Current cost of living crisis most challenging in living memory, Bevan Foundation director says

Inflation looks set to increase in the coming months, further driving up the cost of living

The current cost of living crisis is the most challenging in living memory, according to the director of the anti-poverty think tank the Bevan Foundation. 

Dr Victoria Winckler says rising inflation, at a decade high, driven by spiralling energy costs and food and fuel price rises have all combined to create a challenging situation for thousands of families across Wales. 

The removal of the £20 universal credit uplift has also had a huge impact on families, she believes. 

"I think the period we're going through is probably the most challenging I remember seeing,” Dr Winckler said. 

"I think the big difference compared with the past is that people’s incomes are mostly fixed. If they get help through the social security system, most of those benefit rates haven’t gone up in a number of years and yet the cost of living is going up day by day. 

"And I think it’s putting pressure on individuals and on families that we haven’t seen in a very long time."

UK inflation currently stands at 4.2%, its highest level since December 2011 - the Bank of England’s target for inflation is 2%. 

The inflationary pressures are causing many families to go without food, says Dr Winckler . 

She said: "People are extremely worried. People have no cushion either, they have no savings to fall back on and they’re having to make really serious cuts in the things that they need. 

"People are genuinely going without. They're skipping meals,"

"People are really struggling.”

Working families across Wales are now facing the prospect of a difficult Christmas, the charity Action for Children said.

Survey findings released on Monday revealed that working families’ top five concerns ahead of Christmas are: 

1) Rising energy bills (85%)

2) Rising prices (85%)

3) Car fuel costs (75%)

4) Food prices (73%)

5) Affording warm winter clothing for family members (55%)

Nearly a third of working parents in Wales surveyed said they plan to either take on extra work over the Christmas period or avoid taking time off, in order to cover costs. 

National director for Wales at Action for Children, Brigitte Gater, said: “For most of us the festive season is a happy time but there are children all over Wales and the UK who face a very different Christmas. After almost two years of worry, isolation and poverty, many families are now struggling to afford the basics like food, heating and clothes.

"Our frontline workers see the impact the pandemic and cost of living crisis is having on children and families who are under pressure every day, but we also see the difference that can be made – that’s why we’re asking people to donate to help us make a life-changing difference to vulnerable children this Christmas and beyond."

There are predictions for a tough winter ahead for many families in Wales on lower incomes

There have also been calls to extend the Living Wage - currently £9.90 an hour - to more workers in Wales.

The Living Wage Foundation says that 17.9% of Welsh workers earn below the Real Living Wage and that many still earn "a poverty wage", in other words not enough wages to cover essential living costs.

  • Analysis by ITV Cymru Wales Work and Economy Correspondent Carole Green

As our spend on everyday essentials like food, energy and fuel continue to rise hundreds of thousands of families in Wales are struggling to keep their finances afloat.

The cost of living is rising in Wales against a backdrop of widespread poverty and low wages.Let’s take a look at the scale of the challenge: 1 in 4 people are already living in poverty in Wales including 180,000 children - that's 1 in 3 children.

The rise in inflation and the cost of living makes it even harder for this group of people to meet their basic needs.

It’s not just people receiving benefits who are hard up: 4 in 10 households living in poverty in Wales have one person working full-time.

However, Wales has lower pay in every sector compared to most other areas of the UK. So even those who are working have less to live on. Having work is often not enough to pay the bills or to lift a family out of poverty.

The rise in the cost of living isn’t  impacting everyone equally. Women, younger people, those with a disability and people from a Black, Asian, Minority or Ethnic background experience higher in-work poverty rates.

That's because these groups of people are more likely to work in insecure, lower paid jobs.

The Bank of England is warning inflation could hit 5% by next Spring. It seems there will be no let up in the rise in living costs just yet.

Rachel Ashworth, Dean of Cardiff Business School and Chair of the Living Wage for Wales Leadership Team, said: "We are making remarkable progress towards our goal of making Wales a Living Wage economy, but one in six workers in Wales still earn a poverty wage, and that is a big problem.

"We need to see more of Wales' employers choosing to accredit with the Living Wage Foundation, especially in the public sector.

"This will not only lift their own staff out of in-work poverty, but also those thousands of cleaners, security guards and careworkers working for them in outsource roles."

The Welsh Government said it was working to support people through the winter months Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government said it is working to support families on lower incomes as winter approaches.

A spokesperson said: "We have many schemes in place to help people.. and we've funded advice services which have helped people claim more than £17m of additional income.

"We are launching a £51m fund to support families hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis – this includes a £38m winter fuel scheme for households in receipt of working-age means-tested benefits. Although it will not fully compensate people who’ve lost the £20 Universal Credit uplift payment, it will help people to keep their homes warm this winter."

Meanwhile the UK Government said it has a multi-million pound support fund to help lower income families through the winter.

"We are committed to supporting people on low incomes and the changes we have made to Universal Credit will see nearly two million of the lowest paid better off by around £1,000 a year.

"The most vulnerable, including those who can't work, can get additional help with essential costs through our new £500 million support fund," a spokesperson said.

You can watch Wales This Week: Making Ends Meet online here, on the ITV Cymru Wales website.