Citizens Advice facing unprecedented challenges as cost-of-living hits local people

Citizens Advice South Hams is facing unprecedented challenges as the cost-of-living hits local people. The local advice charity desperately needs more volunteers to provide much-needed support and advice to local residents who are struggling with the rising cost of fuel and food.

With the latest announcement from Ofgem that the energy price cap is rising a further 80%, the average household is likely to see annual bills of £3,549 from October.  The huge hikes in the cost of energy mean many people are having to make drastic lifestyle changes to cut back on their energy consumption. From limiting the amount of time they spend in the shower to how often they can wash their clothes. This can be particularly difficult for those with disabilities or for children with additional needs.

The average UK food bill has increased by £454 a year, as prices rise at the fastest rate since 2008. Fresh produce in particular has experienced sharp price rises. People are having to stretch their already squeezed budgets even further, find cheaper alternatives or seek help from local food banks.

In these difficult circumstances, the volunteer-led advice charity is calling out for more people to help on the frontline – providing support to local people in crisis. Here’s what they are seeing:

  •  More people are hitting crisis point than in previous years

By the end of July this year, Citizens Advice South Hams had already seen more clients seeking charitable support and food bank referrals than during the whole of 2021.

  • The demand for practical energy efficiency advice has skyrocketed

The first five months of 2022/23 have seen a threefold increase in the number of people seeking help with practical energy efficiency advice compared with 2021/22.

  • Energy debts are on the rise

The average energy debt in the South Hams has risen by a third to £4,500 and is currently the second highest debt issue at Citizens Advice after council tax arrears.

Janie Moor, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice South Hams says, “As prices rise, people are being forced to make increasingly difficult decisions about what to cut back on.  People are coming to us in real distress and at a real crisis point. On a daily basis we are providing support to families who can’t afford to top up their prepayment meters and who would be facing extended periods of time with no electricity at home without our support.  Referrals to and from food banks have shot up as households do not have enough food to feed themselves and their families.

“The work our team of volunteers do is so important to ensure that local people get the help they need. If you can spare a day a week, I urge you to come and join us and make a real difference in your community.”

The next training course begins September 20th 2022.  Sign up now by emailing Elaine at training@southhamscab.org.uk.  No experience is required, and full training and support is provided. For more information visit southhamscab.org.uk.

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A truly valuable service. My advisor was extremely helpful and reassuring. Thank you.

Deborah – December 2023

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