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World News

Salvation Army says 8 out of 10 over 65s worried about cost of Christmas dinner

by Donna Birrell

The Salvation Army says it's seeing an unprecedented level of need in the run-up to Christmas.

In its new survey of more than 2,000 adults in the UK, the charity found that nearly seven in ten people (67 per cent) are worried about being able to afford Christmas dinner this year amid the cost of living crisis. That number rises to eight in ten (81 per cent) of those aged over 65.

The survey also found that nearly one in six (16 per cent) expect to use items from a food bank for their festive meal.

The Salvation Army's Lt-Col Dean Pallant told Premier: 

"There's real concern out there across the UK about how people are going to afford Christmas. I think if you dig into it, it's about people's worry and concern, as well as a significant number of people who are turning to the Salvation Army and other churches and faith groups in needing help right now. So food banks are busier than ever. But there are also people who are struggling emotionally to cope with the economic uncertainty of these times.

"Christmas should be the season of joy, not sorrow. If so many people are worried they can't even afford one of the most important meals of the year, it's a red flag that poverty is creeping further into our communities.
"Salvation Army Officers across the country report an unprecedented level of need since the cost of living hit, and our food banks have been stretched to the limit. Our officers are also seeing people who used to donate food, now queuing for food parcels. 
"The Government's decision to increase benefits in line with inflation lessens the pain of rising costs on the poorest households. However, the measures announced in the Autumn Statement show that while the state is trying to help, its ability to stop the creep of poverty has been dangerously reduced due to rising inflation and the overall bleak economic outlook."

The survey, which was carried out by Savanta Comres, found that more than one in three (38 per cent) would likely skip meals over Christmas if they were landed with an unexpected significant expense, such as a broken boiler or essential car repair.

One in seven (14 per cent) can't afford to give their children a Christmas present this year, and nearly one in five (18 per cent) expect to spend time over Christmas in a building that is free to visit so they can keep warm.

 Lt-Col Pallant said:

"We expect this Christmas to be one of our busiest ever and are providing as many emergency food parcels as possible for those in urgent need and Christmas dinner for isolated older people. And our Present Appeal is giving gifts to children who would otherwise have nothing to open on Christmas Day. 
"I'd say to anybody worried about how they're going to spend Christmas, look out for your local church and find out what's going on. I'm sure there'll be a church. It might not be the Salvation Army, but it'd be one of our companions and our partners who will be open on Christmas day and don't stay at home. I'm sure that you'll make friends and you'll enjoy your Christmas this year."
John, a 64-year-old grandfather from Middlesbrough who does voluntary work, said: "I usually go to relatives for Christmas dinner, but they can't afford to have me this year so I will stay at home. I am going to treat it like a normal day and have sandwiches for lunch as I'm worried it will cost too much to buy the food and cook it. It is going to be a terrible Christmas for me."

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