Research has found that almost two million children in the UK are living in deep poverty.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found an increase of almost half a million people experiencing poverty in the two years since the pandemic began.
As energy bills rise – tripling in some cases – families are becoming increasingly fearful about making ends meet.
Paula Goddard is part of C3 Colchester, an evangelical church working with Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
There was a 32 percent rise in the number of people calling the CAP helpline in 2021, as the pandemic plunged yet more families into dire financial circumstances.
Paula said: “From the increase in families that we've been seen, deep poverty looks like not being able to put food on the table and struggling to be able to purchase new clothing and school uniform.
“Families are struggling to be able to heat the house enough.
“It's basically just a real issue with meeting basic needs.”
Paula says that even the lowest tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – which includes food, water, sleep and warmth – are not being met due to families not having enough money.
“We're seeing parents that are struggling to heat their home, struggling provide meals. We see parents that are missing meals to try and ensure that they can put a meal on the table for their children. With low income, working families, they're just over that threshold to be included in free school meals; so they can't even kind of count on the fact that the children will have a meal at school.”
The feat of rising energy bills is making a bad situation significantly worse.
“We're seeing kind of those on monthly bills or quarterly bills, start to hit the doormats. People are paying around £70 a month and are now being asked for around £210 a month. It's a massive increase.”
An uplift to Universal Credit was offered during the pandemic, giving families £20 more a week. It has since been removed.