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'Don't lose hope' says Christian charity as cost of living rises

by Alex Collett

A Christian debt help charity is calling on the Government to 'act now' and increase support for those on a low incomes.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is pleading with the Government to use everything at its disposal, as many await the Chancellor's spring statement.

They saw calls to their debt helpline rise by 47% this January compared to last year, and requests for emergency fuel vouchers have doubled in 2022. 

Gareth McNab from (CAP) spoke to Premier and suggested many ways that the Government could help: "There's three main things that we're asking for, and there's so much they could do. 

"The big ask for us from the Government is that they understand and demonstrate their appreciation of the urgency with which people need help, and the level of help that low income households so desperately need. 

"The first thing that we're calling for, along with many other charities and think-tanks, is that the upgrading of Social Security, (that's how much benefits and pensions go up by an April) needs to be more than planned. 

"Currently, that's going to be going up by just over 3%, but that's what the rate of inflation was in September last year, inflation in April is going to be more than 8%. 

"So if they don't do something about that, that's going to be a pay cut for everybody on benefits, every pensioner, at a time that they can least afford it. 

"The second thing they could do which they did do immediately at the beginning of the pandemic is to pause deductions to Universal Credit.

"The Government is able to reach into Universal Credit claimants pay packet as it were, and remove up to 25% of their standard allowance to pay off other debts, like the advanced payment, the first payment you get on Universal Credit, or paying off tax credit debts, which traditionally are actually a result of government error rather than any individual issue. 

"If they're not going to take incomes up, although they should, the least they could do is stop removing people's expense and ability to pay their expenditure by deducting money. 

"Then the third thing they need to do is to conduct a cost of living review;  the level of social security has not matched the actual cost of living, even for the barest of essentials for many, many years. 

"For the longer term piece of work, we call on the Government to review the cost of living and ensure that Social Security is fit for purpose and covering the essential costs that we all have to face."

Gareth said it's easy to lose hope in this situation: "Martin Lewis was on the telly on the weekend and again this morning saying he's run out of options. 

"He's running out of tools. 

"This is not a crisis that you can 'personal finance manage' your way out of. 

"There's no amount of switching or getting clever on the internet that couldn't avoid the increased costs of living. 

"Now if he's out of options - as the most trusted man in Britain with 15 million people getting his emails - then that would be quite easy to lose hope. 

"But there's always hope, debt advice can do more than Martin Lewis can, we can negotiate directly with creditors, we can look to arrange for grants and write offs of debts and so on to try and help with the immediate pressures.
"Although the long term cost of living is only something really the Government can do anything about.

"But that would be my message would be there's always hope and if you're praying, pray with me that families across the UK households across the UK would not lose hope.

"This will be the worst possible time for people to feel that there is no hope."

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