245% increase in need for charitable help as costs crisis escalates

An Ipswich Citizen's Advice boss called for Rishi Sunak to "spend a week on the budget of your average family."

An Ipswich Citizen's Advice boss called for Rishi Sunak to "spend a week on the budget of your average family." - Credit: LUCY TAYLOR/HM TREASURY

The number of people needing charitable help from Ipswich's Citizens Advice Bureau has more than trebled in just a few months as cost-of-living pressures bite.

Between October and December 2021, 336 people requested charitable support from the Citizen's Advice Bureau. From January and March this year, 1,160 people came to the bureau asking for help.

Bureau boss Nicky Willshere says she does not believe government ministers understand the challenges everyday people are facing, and that was why more financial support was not on offer.

Citizens Advice Ipswich chief executive Nicky Willshere

Citizens Advice Ipswich chief executive Nicky Willshere - Credit: Lucy Taylor

She called on chancellor Rishi Sunak, who visited Ipswich on Monday, to "spend a week on the budget of your average family."

"I don't think that politicians actually have any concept of what it really means and what decisions that you're having to make each day," she said.

"He's not making decisions about turning the heating down or off, is he? And until he experiences it, he's never going to understand what it genuinely means for people."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak meeting shopkeeper Antonio Bellini during a visit to Ipswich earlier this week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak meeting shopkeeper Antonio Bellini during a visit to Ipswich earlier this week. - Credit: HM TREASURY

Last month this newspaper launched its Your Money Matters campaign, pledging to highlight how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting our readers and do what we can to help.

We asked the Treasury if Mr Sunak would undertake Ms Willshere's challenge. 

A Treasury spokesman did not offer a direct response but said: “We understand that people are struggling with rising prices, and while we can’t shield everyone from the global challenges we face, we're supporting British families to navigate the months ahead with a £22 billion package of support this financial year.

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“That includes saving the typical employee over £330 a year by raising the National Insurance Contribution threshold, lowering the Universal Credit taper rate to help people keep more of the money they earn, and providing millions of households with up to £350 each to help with rising energy bills.

“We are expanding the eligibility for the Warm Home Discount, which will provide around three million low-income and vulnerable households across England and Wales with a £150 rebate on their energy bills every winter.”

Ms Willshere said the increase in energy costs and the removal of the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift were among the factors behind the cost-of-living crisis. 

Rev Nic Stuchfield, who runs Suffolk Coastal Debt Centre, said he was "not surprised" by the increase in people seeking aid.

He added he had been disappointed by the "false advertising" which branded the Queen's Speech as being about the cost of living.