Millions in the UK are facing a cold, hungry winter, Christian charity warns

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The UK is facing a growing emergency debt crisis as many turn to borrowing to get them through the winter months, a Christian charity has warned. 

Research by Christians Against Poverty (CAP) reveals that across the UK, a majority of people (84%) have been financially affected by the cost of living crisis. 

For around half those surveyed by CAP (49%), their bills and costs have risen by between £101 and £500 a month. 

Just under half (48%) say they are struggling financially and three in five (61%) have reduced energy consumption in a bid to save money. 

Over one in 10 (13%) are behind on household bills and two in five (42%) have borrowed money to cope with rising costs. 

Some 16% are skipping meals and a similar proportion (15%) are estimated to be going without heating or electricity completely. Over a third (37%) have cut out socialising and leisure altogether. 

One in 10 (13%) of those who have borrowed said they do not know how long it will take them to pay it back. 

CAP's Director of External Affairs, Gareth McNab, said that the prospect of doubling energy costs this winter is "terrifying". 

"The biggest concern is this poll was carried out in the hot month of August, ahead of winter and energy prices rising by a further £529 per year on average," he said.

"That's going to be around double the cost they were last year, even after taking into account the UK Government's energy price guarantee which was announced earlier this month.

"People are facing a personal and growing debt crisis. Low income households have been hit the hardest and are being left with little choice but to borrow to pay for essentials. Many will be forced to take on a lot more debt during the colder months just to survive."

CAP is calling for more targeted support for low income households that takes into account family size and actual energy bills. 

It is wants the government to raise Local Housing Allowance and other benefits and introduce a ban on energy companies forcibly switching customers to prepayment meters this winter.

Other calls from the charity include a moratorium on court action to collect debts. 

"Living shouldn't cost everything. But for millions, it does," said Mr McNab.

"We need more targeted help for people living in poverty who have less money coming in than they need just to stay alive and out of serious debt.

"This could be delivered in discounts of household bills, more one-off grants and increased benefit payments to help people survive winter."

The survey was commissioned by CAP and conducted by YouGov with a nationally representative sample of 2,270 people in August 2022.