The number of people helped by Citizens Advice has hit a record high, with the charity calling it ‘our bleakest-ever start to the year.’
There were record highs on 70 different advice issues, including homelessness, food bank referrals and debt.
The analysis shows the charity helped more people in January to April than in the same period of any other year on record. That same period saw record highs on 70 different advice issues including homelessness, food bank referrals and debt.
In the first four months of the year, Citizens Advice helped a record number of people (94,000) with food bank referrals and access to emergency charitable grants. This is a 178% increase on the same period in 2020, and includes the support needed by a record number of people in work.
The charity helped more people with this type of crisis support this year than in the entirety of 2019 (74,500) and nearly as many as the entirety of 2020.
Worryingly, Citizens Advice helped more people who are homeless this year (14,300) than at any other time on record. While the number of private renters facing an eviction issue during the first four months of 2023 was 49% higher than the same period in 2020.
Additionally, the number of people unable to afford to top up their prepayment meter has skyrocketed, with 10 times more people seeking our help between January and April 2023 (15,000) compared with 2020 (1,500).
Citizens Advice’s new analysis also found that during the first quarter of 2023 more people than ever faced a monthly bills deficit – where their income didn’t cover their basic bills. For the first time ever, more than half (51.6%) of people seeking support for debt from Citizens Advice were in this position.
This is in part being driven by soaring energy bills. A record number of people came to the charity with energy debt in the first four months of 2023 (32,400) – a 112% increase on the same period in 2020 (15,200).
Citizens Advice says record numbers are checking their benefits entitlement as people do everything they can to keep their heads above the water.
Government support measures, such as cost of living payments, have previously provided temporary respite to people and led to dips in the number of people seeking support from the charity, but demand rapidly returns to previous levels. A trend that could be made worse by recent price hikes which kicked in this April, placing further pressure on people’s finances.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said “The cost-of-living crisis is far from over. The fact we’ve experienced our bleakest ever start of the year shows the government cannot afford to turn their gaze away from the issues people are facing.”
“Millions of people are doing everything they can but it’s still not enough. Too many people are living on empty, simply unable to pay their bills and put food on the table. And while staff and volunteers in local offices work tirelessly every day to help people, there’s only so much we can do.”
“We can see government support helps, but more is needed in the future for struggling households. For many, life is getting worse, not better.”