The charity compared average income data with the growing cost of household essentials such as rent, energy bills and food to see how easily families could meet their outgoings. The results found even living on a minimal budget would see one in 10 households struggle to meet all of their basic costs. Even for those able to meet their costs around 380,000 would end up with less than £50 spare each month leaving them vulnerable if hit by an unexpected bill. Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, urged the Government to act before things escalate further.
She added: “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.”
Lalitha Try, Researcher at think tank the Resolution Foundation, suggested greater effort was needed to “strengthen the UK’s stalling economic recovery” in order to deliver higher wage growth.
She explained: “While some workers will be getting bumper pay rises from firms desperate to recruit staff, everyone will be hit by rapid increases in the cost of living this winter, with rising energy bills likely to be a particular pressure point.”
“I spoke to one man who said things are so bad he’s keeping warm at night by wearing three jumpers and lying on the sofa with his dog.”
One man the charity has been helping gave up his job as an engineer after being diagnosed with spinal cancer but has since seen his universal credit drop by £20 a week.
The man in his 60s, from Devon, said: “I’m living in one room to keep the heat down as low as I possibly can, but everything is just mounting up.
“It’s direct debit after direct debit and any minute I think I’m going to be in the minus.”
Citizens Advice claim one immediate measure to help would be for the Government to bring forward its increase to benefits payments by the level of inflation to December.
They say this would give an average family on Universal Credit an extra £30 a month.
The Government has already announced a Household Support Fund for this winter which will see £500m distributed by local councils to help vulnerable households.