As the cost of living crisis bites, the very real human impact of rising rates of inflation is becoming alarmingly stark.
According to a report by the Food Foundation, surging prices are now forcing millions of households to significantly cut back on food.
Figures showed that in the last month, more than two million adults in the UK hadn’t eaten for a whole day, either because they couldn’t afford or get access to food. The report also revealed that the proportion of households missing meals or cutting back on food has gone up by 57 per cent in the last three months.
The Food Foundation has urged the government to increase benefit levels in line with inflation, as well as expand access to Free School Meals and the Healthy Start programme, as it believes the situation could lurch “from an economic crisis to a health crisis”.
Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, said: “Food insecurity puts families under extreme mental stress and forces people to survive on the cheapest calories which lead to health problems.”
Ms Taylor described the rise in food insecurity since the start of the year as “extremely rapid”, adding that this points to a “catastrophic situation for families”.
The government responded to the Food Foundation’s findings by insisting that it recognises the pressures on the cost of living that people are facing.
“We are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty,” a spokesperson said.
“For the hardest hit, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit”.
The spokesperson added that the government has also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers, and that the Household Support Fund “is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials”.
The Food Foundation’s report coincides with a warning from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), which believes 1.5 million households will struggle to pay their bills over the next year.
The body estimates that inflation will average at 7.8 per cent this year and potentially stay above three per cent until 2024. That means inflation will remain well above the Bank of England’s target of two per cent for at least the next two years.
Ministers have been urged to raise Universal Credit by £25 per week between May and October, as this would put £250 in the pockets of 11.3 million lower income households.
The NIESR warned that without this targeted support, a quarter of a million households will slide into “extreme poverty” and take the number up to about one million.
The government has already ruled out holding an emergency Budget to tackle rising costs and said it will pursue a policy of growing the economy to address the crisis.
Speaking after the Queen’s Speech, in which the government unveiled its legislative agenda for the coming year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued that “we cannot simply spend our way out of problems”.
“We need to grow our economy out of these problems by creating hundreds of thousands of high-waged, high-skilled jobs across the country,” he said.
Whether the government sticks to this line as the cost of living crisis bites remains to be seen, but one thing appears certain – that inflation pressures look set to be with us for several years, rather than months.
If you’re concerned about the impact of inflation on your financial planning, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for advice and support.