick and Phil’s lowest point, they were unable to leave their first-floor flat due to their health conditions.

Nick added: “It got to the point where the only food we had was a loaf of bread with a bit of green on it.

“It wasn’t just because of our finances, we just couldn’t physically get out of the house. There was no hope in hell, no neighbours that we knew, there was just nobody to help us.”

One way the couple have overcome financial hardships in the past is through batch cooking, in which they prepared around 40 meal portions before freezing it.

“We’d get it down to 50 pence a portion”.

The couple were paying £70 per month for electricity – though this increased to £154 just as they were getting ready to move.

In addition to coping with rising bills and debt, paying for treatment for Nick and Phil’s 10-year-old Labradoodle, Boris, has wiped out what little savings they had.

Boris’ treatment for an ear condition has cost them around £2,500 in total, and while they have been able to get most of it back through their insurance, the vets required them to pay up front.

Nick said: “I’ve had a couple of people tell me that ‘if you can’t afford to live, then you shouldn’t have a dog’.

“But we’ve had him for 10 years. So there’s no way I’m getting rid of him.”

In order to survive on their current income, the couple swapped their home using the Homeswapper website.

Nick and Phil moved into their Newcastle flat on Wednesday, August 3, having undertaken an arduous train journey from London.

However, their new home needs a face lift and lacks basic furniture such as wardrobes.

At a loss about what to do, a friend of theirs suggested starting a GoFundMe campaign to help towards helping Boris the dog and the “million and one things that need sorting, replacing, or repairing”.

Nick added: “While things will still be difficult here, they’ll be less difficult than it was before”.