Norfolk charity warns people 'struggling to buy box of matches' as chancellor announces support

  • Watch this video report by Natalie Gray

A charity boss has welcomed the government's cost-of-living support, but warned it would not go far enough to stop soaring demand from people struggling to even afford a box of matches.

Mark Hitchcock, the chief executive of Norfolk Citizens Advice, said the charity had seen a five-fold increase in people asking for help with their utility bills, with some unable even to afford to light a candle to heat their food.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a series of measures on Thursday, including a £400 payment for every household in Britain to help with energy bills and a £650 payment to eight million of the lowest income households. 

Mr Hitchcock said his team had this week visited at client at home who had run out of money completely.

"[They were] sitting in the dark because they couldn't put any money into the meter, had no mobile phone charge so they were unable to get any digital access or support from services and they'd run out of matches so they couldn't even light the candle they were using to heat their food," he told ITV News Anglia.

"It's an example from another century, isn't it?"

What support has the chancellor announced?

  • Eight million of the lowest income households - those on Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and legacy benefits - will be receive a one-off payment of £650. It will come in two payments - one in July and another in the autumn;

  • Pensioners will get an extra £300 via winter fuel payments;

  • There will be a one-off disability cost-of-living payment of £150 for those in receipt of Personal Independence Payments;

  • Mr Sunak also doubled a planned £200 energy support grant coming in the autumn to £400 and cancelled the planned repayments.

According to Mr Hitchcock, the past three months for Citizens Advice nationally have been the busiest in 80 years. 

“In Norfolk alone, across our offices and services, we’re struggling to meet the demand. It’s clearly connected to the cost of living crisis," he added.

Emma McDermott explains how the foodbank has been a lifeline Credit: ITV Anglia

And behind every statistic is a real life, and a real family. 

Emma McDermott uses her local food bank as rising costs have led to her struggling to buy essentials like bread and milk.

“We don’t have enough money to live off," she said. "This food bank really is a help, as when you’re on Universal Credit you are on a low income.”

The 41-year-old explained without support she would struggle to feed her dog and budgie. 

“You can’t make ends meet,” she added. “If things go up it is only going to get worse."

The government has faced criticism that payments to support people like Ms McDermott are short term fixes. 

Prof Chris Land, from Anglia Ruskin University, said the new payments were “really just like a sticking plaster on a major wound".

"They’re not going to help the fundamental challenges that are driving inflation in the pockets of, particularly, the poorest," he said.

The chancellor said the government would take additional tax from the oil and gas giants to fund the support packages.

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