politics

1 in 10 families set to ask for help this winter as cost of living crisis hits


Citizens Advice has warned soaring energy bills and rising inflation will leave the equivalent of 3.2 million households struggling

Millions of households are struggling with rising bills
Millions of households are struggling with rising bills

One in 10 families is facing a financial crisis this winter amid a cost of living crunch, worrying research from Citizens Advice has revealed.

The equivalent of 3.2 million households are struggling after being swamped by soaring bills, the charity says.

Aasia Majid, an adviser at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: “We’re hearing every day from people who’ve never had a food bank voucher but now can’t afford the weekly shop.

“Their income is the same or less but their costs have shot up.

“I spoke to one man who said things are so bad he’s keeping warm at night by wearing three jumpers and lying on the sofa with his dog.”

Gordon, who in his 60s and from Devon, had to give up his job as an engineer when he was diagnosed with spinal cancer in 2019.

He has been claiming Universal Credit as he can’t work, but recently saw this drop by £20 a week.

“I don’t buy the things I need,” said Gordon, not his real name. “I’m constantly looking at the bank account.

“It’s the epitome of being tight but I’ve got to be very careful.

“I put things off as I can’t afford the petrol to drive.

“I feel isolated and stressed, but what can I do?

“I’m living in one room to keep the heat down as low as I possibly can, but everything is just mounting up.

“It’s direct debit after direct debit and any minute I think I’m going to be in the minus.”

Recently published figures showed inflation jumped from 3.1% in September to a near 10-year high of 4.2% last month.

The cost of everything from petrol and energy to food and drink prices has shot up.

With inflation outstripping underlying wage growth, many workers are enduring a real terms pay cut.

Citizens Advice analysed average income data against household spending on essentials like rent, bills and food to establish how many families can meet their living costs.

Among the three million households facing financial crisis are 380,000 who have less than £50 spare each month after covering their basic living costs, putting them at risk of hardship if they faced an unexpected bill.

A survey of 2,000 adults by the charity shows more than a third of people are worried about paying their bills this winter, rising to nearly half of those on low incomes.

One in five have already cut back on their food shopping, or used less heating in the past three months to save money.

And one in 10 of those questioned said they were preparing to ask for help this winter, including from food banks or with fuel vouchers.

Citizens Advice said many low-income families have been hit by a “triple whammy” of the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut, soaring energy bills and rising inflation.

The consequences are already starting to be felt.

In the past three months, nearly three quarters of frontline staff at Citizens Advice reported an increase in the number of people coming to them unable to afford essential household costs such as food, rent and heating.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “All of us are noticing our bills go up, but for people on the tightest budgets there’s simply nothing left to cut back on.

“Many are getting into debt and finding that accessing crisis support like food banks is the only way to get by.

“Our frontline advisers are already seeing these dire consequences of the cost of living crisis.

“The government has a crucial opportunity to intervene before things escalate even further. We’d urge them to act now and increase benefits in line with inflation this December.”

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