The charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has condemned the rise in the energy price cap as "outrageous" saying it will force millions more people into poverty and lead to a winter of destitution for low-income households.
The energy regulator Ofgem has announced an increase of more than 80 per cent, meaning a typical household energy bill will hit £3,549 a year from 1st October. That's up from the current cap of £1,971 in England, Scotland and Wales.
Emma Jackson, who is CAP's National Director for Scotland told Premier: "It's absolutely devastating to hear these figures. I'm not sure I have the language to accurately convey the depth and the scale of the crisis that we are now facing.
"We are heading down a path towards a winter of absolute devastation for millions of people across the UK. For households who are on the lowest incomes, quite frankly we are looking at destitution."
Last year CAP helped over 13,000 clients and already this year it has seen a 37 per cent increase in calls to its helpline. It's also seen a doubling in pleas for emergency fuel top-ups in the first half of this year compared to last, along with a sharp rise in requests for emergency food shops.
Staff at CAP's 300 debt centres across the country have heard heart-breaking stories from clients. One woman who, despite CAP's debt advice and support, faced having only £1.87 left each week for food after all her other essential bills were paid.
Jackson added:"We are already hearing of horrendous circumstances when people call into our free phone debt help number. Already, people are telling us that they're going without food, that they're going without electricity, that they're skipping using the shower. Things were terrible before today, now it's just so, so concerning.
"Right now, people are terrified, they are feeling completely overwhelmed by this. We're not just seeing a rise in energy bills, we're seeing a rise in food prices, inflation is higher than it's ever been. The brutal reality is that households simply do not have the income that they need to pay for the essential things that we all need. People feel overwhelmed.
"The reality of this crisis is that it's affecting all of us. It is affecting households not just on the lowest incomes, but middle income households too, but for those on low incomes, the burden is vast.
"Our message is always clear that there is no shame in needing help. Charities like CAP exist to draw alongside people and provide practical support and emotional support for those who need it most.
"We are there to provide compassionate care, a listening ear to remind people that they are not alone in this, that there are charities and organisations there to support them. Their local church is there to support them and to do this work on the ground.
"It is outrageous that in the UK today families are living in fear about how they will stay warm, how they will stay alive this winter. We need bold, targeted and urgent action from the UK Government, from our devolved nations' governments, immediately to help people with this crisis.
"We need to pray as Christians to see the injustice of the situation overturned. It is an injustice that we have inequality like this across the UK. Poverty is not of the kingdom of God and we must pray for a breakthrough for politicians from all parties and all backgrounds that they will act with compassion, so that we see those who need it most get the support they need."
CAP is calling on the government to at least double the support committed so far to households on means tested benefits and the wider Energy Bill Support Scheme. It also wants it to pause benefit deductions for repayments to debts owed to the UK Government for six months and for a ban on energy companies forcibly switching customers to pre-payment meters.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said he knows the energy price cap announcement will cause "stress and anxiety", but that he is "working flat out" to develop a support plan.
He added that it'll be for the incoming prime minister to decide on a longer term strategy.
CAP is urging people who are struggling with debt not to ignore it, but to get in contact for free debt help on 0800 328 0006 or visit capuk.org.