Virtually everyone has been affected by the perfect storm of problems that has been brewing all over the country.

Gas, electricity and fuel prices have skyrocketed, food is becoming scarcer and more expensive, and it's more difficult than ever to get a doctor or dentist appointment, especially face to face.

But now the cut in the £20 Universal Credit uplift has exacerbated these existing problems for those living in Wales' most deprived areas - and as we move into the winter months it's only set to get worse.

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We've already seen the plight of residents in South Wales' most deprived area, as well as in Newport - and now the situation on some of Cardiff's poorest streets is no different.

We spoke to residents in Llanedeyrn, which falls within the electoral ward of Pentwyn, about the challenges they are currently facing under the shadow of Covid and Brexit.

According to the 2019 Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, two out of the ten regions of Pentwyn are among the top 10% overall most deprived areas of Wales, with large chunk of Llanedeyrn falling within that. Three out of the ten regions make up the top 10% most deprived areas of Wales with respect to income.

Brian Dias lives in Lincoln Court, which falls within the the two most deprived regions overall.

Brian Dias
Brian Dias

He and his partner, who became parents to their daughter last May, both have learning difficulties.

He says the Universal Credit cut has "put a lot of stress and mental health problems on parents".

"With the £20 being cut, it's not been beneficial to parents who are on Healthy Start vouchers. Milk is not cheap to come by," he says.

Pointing to the Nisa Local in the heart of Llandeyrn, he says: "If you go to somewhere like Nisa, it's £2.40 for two bottles of just the small two pinters. And that's a lot to a parent who has a child or who has more than one child.

"It will impact the community and the parent community a lot, because that £20 can go a long way to helping a family throughout a week. That can even help with putting a meal, or a week's worth of meals on the table, for a family."

He also believes the cut will have a greater impact on disabled people and those who can't work.

"I'm a full-time carer for my partner and that money makes a hell of a lot of difference to me as a full-time carer - not just for my daughter, but for my partner as well, who has a severe learning disability," he said.

Brian Dias says the Universal Credit cut affects him, his partner who he cares for and their 18-month old daughter
Brian Dias says the Universal Credit cut affects him, his partner who he cares for and their 18-month old daughter

As for food shortages, Brian is worried for his daughter, especially if panic-buying were to return with another lockdown.

"There are things we need to get for our family for the benefit of our daughter, like fruit, veg and potatoes and things like that. If shops like the Nisa Local behind us can't get that stuff in, then where are people going to turn to?

"I go into Nisa sometimes in the evening - which is usually about half five or six o'clock - and the shelves are empty of bread, for example. Then we'll probably leave it to the next day to get the bread or anything else."

We visit the Churches Together Community Shop in Llanedeyrn, a charity shop and cafe which holds a drop-in for residents every day. Labour councillor Frank Jacobsen manages the shop and is in direct contact with those who are most vulnerable.

Pentwyn ward Labour Councillor Frank Jacobsen
Pentwyn ward Labour Councillor Frank Jacobsen

He's personally experienced problems with getting a GP appointment quickly in Llanedeyrn's surgery, and explains that residents are also asked to attend appointments in Llanrumney - but this poses further problems.

"With people that have got disabilities, the elderly or people that haven't got transport, they have to catch two or three buses or rely on friends to take them to appointments," he said.

"So if they can't get there on time, because a bus might be running late, or the taxis are overbooked or things like that, then you will miss your appointment."

He's also in contact with the foodbank in Llanedeyrn and says there are "more and more people applying for foodbank vouchers".

"We have got a foodbank collection system here [in the shop] and we send food over to the foodbank every Friday when the owner is there. We keep in conversation with her," he said.

"I know it's rising every week - since the £20 cut in Universal Credit but also the influx we have of people on low wages, people losing their jobs because of Covid, that kind of thing."

He also says that since the cut in Universal Credit, he has had more visitors to his own shop.

"In charity shops on Albany Road, for example, you'd buy a shirt there for £6 or £7.

"Our shirts are only £2 to £3, because we know people on Universal Credit and low incomes can't afford that kind of money."

Anita Pearson, 77, is a volunteer in the shop, who has lived in Llanedeyrn since she 1970. She has not been affected by the benefits cut, but has concerns about the rise in energy prices, which have forced her to be frugal when it comes to her bills.

"Last week was the first week [ I noticed the rise]. I went to the gas, and I was paying £1.70 and now I'm paying £3.90," she said.

More and more people are using the foodbank in Llanedeyrn, according to Councillor Frank Jacobsen
More and more people are using the foodbank in Llanedeyrn, according to Councillor Frank Jacobsen

"I thought, well I've got to cut back. I've got a little electric fire and if it happens to be cold, I put it on. I can't put the gas on, because that's running like a lunatic, can't put the electric on because I've got a washing machine, a fridge, a freezer."

She's particularly worried for the winter months, as she's got Raynaud's disease and so feels the cold more acutely.

"I've got an electric blanket which I wait until it's really cold to put on. Now I'm thinking, can I afford to use that now? Can I afford to leave my little electric fire on in front of me for an hour? I think it's wrong that I've got to sit in my house and think these things to myself."

With regard to food expenses, she says she can't afford to do a "big shop" and now has to "live day to day"

"Things were changing a bit at the start of Covid, but they were going up slowly, not as noticeably," she said.

"But recently we've seen a big difference. I used to be able to get a bag of sugar for 56p. Now the cheapest one you get is 89p or a £1. That's a lot."

As a volunteer in the community shop and café, Anita has been exposed to those who are suffering the most amidst the difficulties.

"A gent comes in here every day and I know he can't even afford a cup of coffee," she says.

"I'd hate to think he was sat there and nobody even said hi to him. I get emotional about him sometimes.

"One lady, I found out where she lived and I took a bag full of necessary food for her, and clothes, a blanket and duvet cover, and she cried on the doorstep."

56-year-old Chris Hanlon is a regular at the community shop, who lives in the Ty Maelfa tower block just above it. He was affected by the Universal Credit cut, which he admits has been "tough" for him and people he knows.

Ty Maelfa tower block
Ty Maelfa tower block

"It's only £20, but to people on Universal Credit, that's a lot. You can do to Aldi's and get a week's worth of shopping for £20," he said.

"I think people got used to the uplift and they economised and budgeted with that extra £20. But things haven't gone back to normal. I know people are out, but we're still in the middle of a pandemic.

"A lot of people I know have struggled, like my brother - he's lost that £20 a month and it's affected him massively.

"I know families in Llanedeyrn who have to make choices between food and gas or electric".

He's used foodbanks in the past, which he says are "a lot of help", but also claims that they're difficult to get onto.

Chris also points out the challenges posed by everything being online due to Covid.

"The majority of people, whoever you ring, dentists, doctors, whoever it is, tell you to go online, but not everybody can go online - and a lot of the elderly don't know how to do it.

"Not everybody has access to a smartphone, or can get online. Not everybody has got data. Data costs money. A lot of people don't have £10 to go to the shop and buy data," he said.

We bump into Sarah Davies, who lives in Round Wood estate - which also falls in the most deprived regions - just round the corner, as she on her way back from doing a food shop.

A man walks in Round Wood estate, Llanedeyrn
A man walks in Round Wood estate, Llanedeyrn

The 48-year-old head cleaner only started claiming Universal Credit during the pandemic.

But as she is working, her benefits have been reduced, and she believes what she is currently receiving is not enough.

"It seems as if I'm being penalised for working. It must be a year now since I started claiming Universal Credit. In that year I've had two amounts of £535 - the rest have been under £250.

"I work. I pay my taxes, I pay my national insurance and now that's going to jump up, the national insurance. So it's like, shall I work, shall I not work? Is it worth my time?" she said.

Like Anita, she has to live day to day.

"I use to shop every Thursday, but I haven't been to afford a bulk food shop for nearly three years. I'm buying daily - and I work," she said.

"My priority is I've got to pay my bills, I've got to pay my bills, I've got to make sure the roof is over my head."

As for the most recent cut in Universal Credit she says: "To be honest, I haven't noticed how the cut has affected my food shop because I've had such low payments anyway.

"The rise in gas and electricity prices is disgusting as well. Put it this way, I've gone from £15 a week electric and I'm now putting up to £30 or £40 a week."

She continues: "It is hard. What I'd like to know is, what are the government doing? Do they live in this world, do they live in the real world? Don't hit the working class. Don't hit us, it's not fair."

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