Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure to get to grips with the cost of living crisis. Downing Street sources confirmed on Sunday that Mr Johnson intends to stress that work is the route out of hardship, focusing on low unemployment rates as the marker of better days to come. Ministers have failed to agree on steps they can take to try and ease the pain on Britons.
A windfall tax on energy companies is one option on the table, but Mr Johnson has been keen to stress that his Government has already spent £22billion on supporting households.
One group that will be especially impacted by the ongoing crisis is those who are reliant on their state pension.
Last year, the Government announced that the triple lock – a safeguard designed to ensure that state pensions don’t lose value as inflation changes – would be suspended for a year.
This meant that the state pension only rose by 3.1 percent in April, in line with the inflation figure in September but well below the nine percent then recorded.
Now, economists fear inflation will surpass 10 percent this year, meaning even worse real-terms cuts for millions who claim pensions across the UK.
John Palmer, director of policy and communications at the charity Independent Age, told i last week that this could lead to health complications for those impacted the worst.
He said: “We know that living in poverty increases the likelihood of experiencing physical and mental health problems.
“For example, living on a low income means many older people cannot heat their home or are forced to skip meals.
“This is no way for anyone to live, but for people in later life who often have multiple health conditions, the consequences could not be more serious.”
Mr Palmer added that his charity’s helpline had been “inundated” with calls from people struggling with the cost of living in recent weeks.
He said they were feeling “real fear”, and added that with “record inflation and rapidly rising energy and food costs, the situation will only get worse” as we head into the later and colder parts of the year.
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Baroness Altmann, Conservative peer and former pensions minister, also told i: “The rise in state pension is nowhere near enough just to cover their basic needs for heating a home and eating enough to keep them from malnutrition.
“It seems to me that the Government often does not realise or understand that there is real hardship for many elderly people in 21st-century Britain.
“Many of the poorest live alone, with nobody to turn to and rely on benefits or fixed small pensions, which have not kept up with the rising cost of living.”
Baroness Altmann, who campaigns for the rights of pensioners and older people, added: “It is clear that pensioners trying to survive on just the state pension – and there are millions with little or no more than that – will simply not be able to make ends meet.”
Fuel poverty is another issue that could arise with the cost of living crisis.
E.On UK boss Michael Lewis has warned today that up to 40 percent of the company’s customers will be in fuel poverty by October.
A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it has to spend 10 percent or more of its disposable income on energy.
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Energy regulator Ofgem lifted the price cap on gas and electricity bills in April, adding around £700 to the average household energy bill
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned that those on the state pension could find it difficult to afford basic needs and pay their bills.
She said: “Pensioners living on the breadline cannot increase their incomes to meet all these extra costs and have only modest savings, if any, to fall back on.”
Ms Abrahams called on the Government to put more money in people’s pockets by raising benefits payments.
She continued: “Rather than coming up with ever more complex schemes which depend on local councils or utility companies to administer them, or loan schemes which some older people fear will drag them into debt, the Government should do the simple and obvious thing, which is using the state pension and benefits systems to get more money into the pockets of people who most need a financial boost.”
She also hit out at Government figures for not acting sooner to address the cost of living crisis.
Ms Abrahams said: “Ministers’ apparent reluctance to do this is increasingly hard to understand as the evidence mounts up about the way inflation is absolutely hammering those on low and modest incomes in our society.”