THE impact of the cost-of-living crisis - which is crippling thousands of Barnsley households - has been laid bare in a new study which revealed more than half of residents living in one of the town’s poorest areas now go without essential hygiene products due to squeezed finances.

Healthwatch Barnsley, which gathers the views of local people on health and social care services, found 36 per cent of residents in the town went without - but the figure rose to 55 per cent in the Dearne.

One respondent said they had to ‘cut down on using the shower to save costs’, and another said they found it difficult to ‘choose between food, hygiene products and bills’.

The situation has worsened in the last year, according to the study.

A spokesperson said: “Living on a low income limits options and leaves people having to make tough decisions on whether to pay the rent, heat, eat or keep clean.

“Over a third of Barnsley residents that we spoke to told us they had just enough income to cover basic necessities and little left for anything else.

“It is clear to see that the cost-of-living crisis continues to have a negative impact on people’s finances.

“During the early part of 2023, when asked about their financial status, 30 per cent of residents who took part in the survey told us that they had more than enough money for basic necessities, however this had dropped to 17 per cent when we did the second survey seven months later.

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“In that same period, we have also seen a change in how people are spending their money, with many now buying less food or choosing cheaper brands.

“There has also been an increase in people changing their shopping destinations, with cheaper supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi becoming more popular.

“The biggest change in how people are trying to reduce their living costs is on access to dentistry - in the original survey 13 per cent of people questioned told us they were avoiding dentist, but this had risen to 25 per cent in the second survey.

“This trend is very worrying, as we all know regular check-ups are the key to good oral hygiene and can provide an early detection of mouth cancer.

“Our project has highlighted the struggles being faced in Barnsley and other services are now offering support.

“Neighbourhood areas are providing hygiene packs to residents and ward councillors are involved in this work.”

Despite 69.1 per cent of the town’s residents being in work, 24.5 per cent of children are from low-income families, 11 per cent of households are experiencing hunger and 26,000-plus people are claiming Universal Credit.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock added: “As the cost of living remains high, so do bills.

“Last year we saw heartbreaking cases of people desperately trying to keep costs down, including pensioners skipping meals to afford their heating bills, families unable to afford items of clothing to keep warm, and people even starting unsafe fires in their homes where they could not afford to turn on the heating.

“People across Barnsley East contacted me to tell me about their experiences, which included sacrificing food so that their children could eat, sitting in dark homes to avoid electricity costs, and freezing in cold houses throughout the winter to avoid astronomical fuel costs.

“The government have not committed to taking any meaningful action to get bills reduced for families across the country.”