MILLIONS of people in the UK are now struggling financially, as an estimated 25 million people — half the adult population — face a rise in bills of up to £6000 a year, the debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has said.
A YouGov poll of 2270 people, including respondents from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, commissioned by CAP, found that the cost-of-living crisis was affecting those on low incomes the most, but that more than one fifth of people on higher incomes, earning between £50,000 and £70,000 a year, were also facing rising costs.
The number of people struggling financially had risen dramatically between April and August this year, from about eight million households to 25.4 million, CAP said.
Although the cost-of-living crisis was not new, as those on lower incomes had been struggling for years, it was reaching new heights. About 8.5 million people were now skipping meals, and going without heating or electricity completely, the charity estimated.
More than one third of those surveyed were also cutting out socialising and leisure activities.
More and more people were falling into debt: one third of those earning less than £15,000 a year, but also one fifth of middle-income adults surveyed — those earning between £35,000 and £50,000 a year — were also behind with their bills.
Anthony Lyman, who was helped by CAP previously and became debt-free three years ago, said that he was now struggling again. “I have to prioritise my children, as it’s important they have full bellies, even if I don’t. In 2019, I’d pay £30 a month for my energy — now, we are looking at £200 to £300 per month. It’s difficult in those moments of darkness and loneliness, when the kids are in bed.”
CAP’s director of external affairs, Gareth McNab, said: “The biggest concern is [that] this poll was carried out in the hot month of August, ahead of winter and energy prices rising by a further £529 per year on average. That’s going to be around double the cost they were last year, even after taking into account the UK Government’s energy price guarantee, which was announced earlier this month.
“People are facing a personal and growing debt crisis. Low-income households have been hit the hardest, and are being left with little choice but to borrow to pay for essentials. Many will be forced to take on a lot more debt during the colder months, just to survive.
“For a lot of low-income households who we are helping at Christians Against Poverty, they have had months or possibly years of struggle, and are already in serious financial difficulty. They can’t afford the increases in prices that have happened throughout 2022; so the doubling of energy costs this winter is terrifying.”
CAP has called for more targeted help for those on the lowest incomes, and also for those not on means-tested benefits, but with large bills, owing to family size.
Benefits also needed to be uprated before the winter to reflect the rise in inflation, the charity said. It has also called for energy companies to be banned from forcibly switching people to prepayment meters, and for a moratorium on court action for debt collection.
The charity said that it was “disappointed” by the Government’s mini Budget last Friday.