Citizens Advice have started a series of monthly briefings on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their clients and the issues they are presenting with. They are using this data to monitor the full effects of the crisis and to use it as evidence to Government about current trends and patterns. The second meeting in their series was held on the 17th of August 2022 and the headline theme prevailing is that existing inequalities are being amplified by the crisis.
Here are some of the trends:
Citizens Advice nationally have seen a significant increase in clients presenting who have no funds with which to top up their prepayment meters and so have no gas or electricity at all. These numbers are expected to increase month on month as we move past the summer months.
By October of 2022 (at the next energy Price Cap) 24% of households are expected to be unable to pay their energy bills, of which half will be working households not entitled to benefits. By the Price Cap rise in January of 2023 this number is expected to increase to around one third of all UK households.
People with disabilities are already likely to live in Poverty and are least able to cope with cost-of-living increases.
Applications to local Homeless Services are also increasing but there is wide variation across the country.
Citizens Advice are seeing an increasing number of clients presenting with multiple serious debt problems related to housing availability and costs, council tax arrears, energy bills and food. Concern is greatest for several groups including those who fall through the gap when transitioning to Universal Credit, those paid weekly who qualify for Universal Credit and additional support in one month but not in another, people with disabilities or long term illnesses, those on prepayment meters and working households on low incomes who fall just outside additional benefit support.
Citizens Advice are calling for benefits to be increased by the rate of inflation from September 2022.
Principles to Guide Government:
Citizens Advice have used raw data to identify two principles that must guide Government intervention: These are:
Targeting support to people who need it most as a fundamental issue in addressing the current crisis. However, the crisis is redrawing boundaries of those who will need substantial support, quickly extending to low income working households not entitled to benefits.
Preventing the worst-case scenario from happening if people cannot pay their bills. Citizens Advice are looking to OFGEM to prevent people being moved onto prepayment meters if they fall into debt: They also want to stop the use of debt collectors around the subject of energy with a plea that no individual or family should have their energy disconnected.
They also want to see a requirement that Energy Providers support customers in debt.
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