A new ‘interactive dashboard’ created by Citizens Advice shows the extent to which the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact as the rising prices of groceries, energy and other everyday essentials begin to take their toll.
Citizens Advice has described the situation as a ‘winter crisis in summer’ – meaning that requests for support with issues that traditionally peak during the winter months, such as topping up pre-payment energy meters, are coming earlier in the year than usual.
Up to the end of July 2022, Citizens Advice has assisted more than 120,000 people with access to food banks and other charitable support. That is more than the numbers for 2019 and 2020 combined. The charity projects that by the end of 2022 it is likely to have supported 57% more people than last year.
According to Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, “Our data paints a picture of the stark choices facing families everywhere as the cost-of-living crisis bites.
“It’s clear our charts are only going in the wrong direction. The government did the right thing by bringing in support through the benefits system to help people struggling the most. It must now be ready to act again before winter sets in.”
Problems with pre-payment meters are at record levels according to Citizens Advice figures, and energy debts are increasing, with the average person the charity has supported – more than 47,600 so far this year – in arrears to their energy company by more than £650.
The figures also reveal that disabled people are among those most affected by soaring costs, with almost 45,000 contacting Citizens Advice in June for help with problems arising from the crisis.
As people across the country struggle with meeting the demands of rising prices, scammers have been quick to exploit the crisis. It was revealed in June that fraudulent offers of financial support have increased by 14%, with fake energy rebate and refund scams increasing by 28%.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “Everyone is at risk of being scammed but the cost-of-living crisis results in more and more consumers facing increasing levels of vulnerability. This means they face even greater risks of being caught by unscrupulous and illegal practices by those who are intent on exploiting the already difficult situation people find themselves in.
“At a time when the sad reality is that some are having to make choices between heating and eating, people can be particularly vulnerable to, for example, fraudsters offering cheaper energy. It is crucial that the public is wary of all these threats and that they contact the authorities if they suspect any attempt to defraud them or others.”