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‘Difficult or impossible’ for a third of adults to cover an extra £20 expense

More than a third of UK adults would find it difficult or be unable to cover a £20 increase to their monthly outgoings, research suggests.

Polling for Citizens Advice found that 37% of those surveyed would struggle or be unable to do so, with about 25% saying they would find it “somewhat difficult”, 7% “very difficult” and 4% “impossible”.

This rises to 58% of people on benefits, 57% of people who have pre-payment meters for their energy, and 47% of people of colour.

The charity said people are being forced to take increasingly desperate measures to get by, such as eating cold meals.

It supported a record number of people in December, helping them access emergency grants and referring them to food banks.

The survey, of 2,000 UK adults by Public First between December 5 and 9, found that 23% of respondents had spent more money on essentials than they had coming in over the last three months.

Two-thirds of these (67%) said they could only keep this up for six months or less without additional support.

A third of respondents said they had to dip into their savings in the last three months to get by.

More than half (56%) of this group has either run out of savings or expects to do so in the next three months, the polling found.

Persistent financial stress is taking its toll, with 28% of those polled losing sleep at least once a week over their finances.

Around one in seven respondents (15%) said they have been eating cold meals over the winter to reduce their energy costs.

Citizens Advice is calling for the Government to set out a clear plan on how it will target support to people who are struggling, or who are currently scraping by but could fall into hardship as costs continue to rise.

Chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “Millions of households are at financial breaking point: running down savings, going without bare essentials and turning to food banks to get by.

“We’re already seeing record numbers of people coming to us for crisis support and this research shows people simply cannot cut back any further.

“Current government support is a sticking plaster which is quickly being exhausted due to the increased pressures people are facing.

“Without further targeted intervention, we risk another year of despair for millions of people.”