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Hunger forces teen into 'eating wallpaper', says Christian charity

Church Action on Poverty has claimed that a teenager was forced into eating the wallpaper in his house because he was so hungry, a knock on effect of government cuts to the welfare budget and the on-going economic crisis.

The Christian group believes the government's on-going reforms to the social welfare system are to blame for making people go hungry in a bid to keep a roof over their heads.

A YouGov survey of 4,000 adults found that four out of ten families with children (42%) - equivalent to 5.5 million - said they'd cut back on food last year to help pay for their homes.

Meanwhile, more than one in four (27%) - equivalent to 3.4 million families cut back on gas and electricity bills to help meet their rent or mortgage costs.

Across the population as a whole, a third of people (31%) had cut back on food and one in five (20%) had reduced their spend on household fuel, showing how families with children were hardest pressed.

The research also found that 64% of families with children struggled to pay for their rent or mortgage last year, compared to 57% of people across the board.

Come next month the government's answer to our bloated benefits system, Universal Credit, will be trialled in Oldham, Tameside, Warrington and Wigan - four so called 'pathfinder' towns.

The idea behind Universal credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, is to simplify the welfare system. It will take a number of existing, separate payments:

-Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

-Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

-Income Support

-Child Tax Credits

-Working Tax Credits

-Housing Benefit.

It will then replace them with a single payment, directly to the claimant.

Niall Cooper from Church Action on Poverty has told the News Hour more campassion is needed from the government:

As the cold weather continues, struggling families are now bracing themselves for another hit on their finances with a fresh warning our energy bills will rise sharply over the next 7 years.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has admitted that the average bill will rise by 6 per cent between now and 2020.

Energy Minister Greg Barker has said the spending is needed to secure future supplies: "You don't get something for nothing.

"We realise that we've got to plan for the long-term, but if we plan properly; and that's exactly what we're doing, in the long-run we'll be better off and that will be felt by consumers on their bills."

But Angela Knight from Energy UK has said households in the short-term will find it difficult to budget: "We don't know what's going to happen as far as; for example gas is concerned.

"We don't know what's going to happen as far as being able to bring on more of our own local renewable energy, so it is looking rather uncertain."

Around 2.5 million families in Britain are already estimated to live in 'fuel poverty' defined as having to spend more than 10 per cent of income on heating.

Meanwhile, in more bad news on the economic front, Britain remains on the brink of a triple-dip recession.

Figures have confirmed the economy shrank by 0.3% at the end of 2012.

GDP figures for the current quarter are due to be released at the end of April, with recent cold weather increasing the chances of two successive quarters of contraction.

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