One in 10 UK families, amounting to around three million households, will struggle with basic costs of living this winter such as food and heating, a charity has warned.
One in five adults have already slashed their food shop or switched off their heating and one in 10 are predicted to use food banks, according to a Citizens Advice poll.
The charity has urged the government to match benefits with inflation in December, as low-income families are facing a £20 a week universal credit cut amid rising energy bills and inflation.
Government has ‘crucial opportunity’ to intervene
“The government has a crucial opportunity to intervene before things escalate even further,” Dame Clare Moriarty, Citizens Advice chief executive, said.
The group has already reported an increase in people who need help because they cannot afford rent, food and energy.
A Citizens Advice worker from Manchester said she spoke to one man who said he was keeping warm at night by wearing three jumpers and lying on the sofa with his dog.
Another man, who is a former engineer in his 60s, had to quit work in 2019 because of his spinal cancer and said the recent Universal Credit cut means he cannot buy the things he needs.
“I’m constantly looking at the bank account. I put things off as I can’t afford the petrol to drive. I feel isolated and stressed, but what can I do?,” he said.
This week, the government implemented amendments to the universal credit taper rate for working claimants, following budget promises last month that almost two million families will be better off by £1,000 per year.
Millions of families ‘still worse off’
But living standards think tank Resolution Foundation said more than half of families on Universal Credit will still be worse off by over £1,000 a year, despite government changes.
People who will not benefit from the move according to critics include parents of very young children and those who are sick or disabled.
The UC taper rate – the amount of benefit taken away for every £1 earned above the claimant’s work allowance – will be cut by eight per cent “within weeks”, bringing it down from 63 to 55 per cent.
But the Resolution Foundation said around 3.6 million families will still be worse off following the earlier ending of the £20-per-week UC uplift.
The think tank’s analysis found that the changes will benefit 1.3 million higher-earning families in receipt of UC.
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting people on low incomes and the changes we have made to universal credit will see nearly 2 million of the lowest paid better off by around £1,000 a year.
“The most vulnerable, including those who can’t work, can get additional help with essential costs available through our new £500m support fund.”