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Cost of living crisis: A quarter of key worker households in east of England now have children living in poverty as inflation spirals





Record numbers of people are visiting Cambridge Foodbank as shocking new figures lay bare the impact of the cost of living crisis.

ONS data for the final week of July shows that 89 per cent of adults reported their cost of living had risen over the past month.
ONS data for the final week of July shows that 89 per cent of adults reported their cost of living had risen over the past month.

New research from the TUC shows that almost a quarter of key worker households in the region have children living in poverty.

The number of East of England children growing up in poverty in key worker households – as defined by the government – has increased by 8,000 over the past two years to 116,000 in 2022, a rise of seven per cent.

It forecasts that in 2023 that number will rise to 123,000 unless ministers take further action to support families.

Writing in their column for the Cambridge Independent, the Cambridge Foodbank revealed it had more than 1,200 people visit in June, which has left it facing a shortage of baked beans for the first time.

There were 21,210 visits to the city’s food hubs last year – a number that is continuing to rise, according to the city council.

Richard Curtis, senior adviser at Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, explained: “We’ve seen the number of people contacting us continue to build from October last year, especially with those first energy price increases and then it hit again in April.

“We’re starting to see those people that were just about managing, who had been managing to pay their bills and didn’t need to contact us before. Now they’re at the point where those bills that they had under control are starting to cause problems.”

He explained that the CAB had also seen an increase in the number of single disabled people who needed support.

ONS data for the final week of July shows that 89 per cent of adults reported their cost of living had risen over the past month.

It also found that more than four in 10 adults who pay energy bills found it very or somewhat difficult to afford them.

Consultancy Cornwall Insight said last Tuesday that energy bills are now forecast to top £4,200 from January.

A quarter of key worker households now have children living in poverty as inflation spirals
A quarter of key worker households now have children living in poverty as inflation spirals

Mr Curtis said one of the key messages for people is to make sure that they are getting all the support that they are entitled to.

He said the CAB could help people to apply to find out what they might be eligible for as well as assess them for food or fuel vouchers.

“We’re trying to help to get underneath the problem,” said Mr Curtis. “And one of those things would be the benefit check to try and improve their situation and not just paper over it. We want to try and improve their lives going forward so it’s more sustainable.

“We’ll try to determine where else their money is going: have they drawn up an income and expenditure sheet and, if not, can we help with that. What are they doing in respect to cutting their spending, for example could they be getting a better deal. Are they paying over the odds for something? And what support can we offer them in terms of debt repayments.”

Mr Curtis said pension credit was a benefit that a lot of people do not realise they are entitled to. He explained that by applying even if they are only eligible for £1 a month, it can open the doors to other entitlements like energy support and a free TV licence.

He said many older people are reluctant to ask for help but that it’s there for them and they don’t need to struggle.

The CAB also encourages those who have previously applied for support to do so again as the eligibility has changed over time.

“If your income is less than £30,000 then do a benefit check,” said Mr Curtis. “We’re here to help so don’t struggle.”

Cambridge City Council has set out a number of measures to support households facing the cost of living emergency.

These include setting up a dedicated working group to address the cost of living emergency, working with other community and voluntary sector partners.

It has also set up dedicated cost of living help webpages as well as ongoing work to promote the support available.

The authority is also working to address inequalities related to the specific impact of fuel poverty on people’s health through a heating and health project.

It will work with other local authorities and community and voluntary sector partners to provide targeted support to residents from the autumn

Cllr Mairéad Healy, executive councillor for equalities, anti-poverty and wellbeing, said: “We know people are understandably worried about their finances, with increased costs making life more difficult for many, and particularly so for people on the lowest incomes. That’s before energy bills are expected to rocket in October, just at the same time as people will start needing to use the heating again. This is a financial emergency for many, and we want to do all we can to support people at such a worrying time.

“Whether you are currently worrying about your finances or want to start planning for the autumn and winter, everyone can find ideas on our cost of living help webpages (cambridge.gov.uk/cost-of-living-help). This includes signposting to other local organisations and volunteer groups who are also ready to offer support. You can find out how to reduce energy, water and other household bills, and how to check whether you might be eligible for any benefits or other payments to help maximise your household income.”

Cllr Alex Collis says no parent should have to worry about where their child’s next meal will come from. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Alex Collis says no parent should have to worry about where their child’s next meal will come from. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Healy added: “For anyone in need of access to energy vouchers or food in an emergency, there’s information about food and fuel vouchers.

“There’s also signposting to free lunches or holiday clubs to help families during the summer holidays, and, vitally, guidance on how to look after your physical and mental wellbeing when you’re facing real financial worries.”

Cllr Alex Collis, executive councillor for open spaces, food justice and community development, has been championing food justice and said no parent should have to worry about where their child’s next meal will come from.

She said: “I’m so passionate about working towards making Cambridge a ‘Right to Food City’.

“We can all agree that no parent should ever have to worry about where their child’s next meal will come from, nor should they need to go hungry in order to make sure their child is well-fed.

“Every person should have a legal right to food, and as ever we will carry on working to support communities and the Food Poverty Alliance on the vital work they do to plug these gaps.

“There will be more support to come – particularly as we develop our Health and Heating project for the autumn – but in the meantime I would encourage anyone who is worried to visit our webpages to see what support we can offer, and remind you that you’re not on your own.”

TUC regional secretary Sam Gurney said: “Our amazing key workers got us through the pandemic. The very least they deserve is to be able to provide for their families.

“But the government is locking too many key worker households into poverty.

“Ministers’ heartless decision to hold down pay will cause widespread hardship in the region.

“After the longest wage squeeze in 200 years we urgently need to get more money in the pockets of working families.

“This will help people get through this cost of living crisis and inject much-needed demand into our economy.”

To contact Cambridge CAB call 0808 2787808 and for its dedicated ‘help to claim’ line call 0800 1448444. Both numbers are free from a landline or mobile.



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