Record numbers in UK seek help to pay for energy and food costs

2024-01-02 22:19:23
Record numbers in UK seek help to pay for energy and food costs

Record numbers of people in Britain sought help in accessing homeless services, food banks and energy bill support this year, as the UK’s cost of living crisis continues, the Guardian reported.

Figures from Citizens Advice, the UK’s largest independent advice provider, show that an unparalleled number of people were unable to top up their prepayment meters or meet their energy bills. Its clients’ average council tax debts and energy bill arrears were also at record highs.

Citizens Advice, which provides guidance to people needing welfare, debt and legal help, referred more than 208,000 people to food banks and other charities between January and November, up from 200,517 in the whole of 2022.

Energy issues remain a large source of concern, with Citizens Advice helping almost a quarter of a million people in the first 11 months of 2023 – another record high. The number of people unable to top up their energy prepayment meters, at 34,000, was almost double the last two years combined, with December’s total still be to added.

Dame Clare Moriarty, the Citizens Advice CEO, said: “We’re looking back on a year in which things have got worse and it has become harder to find solutions. Our message to politicians and policymakers remains: you need to pull all of the policy levers that are available to address the situation that people are finding themselves in.”

Claire Atchia McMaster, the director of income and external affairs at the anti-poverty charity Turn2Us, said people on low incomes were still feeling immense pressure on their finances despite inflation slowing by more than expected in November.

“Demand for our services this year remains high,” McMaster said. “We regularly hear from people having to cut back on food and other essentials, and many are struggling to cope with rising energy bills through the winter.”

Cost of living relief payments from the government have helped, but only temporarily, according to Tom MacInnes, the chief data analyst at Citizens Advice. “Every time the cost of living payment comes in, the numbers of people we’re referring to food banks drop – but then the number always goes back up again,” he said.

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