31 March 2022
Ahead of tomorrow’s rise in the energy price cap, Citizens Advice has for the third month in a row broken its bleak record for providing crisis support.
In March 2022 so far, the charity referred 24,752 people to food banks or to other charitable support, up by 44% compared to the same time last year.
Research from the charity has revealed that around five million people will be unable to pay their energy bills from April even accounting for the support the government has already announced. This number will almost triple, to 1 in 4 people in the UK – over 14 million – when the price cap rises again in October based on current predictions.
With the cost-of-living crisis ramping up, Citizens Advice frontline advisers from opposite ends of the country have shared their perspective on the problems rising costs are causing.
Conal, an adviser for Citizens Advice in Blackpool, which according to government figures is the most deprived council in England said:
“Heat or eat choices were sadly common in Blackpool even before price hikes, but the stories are getting worse.
“One person we helped had a broken boiler they couldn’t afford to fix so they were boiling the kettle and washing themselves in the sink. Another couldn’t cover the cost of using the oven or hob so they’re surviving on microwave meals. Parents have resorted to handwashing clothes and skipping meals just so they can provide for their kids.
“We do our absolute best to give people support and advice, but sometimes we’re running up against a brick wall. People simply don’t have enough to cover the basics and a fuel voucher or food bank referral can only go so far.”
Simon, an adviser at Citizens Advice in Hart in Hampshire, which according to government figures is the least deprived council in England said:
“We have seen a notable uptick in people seeking debt advice, and needing energy grants or foodbank vouchers. I can’t see this going down anytime soon – and this will have a big knock-on impact on people’s relationships and mental health.
“Hart may be an affluent area, but we’re seeing a real imbalance between those who can and can’t afford the essentials.”
Some of the issues Citizens Advice teams have helped with in the last week:
A pregnant woman struggling to get help from her energy company and having to drastically cut energy use to prevent debts growing
A woman who is caring for her elderly mother in her home, but who can’t afford to heat the house to keep her warm
A man recently out of hospital with pneumonia who’s having to wrap themselves in blankets to stay warm because they can’t afford to put the heating on
All received crisis support from Citizens Advice with referrals to food banks or other charitable support.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“The energy price cap rise will be potentially ruinous for millions of people across the country. It comes just as another new, bleak record is set for people needing crisis support from Citizens Advice.
“The support announced so far from the government simply isn’t enough for those who’ll be hit hardest. With the long-anticipated price rises now hitting, many more people will face the kind of heart-rending choices that our frontline advisors already see all too often.”