“Our bleakest-ever start to the year” - number of people helped by Citizens Advice at record high

  • Local Citizens Advice offices across England and Wales helped record numbers of people between January and April 2023 - 9,600 people a day on average. 

  • People needing crisis support such as food bank referrals or charitable grants increased by 178%.

  • For the first time on record, more people than ever faced a monthly bills deficit where they had more going out than coming in.

The number of people helped by Citizens Advice hit a record high during the first four months of 2023. That's according to stark new figures released today by the charity that reveal the enormous pressures facing households.

The new analysis shows the charity helped more people in January to April than in the same period of any other year on record. That same period saw record highs on 70 different advice issues including homelessness, food bank referrals and debt.

Not enough for the basics

In the first four months of the year, Citizens Advice helped a record number of people (94,000) with food bank referrals and access to emergency charitable grants. This is a 178% increase on the same period in 2020, and includes the support needed by a record number of people in work. 

The charity helped more people with this type of crisis support this year than in the entirety of 2019 (74,500) and nearly as many as the entirety of 2020. 

Worryingly, Citizens Advice helped more people who are homeless this year (14,300) than at any other time on record. While the number of private renters facing an eviction issue during the first four months of 2023 was 49% higher than the same period in 2020. 

Additionally, the number of people unable to afford to top up their prepayment meter has skyrocketed, with 10 times more people seeking our help between January and April 2023 (15,000) compared with 2020 (1,500).

‘Living on empty’

Citizens Advice’s new analysis also found that during the first quarter of 2023 more people than ever faced a monthly bills deficit - where their income didn’t cover their basic bills. For the first time ever, more than half (51.6%) of people seeking support for debt from Citizens Advice were in this position. 

This is in part being driven by soaring energy bills. A record number of people came to the charity with energy debt in the first four months of 2023 (32,400) - a 112% increase on the same period in 2020 (15,200).

Struggling to stay afloat

Citizens Advice says record numbers are checking their benefits entitlement as people do everything they can to keep their heads above the water.

Government support measures, such as cost of living payments, have previously provided temporary respite to people and led to dips in the number of people seeking support from the charity, but demand rapidly returns to previous levels. A trend that could be made worse by recent price hikes which kicked in this April, placing further pressure on people’s finances. 

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The cost-of-living crisis is far from over. The fact we’ve experienced our bleakest ever start of the year shows the government cannot afford to turn their gaze away from the issues people are facing.

“Millions of people are doing everything they can but it’s still not enough. Too many people are living on empty, simply unable to pay their bills and put food on the table. And while staff and volunteers in local offices work tirelessly every day to help people, there’s only so much we can do.

“We can see government support helps, but more is needed in the future for struggling households. For many, life is getting worse, not better.” 

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice has records on the number of people helped dating back to 2014.

  2. The average number of people supported by local Citizens Advice offices across England and Wales does not include the Consumer Service.

  3. Crisis support includes referrals to food banks and advice on emergency one-off grants.

  4. The number of people helped with crisis support who are in work saw a 170% increase between Jan-Apr 2023 (11,558) to Jan-Apr 2020 (4,274).

  5. The number of private renters helped with an eviction issue between January and April 2023 (10,702) is 49% higher than the same period in 2020.

  6. The Citizens Advice cost-of-living data dashboard can be found here

  7. Citizens Advice will be discussing its findings as well as their emerging trends at their latest cost-of-living dashboard event at 11am on May 11th. People can sign up for the event here .

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

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