Support needed over steep rises
Royal Borough: A notable increase in requests for help
Soaring energy bills and increases in the cost of living are leaving more residents across Windsor and Slough with tough decisions to make on their finances, leading charities have warned.
Typical charges for gas and electricity are rising by almost £700 a year for millions of UK households following a decision to increase the energy price cap from April 1.
Shoppers are also facing rising bills as grocery price inflation hit its highest level last month since April 2012, according to research by Kantar.
Jeremy Sandell, chief executive at Citizens Advice East Berkshire, said: “What we’re seeing is people coming forward who wouldn’t normally have considered themselves as people struggling financially.
“The rapid change in energy bills particularly has left people who certainly would’ve thought they could pay their bills at the end of the month seeing that change at the end of the month.
“A whole new tier of people have been dragged into the spiral of having to make those decisions about whether they heat the house or not.”
Citizens Advice East Berkshire helped 4,500 people in the Royal Borough with problems including debt, benefits support and housing issues last year.
The charity said it has seen a 20 per cent increase in requests for help so far this year across East Berkshire.
Despite being inundated with demand, Mr Sandell urged people to get in touch for help as soon as possible if they fear they are getting into debt.
He added: “The fundamental thing is ‘ask early’.
“The further you get down the line of debt and the further you get before asking about your entitlements, the harder it gets.
“There is a lot of demand on us so be patient.”
Those in need can call Citizens Advice East Berkshire for free on 0808 278 7914 Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Sue Sibany-King, manager at Slough Foodbank, said: “The feeling out there is a bit panicked.
“Everyone is really worried about the increase in fuel costs and we fully expect we’ll be having to offer more support.”
This year marked Sue’s 10th anniversary working at Slough Foodbank.
When she started, the charity handed out less than 1,000 three-day food parcels each year.
But the expectation is that more than 8,000 essential food packages will be dished out to struggling residents in 2022.
Sue added: “The cruellest part of it all was the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week was removed just before all of these increases so it’s like a double whammy.
“You’re not only trying to budget on £20 less than you’ve got used to for almost two years, you’ve now got increased costs as well.”
Donations have also noticeably dropped to Slough Foodbank, which
Sue believes could be due to people being more worried about their own financial situation as well as donations switching to the ongoing appeals for refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Anyone who wants to access Slough Foodbank can do so with a referral from a number of agencies including Citizens Advice and GPs.
Visit slough.foodbank. org.uk/ for details.