The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone

We all recognise that our income doesn’t buy as much as it used to. Although inflation is coming down, that doesn’t mean that the cost of living is coming down. The cost of living is still going up, but it isn’t going up as quickly as it was last year.

For a long time Citizens Advice has collected data we get from people we help and we are now seeing a huge rise in the number of people who are falling into debt because their income does not cover expenditure on essential items (Negative budget) or are making dangerous choices between essential items in order to avoid debt (Living on Empty)

When we combine our information on these two groups with national survey data it suggests that nationally, there are likely to be around 8 million people currently falling into these situations.

There are many different stories which illustrate this situation. Here is one:

Jenny’s story – paying rent or council tax  

Jenny works part time and receives benefits, but her income isn’t enough to cover her and her daughter’s essential expenses. She can’t afford to pay her council tax and has built up nearly £5,000 in arrears. Half of Jenny’s income goes on rent, and there just isn’t enough left for her other essentials and council tax too, let alone paying off her debt. She’s missed rent payments before and is worried about the consequences if she misses a payment again. She said:

“I don’t know what to do. I get paid tomorrow, but it’s for my rent. I can’t miss that as I would be homeless because of the arrears.”

Jenny’s Adviser checked that she was claiming all the benefits that she was entitled to. He asked if she had spoken to her utilities suppliers to make them aware that she was having financial problems and ask if they offered any social tariffs or other forms of help. He then rang the Council Tax Department at the Local Council and Jenny explained to them that she was working with Citizens Advice to deal with her financial problems. They said they would discuss a way forward when she was able to provide a financial statement.

Jenny had asked for advice before the Spring Budget. Some changes had been signalled in advance. Her Adviser was able to tell her that her benefits would be rising and that Local Housing Allowance, which formed the basis of the housing element of Universal Credit, but which had been frozen since 2020, was to be increased. This issue was something that Surrey Citizens Advice offices had presented evidence on. The minimum wage was also to be increased, so these should help Jenny, but on the down-side, Council Tax would be increasing. The new figures would all need to be put into the financial statement.

Meanwhile, the Adviser gave Jenny a food voucher and made another appointment for her.

If you are affected by debt issues, the statistics clearly show that you are not alone. Don’t be embarrassed. We offer free, confidential advice whoever you are. Please contact us using the details below

Citizens Advice South West Surrey contact details:

Call Adviceline (free) to speak to an Adviser:

Waverley 0808 278 7980

Guildford and Ash 0808 278 7888

Leave online message

Self help – search our national site by topic

Visit us (office opening details)

South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Service contact details:

Tel: 01483 898884 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm)



Citizens Advice Mole Valley contact details:

Both Dorking and Leatherhead Citizens Advice offices are currently open for appointments, please either telephone our adviceline 0800 144 8848 or email /

Contact East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services on 01737 771350 or email:

Surrey Domestic Abuse 9am-9pm Helpline – 01483 776822

In an emergency always dial 999

Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead contact details:

Phone Adviceline: 0808 278 7945 (free) to speak to an adviser (Monday – Friday 9.00 – 16.00)

Email: Use an enquiry form

Self help (website)

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