A SINGLE mum has revealed her devastation over only being able to afford two Christmas gifts for her daughter this year.
Sally Luck, 38, from Bromley, Greater London, has resorted to using Facebook Marketplace to find second-hand bits for little Charlotte-Rose.
Like many families, she's struggled as the cost of living soars and, due to her daughter's disability, struggles to hold down a job..
Charlotte-Rose, now two-and-a-half, was born six weeks prematurely and has an autoimmune condition, which leads to frequent hospitalisation.
Sally claims she has been left in a financial rut because potential employers are put off by her need to take time off for regular hospital appointments.
With Christmas just over three weeks away, the single mum is preparing herself for a lean festive celebration.
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She told The Sun: "I can’t even afford to buy any presents this year.
"All I’ve got my daughter is a doll and a toy kitchen from Facebook Marketplace and a coat costing £2 from a second-hand market.
"I can’t believe I’m in this position and know Christmas will be very different this year.
"I can’t afford to cook Christmas dinner – I am avoiding using the oven altogether because it costs so much and will have to make a cheap curry using the hob instead."
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Heartbreakingly, Sally says it's not the lack of new toys that will upset her daughter, but being unable to play with her favourite toy.
The item, a bubble tube with fish in it, has been taken out of her room because her mum can't afford to turn it on.
This has deeply upset the youngster, who has sensory issues and is awaiting an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessment.
Sally said: "Charlotte-Rose loves the lights on the tree and last year they were on for around six hours each day.
"This year they will be on for 15 minutes max – I can’t afford to switch them on for longer. She is going to be very upset.
"The thing she will care about most won’t be the lack of presents, it will be the tree lights."
'Cut backs risk daughter's health'
It's not just the gifts. Sally says her daughter – who suffers from asthma and respiratory infections – is more likely to be hospitalised because she can't adequately heat their home.
"I can’t afford to heat the house properly so I take Charlotte-Rose to the library where it is warm," she said.
"We are not a third-world country, we shouldn’t be in this position, we shouldn’t have to choose between heating, food or taking the bus to the park."
To reduce the strain on her purse-strings, Sally has been using Little Peas Baby Bank to get clothing and basics for her daughter and also local food banks.
She said: "I was so grateful to get some help, but I had really mixed emotions. I felt embarrassed.
"Using the food bank had such a psychological impact on me. When I cooked dinner with the food I’d been given I cried – I realised for the first time I couldn’t provide for her.
"I felt ashamed and embarrassed. She’s my daughter, I should be able to."
Sally also has an older daughter, Chloe, 21, who is going to give her sister a battery-operated lava lamp for Christmas to replace the toy she loves so much.
"I had Chloe when I was 16 and things were much easier for me then," she said.
"I was working, I didn’t worry about money and she never had second-hand clothes.
‘I really worry about the next generation. Budgeting should be taught to children in school. It’s awful when every day is a struggle.
"I feel that the decision-makers need to have more discussions with those of us most affected so that they are more able to relate.
"I contacted my energy provider and they said, ‘We can provide an electric blanket.’
"But I can’t afford to plug in the electric blanket… There needs to be more help available for the most vulnerable."
'Majority of disabled families hit hard'
Sadly, Sally is not alone – a survey of 3,000 disabled families by Contact – a charity for families with disabled children – found 71 per cent are cutting down on presents because of energy price rises.
Una Summerson, Contact's Head of Campaigns, said: “It is a really desperate situation for many families with disabled children right now.
"They have always had higher than average costs and this has been magnified by the current cost of living crisis.
"Our research shows they are paying £1,600 more than the average household on energy due to running essential electrical care and medical equipment.
“They are having to make tough choices about what to spend their ever-shrinking cash on and Christmas is the latest challenge.
"We’ve heard parents saying they are restricting themselves to buying a smaller number of presents for their children this year, or not buying for any adults in the family.
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"It is made harder because toys for children with additional needs can be up to eight times as expensive."
To find out more about Contact and the help they provide click here.
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