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Over 150,000 households needed help for first time with rising food and energy bills

 cost of living: A sign painted on the side of a house directs people to a local food bank on October 21, 2022 in Leeds, England. A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published earlier this week showed consumer prices index rising to 10.1% in September, with food and drink rising at a rate of 15%, the largest jump in decades and forcing many people to use charity food banks. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Citizens Advice expects the rising cost of living will result in even more people needing crisis support for the first time in the coming months. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty

A record number of people were in need of crisis support during last year, as the cost of living crisis pushed more people than ever before to breaking point.

More than 150,000 needed help for the first time and reached out to charity Citizens Advice for support ranging from food banks referrals to emergency charitable grants.

Overall, the charity had more than 200,000 request help amid the cost of living crisis, Citizens Advice data shows. That is 48% higher than 2021.

“The cost of living crisis has put unprecedented pressure on people’s finances and pushed many to breaking point,” Morgan Wild, head of policy at Citizens Advice, said.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen hundreds of thousands of people coming to us for crisis support, many for the very first time,” he added.

Read more: How to beat the supermarket price rises

Demand for food bank referrals peaked in December as the charity helped three people every minute with crisis support.

In what the charity described as an “alarming trend” many of those seeking help to pay bills and put food on the table actually have a job but their income just isn’t keeping up with steep price increases.

The number of people helped with crisis support who were in employment increased by 155% between 2022 and 2019, up to 23,888 from 9,3730.

Citizens Advice said it has seen more people unable to afford to top their energy accounts in 2022 than in the entire last 10 years combined, breaking all predicted records.

Three million people across Britain ran out of credit on their prepayment energy meter last year, the equivalent of one every 10 seconds, the charity said.

National Energy Action said it expects 8.4 million UK households to be in fuel poverty – when a household is unable to afford to heat their home – by next April. It estimated that the energy crisis has pushed more than 6.7 million households into fuel poverty, up from 4.5 million in October 2021.

Through the energy price guarantee scheme, the government provides financial support to limit average household bills to £2,500, rising to £3,000 from April for a year.

Read more: UK inflation eases slightly to 10.5% but food prices continue to soar

Based on its analysis, Citizens Advice expects the rising cost of living will result in even more people needing crisis support for the very first time in the coming months. This is due to energy bills at record highs and some groups not being eligible for targeted support.

It is also warning that a “double whammy” of high interest rates and inflation will mean debt will become one of the biggest issues people will face in 2023.

The charity is sounding alarm on a growing housing crisis as increasing numbers of people seek advice on rent increases, threats of eviction and even homelessness.

“What has been a difficult time for us all has turned into an impossible one for many. But as people continue to cut back on essentials in a desperate attempt to keep their heads above the water, this crisis is far from over,” Wild added.

Watch: How to save money on a low income