Cost Of Living: The Help You Need? | ITV Tonight

As we head into winter, the cost of food, energy and consumer goods all continue to soar. Despite an intervention from the government, financial pressure is mounting on households and businesses in a way we haven’t seen for decades.

Paul Brand investigates the surge in the cost of living; and if the government’s plan will be enough to protect us? 

We meet Margaret who lives on income support near Durham. She is a pre-pay user and her bills will be heavily concentrated in the winter months. Margaret says they are already twice what they were last year. 

One lifeline for Margaret is the Bread and Butter Thing, a charity which uses surplus food to provide shopping to its customers for a heavily reduced rate. 

“We're working with people that are really on the cusp of crisis, the stretched, the stressed people that are really struggling to get by. And that's an increasing column of people right now in this cost of living crisis.” - MARK GAME, CEO, The Bread and Butter Thing

An exclusive survey for Tonight has revealed that almost a quarter of all parents expect to miss meals so that their children can eat this winter; whilst more than a fifth of us will have to choose between heating or buying enough food.

“We haven't seen price spirals like this for about 40 years. Most families don't know how to manage household bills against rising prices are going a pace that we can't keep up with" - DR MIATTA FAHNBULLEH, CEO, New Economics Foundation

We also meet Roxy who suffers from Lupus, an autoimmune condition that affects her kidney and means she needs to use a dialysis machine at home. She says this winter she’ll be unable to both heat her home and run her dialysis machine as it will cost too much.

“I say lives are at risk this winter. There is no two ways about it.” - ANDY BURNHAM, Mayor of Greater Manchester

We meet Sade who is struggling with her energy bills. She’s on a pre-pay metre for her electricity, and uses direct debit for her gas. But she’s fallen behind on her bills, and into debt. 

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that nearly 7 million households will be in fuel poverty this winter - a significant increase from 4.5 million last year.

Beyond the impact on households and businesses, the cost of living crisis may have even broader implications. For months, doctors have been warning it’ll result in a public health disaster. Dr Marilyn Graham - who works in a deprived area of south London - says the situation is already critical. 

“I think we’re all feeling that this year we're going to be going out and finding our elderly dead at home, having turned on the heat and having no food in the fridge. And I think that people will die. I think some of our elderly patients will die. And that's pretty sad in the 21st century and in the UK.” - DR MARILYN GRAHAM FRCGP, Fairview Medical Centre

Tonight's survey revealed that 70% of people are worried about their health and well being - or that of a relative - this winter, due to the cost of living crisis.

The Government told Tonight they had taken… “decisive action to shield households and businesses across the UK from these global price rises. They said the Energy Price Guarantee will save the average household £1,000 per year on their energy bills, on top of the £400 discount which has been landing in bank accounts in instalments from 1st October.”

But despite the extraordinary government intervention - there are millions who will still struggle just to do the ordinary this winter.

Useful Links: 

  • Check out the Money Saving Expert survival kit for the cost of living crisis.

  • Speak to your local council to find out if you are eligible for the Household Support fund and information about food bank referrals. 

  • Visit Citizens Advice Bureau for information on a range of available grants and benefits to help pay for your energy bills.

  • For tips and advice on how to save energy in your home, visit the Energy Saving Trust website.

  • Download the Loop app to analyse your smart meter data and show you easy ways to use less energy, save money and reduce your carbon footprint.