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Citizens Advice December Cost of Living Briefing

18 Dec 2023 - 15:56 by josephine.mcmeeking

The November cost of living payment happily resulted in a substantial decrease in food bank referrals from CA, however rereferral numbers have now risen to match the levels we saw this time last year..

Debt, especially in energy and council tax, has sharply risen once more, with approximately 50% of CA debt clients now in a negative budget The interconnected nature of debts is evident, with many CA clients holding multiple types of debts simultaneously. Housing costs, driven by rising private rents, are contributing significantly to negative budgets. Gas and electricity bills, along with grocery costs, have also seen rapid increases. For an average CA client, private rents account for 49% of outgoings, leaving private renters on benefits with a meager amount after covering energy and rent costs, leading to a surge in homelessness referrals. 2023 has also been a record-breaking year for energy debt support, most CA clients are using pre-payment meters, and more people than ever cannot afford to top them up to heat or power their homes. 

Policy responses in the latest autumn statement have included uprating benefits in line with inflation, and changes to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) coverage, resulting in a reduction in the rental shortfall for CA clients, which is welcome. However, the briefing emphasised the need for ongoing support from the government, with measures such as a social tariff for energy and regulation of skyrocketing private rents to alleviate financial strain. The cost-of-living payments resulted in lessened need for food banks, we know that directly putting money into people's pockets is the most urgent and crucial step toward mitigating the cost-of-living crisis for those most in need and we must see these payments continue into 2024 and beyond.  

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