'Families face destitution': 2022 set to be year of financial big squeeze
- Credit: Antony Kelly
Charities and volunteers fear working families and individuals who are just about managing will be pushed into destitution because of soaring living costs.
The warning comes as demand for emergency food parcels and handouts for fuel rocketed after the extra Universal Credit £20 was cut.
Iain Turner, project officer for Norwich Foodbank, said: "The things that are going to hurt our clients are an addition to energy costs, which are huge, and inflation hitting a 10-year high.
"People are going to be pushed into destitution. After the Universal Credit was cut we had a lot of people they couldn't make ends meet.
"It is going to get worse. The long-term outlook is pretty grim.
"People come to us because they have nothing. There is a real misconception that people who come to us are not working but they are often doing full-time jobs sometimes on zero-hours contracts. No matter how hard they work they cannot make enough money. That is becoming more common.
"In a civilised society we shouldn't need foodbanks to feed our citizens. It is wrong. But we are here and will continue to feed hungry people."
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He added that between November 1 to today, the foodbank gave out parcels to 816 adults and 525 children across the city, Wymondham, Loddon and Wroxham.
It also gave out £2,113 in fuel top-ups to people between October 29 and December 24, and the average handout was £20.
Mr Turner, who thanked the public's generosity for foodbank donations, added the most common reason people were referred was low income and that was followed by changes in delays with benefits.
Chrissie Rumsby, who represents the Labour Party and Mile Cross on Norfolk County Council and is involved a foodbank at the Phoenix Hub in Mile Cross Road, said demand for parcels soared after the Universal Credit uplift was cut in September.
It now attracts 100 people a week, compared to 40 previously, and the increasing cost of utility bills was tipping the balance.
She said: "There is a squeeze on people's finances. This Christmas without our food hampers a lot of people would have had to make the decision to pay for heating or eating.
"I think towards the end of next year we will find it hard to cope with the surge in demand. We will all feel the pinch."
Ms Rumsby added a lot of people the Phoenix Centre helped were on low incomes and receiving benefits but believed people who have previously afforded rent, food and utility bills will need foodbank support.
"It is going to be awful for people," she said. "There is no end in sight."
Richard Ross, chartered financial planner for Norwich-based Chadwicks, said the problem of extra inflation costs brought about by Brexit would affect people on lower incomes and those on benefits.
He said: "It is going to be a steady erosion of living standards. People are struggling to make ends meet."
The financial expert added that if anything went financially wrong for people on benefits who lived hand to mouth, it created a disaster.
"There is no safety net and as a society we have to be kinder to people," he added.
Mark Hitchcock, chief executive of Norfolk Citizens Advice, said demand for the service was growing and over the past six months the organisation had seen a 20pc increase in clients with debt issues. he also said there had been a spike in those needing help with debt assessments or how to handle council tax arrears and fuel debts.
Compared to same period last year, there has also been a five-fold increase in people coming to the CAB for help on issues regarding utilities and communications, with the increase directly related to fuel problems.
The service has also witnessed a 20-30pc increase in clients requiring foodbank vouchers this quarter.
To help people next year with rising costs the Norwich Credit Union, which offers affordable loans, is launching a Christmas club to help ease the financial burden.
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A financial expert is urging people to budget carefully to cope with predicted interested rate rises.
Rachel Springall, finance expert at Norwich-based Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: "Everyday budgeting could become more essential as the cost of living intensifies.
"Taking a little time out to get a better deal on a mortgage, savings or current account could mean a huge difference to someone’s financial health. Seeking advice is wise, especially for those looking to remortgage."
Here are some of her tips on how to budget:
1) Save little and often to get into the habit
2) Stay up to date with your credit score
3) Consolidate credit cards
4) Open a Lifetime ISA
5) Alternative investments to cash interest accounts.