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More than 150,000 people needed help with crisis support for the first time in 2022, says Citizens Advice

19 January 2023
  • Three people were helped every minute with crisis support in December

  • Number of people helped with crisis support who were in employment increased by 155% between 2019 and 2022

  • Last year, more people who couldn’t afford to top up their prepayment meter were helped than in the whole of the last 10 years combined 

New analysis from Citizens Advice has found a record number of people were in need of crisis support during 2022, as the cost-of-living crisis pushed more people than ever before to breaking point.

The new research found that in the last 12 months, the charity helped more than 200,000 people with crisis support - which includes food bank referrals and emergency charitable grants. That’s 48% higher than 2021. Of this group, more than three quarters (152,982) were people who had never needed this type of help from Citizens Advice before.

Demand for food bank referrals peaked in December as the charity helped three people every minute with crisis support.

Citizens Advice also found that some groups are being hit particularly hard by the cost-of-living crisis. More than half (58.4%) of people the charity helped with crisis support in 2022 were disabled or had a long-term health condition. 

Alarming trends continue to grow 

The cost-of-living crisis has not only exacerbated issues which people were already facing, but it has also seen new and emerging problems arise for people needing support. These include:

  • The number of people helped with crisis support who were in employment increased by 155% between 2022 and 2019 (up to 23,888 from 9,373).

  • The charity helped more people who couldn’t afford to top up their prepayment meter (27,521) in 2022 than the whole of the last 10 years combined. 

  • In the last quarter of 2022, more than half (50%) of people helped with debt advice were in a ‘negative budget’, which means the cost of essentials is more than their income. This is the first time this has happened. 

Fears for the future 

Based on its analysis, Citizens Advice expects the rising cost of living will result in even more people needing crisis support for the very first time in the coming months. This is due to energy bills at record highs and some groups not being eligible for targeted support.

It is also warning that a double whammy of high interest rates and inflation will mean debt will become one of the biggest issues people will face in 2023. The charity is also sounding alarm on a growing housing crisis as increasing numbers of people seek advice on rent increases, threats of eviction and even homelessness. 

Morgan Wild, Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, said:

“The cost-of-living crisis has put unprecedented pressure on people’s finances and pushed many to breaking point.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen hundreds of thousands of people coming to us for crisis support, many for the very first time.

“What has been a difficult time for us all has turned into an impossible one for many. But as people continue to cut back on essentials in a desperate attempt to keep their heads above the water, this crisis is far from over.”

The above data will be discussed in this month’s Cost of Living Data Dashboard event hosted by Citizens Advice on January 19th at 11.30am. You can sign up to the event here

Notes to editors

  1. Data based on Citizens Advice Cost of Living Data Dashboard which can be found here

  2. Of the number of people Citizens Advice supported with crisis support in 2022 (more than 200,000), this is more than twice as high as 2020 (109%) and more than two and a half times (169%) higher than 2019.

  3. Additionally, between 2019 and 2022, the number of people with a mental health issue the charity helped with crisis support increased by 167%; while the number of people with multiple impairments increased by almost 200%. 

  4. Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  5. Our network of charities offers impartial advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free. 

  6. Citizens Advice helped 2.55 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2021-22. And we had 40.6 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 18,500 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.

  8. Citizens Advice is the largest provider of free, multi-channel debt advice. Providing that help gives Citizens Advice unique insight into the types of debts people struggle with.

  9. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.