'Tsunami' of people facing debt with cost of living crisis worsening

Cost of living is set to rise

The cost of living is on the rise for many families. - Credit: PA

A "tsunami" of people in Waveney are facing being plunged into debt as the cost of living soars.

That's according to the local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau, who say they are "drowning in clients struggling to cope".

It comes as the government announced last week that the energy price cap will rise by 54pc from the beginning of April - approximately an extra £693 per year per household. 

North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau in Lowestoft looking to relocate to bigger premises.Chief

Janet John, chief executive of North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau - Credit: James Bass

Janet John, chief executive of North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said this winter had been "horrendous" so far.

She said: "It is heart-breaking. I have had people who have been sitting without heating for a month just before Christmas and more and more people going to foodbanks.

"One family just before Christmas had their monthly direct debit for their utilities go up from £65 to £200 a month.

"If you're only just managing to get through the month and get hit by a price hike like that, how are you meant to cope?"

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While levels remained consistent with previous years during the first year of the pandemic, the removal of restrictions has seen client numbers rise by 29pc for the branch, with a 41pc increase in cases.

She said: "A lot of people think Universal Credit claimants are unemployed, but 40pc of them are in work needing a top-up, and the removal of the uplift has made matters worse.

"The removal of furlough and restrictions haven't helped too. During Covid landlords couldn't take action to recover property, or creditors couldn't recover debts, but now that's lifted people are having to address their debts that had been on hold for months.

"The energy price hike is just a nightmare. There is a tsunami of people facing debt who can no longer afford to pay their bills.

"I don't know where it is going to end.

"Energy companies can't stop your supply on direct debits, but a lot of people are on pre-payment meters and once that runs out there is no heat, light or electricity. It is cutting supply by the back door."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: contributed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: contributed - Credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In response to the price cap hike, chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged some mitigation measures, including that all 28 million households in Britain would get a £200 up-front rebate on their energy bills from October. 

The government will provide the cash for this, but wants the money back so will hike bills by £40 per year over the next five years from 2023 to recoup its cash. 

Mr Sunak also promised a £150 council tax rebate for homes in bands A to D, something he said would cover around 80pc of homes in England, along with £144 million funding to councils to support vulnerable people. 

A Suffolk charity has also raised concerns over the impact of the rising cost of living on period poverty for schoolgirls.

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home- Start in Suffolk. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Tara Spence, chief executive of the charity Home-Start in Suffolk, said it is still difficult to get own-brand sanitary towels and tampons in stores.

She explained that since the pandemic began the cheaper around 60p period products have not been as available as the higher-priced named brands, costing an estimated £1.20. 

"The effect could be a meal for one person," Ms Spence said.

In 2020, the government started the period product scheme for schools and colleges in England, which has led to a 77pc take-up rate in Suffolk since the scheme began two years ago. 

Ms Spence added children could be "embarrassed" to ask for free period products in schools.

"It's 2022 and still you get lots who see it as an embarrassment," she said.

"How many children would be comfortable? It's not always discreet in a school setting.

"While the grant is helpful it is not quite so easy for some in a school setting."

Dr Therese Coffey says there are still "major issues" with ambulance-hospital handovers. Picture: GR

Dr Therese Coffey says there are still "major issues" with ambulance-hospital handovers. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk MP and government minister Therese Coffey said this week she is not aware of any plans to give people more help to cope with the cost of living crisis.

Dr Coffey told the Work and Pensions Committee the support package announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help people through cost of living pressures is "substantial" and she is "not aware" of plans to increase it.

She said: "I think the £9 billion will be substantial support and, as I say, right now the Household Support Fund is open. People need to contact their local authority to deal with that."