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Three million families facing crisis due cost of living surge

Written by: Emma Lunn
One in five families have already cut back on food shopping or turned off the heating to save money, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity is calling for urgent action to prevent a wave of hardship this winter after its research found that one in 10 families – equivalent to 3.2 million households – are facing financial crisis this winter.

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

It found that even if living on a minimal budget – the financial plan its advisers use to support people through a debt management process – more than three million households would be in the red or unable to cover the essentials.

A further 380,000 households 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 poll by Citizens Advice found that more than a third (37%) of people are worried about paying their bills this winter. This rises to nearly half (48%) of people on low incomes.

It found one in ten (10%) people anticipate accessing crisis support this winter, like food banks or fuel vouchers. The Trussell Trust said this week that food bank use was increasing, with more than 5,100 food parcels handed out across the UK every day in past six months.

Citizens Advice says it is anticipating rising numbers of people in hardship seeking its support this winter. It warns low-income families have been hit by a triple whammy of the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut, soaring energy bills and rising inflation.

This trend has already started to show. In the past three months, nearly three quarters (73%) 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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