Christian charity says government's 'short term' economic policy will tip 'millions more into poverty'
The head of the national debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has strongly criticised the government's economic policy, saying it will push millions more people into poverty.
CAP commissioned YouGov to carry out a poll of 2,270 people across the UK in August.
It found that 84 percent (an estimated 44 million) of people said they have been financially affected by the cost of living crisis. Forty-nine percent of those questioned (an estimated 25.9 million) reported their bills and costs have risen by between £101 and £500 a month.
The charity estimated that over 32 million people (61 percent) have reduced their energy use to save money and over 24 million (46 percent) are shopping around more and using cheaper supermarkets.
Speaking to Premier, CAP's CEO Paula Stringer said:"We found that costs have risen and one in three low-income households are really struggling. That's compared to one in ten of those who are on higher incomes.
"Almost half the population are currently struggling financially in some way or another. Twenty percent of adults are in financial trouble overall, and then about 35 percent are just about coping and are at risk as costs go up this winter.
"It's a pretty bleak picture in honesty."
The survey found that almost eight million people (15 percent) are estimated to be going without heating or electricity completely and a similar amount are skipping meals (8.5 million, 16 per cent). Almost 20 million people (37 per cent) have cut out socialising and leisure altogether.
Paula Stringer continued: "These are people that are not only turning energy and heating off, but actually can't afford to put it on full stop.
"These are people that are skipping meals on a regular basis. These are people that are basically spending time going to food banks because they can't afford to put food on the table for their families and that is a significant number of people in this country."
"In the last few months alone, we've seen a 30 percent increase in those people who are actually saying they either contemplated or have attempted suicide.
"It's really not unusual for us to speak to someone who has absolutely nothing in their house. We spoke to someone recently who had no kettle, no fridge, no cooker, they basically sold these things to pay for their rent and food and they couldn't afford the energy bills anyway. It is not OK."
On Friday, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled a 'mini-Budget' with the largest tax cuts in generations. But it has been poorly received with many arguing it doesn't do enough to help the poorest in society who are increasingly struggling because of the cost of living crisis.
"I think the package really doesn't go far enough," Stringer added.
"It is a short term view, it doesn't take into account the fact that millions of people were already struggling even before this cost of living crisis. So we're seeing millions more being tipped into poverty. It doesn't go far enough."
When asked about the kind of measure she would like to see from the government, Stringer said: "As a minimum, we would like to see much more targeted support for low-income adults, support that actually takes into account actual energy bills and the size of a family. "
"We would like to see an increase in the Local Housing Allowance. Rents have gone up between four and 20 per cent but the housing allowance stayed the same. Benefits are clearly not in line with the increase in inflation.
"We also want to see a ban on energy company companies forcing people to switch to prepayment metres over this winter. We need to stop that in its tracks. People tend to pay more on those and we don't think that anyone should be punished for not meeting these increased costs."
In a statement to Premier, a Government spokesperson said: "We recognise people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we have taken action to save households an average of £1,000 through our new Energy Price Guarantee.
"We are also providing eight million of the lowest-income households with additional, direct support worth at least £1,200 and have put measures in place to allow people on Universal Credit to keep more of what they earn.
"Furthermore, by reversing the National Insurance Contribution Rise and canceling the Health and Social Care Levy the government is also saving the average employee £330 a year."