Record numbers seek support as budgets 'squeezed to breaking point'

Citizens Advice Scotland said its bureaux helped people more than 100,000 times in March.

Citizens Advice Scotland: Record numbers seek help from charity as cost of living squeezes budgets iStock

A charity saw record numbers of people seek advice last month as the cost of living crisis continues to “squeeze household budgets to breaking point”.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said its bureaux helped people more than 100,000 times in March, the highest on record for individual pieces of advice given.

March also saw the highest number of people helped in over three-and-a-half years, with more than 25,000 individuals seeking advice.

In particular, demand for advice on homelessness was higher in the 2022/23 financial year than in any preceding year and reached its peak in March.

Despite food bank advice typically peaking in December, CAS said more clients than ever before received help in this area from one of its bureaux in March – with more than 3,000 pieces of advice given to over 1,800 clients.

March also saw the highest number of unique page views (UPVs) on the Advice for Scotland website outside of the pandemic, and the second highest month on record, with more than 400,000 UPVs from over 246,000 users.

The charity said the record-breaking numbers indicate that people continue to struggle with the cost of living and the impact it is having on their lives, such as food insecurity, homelessness, and debt.

CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “The cost of living crisis continues to squeeze household budgets to breaking point and CABs, so often the early warning system in our economy, are seeing record levels of demand.

“What is particularly worrying is the increasing demand for advice on homelessness and food insecurity.

“In recent months energy had overtaken universal credit as the single top advice issue across the network and we have observed for some time now the link between energy advice and food insecurity – that is clearer than ever here.

“It would be wrong to think that as we head into the summer, higher energy bills will have less of an impact on household budgets, the reality is people are now dealing with the fallout of a long, cold winter than has severely reduced their financial resilience.

“Significant reforms are needed more than ever, such as increasing the value of social security payments and introducing a social tariff for the energy market. Every passing day without these kind of interventions are pushing more and more people to the brink.

“People who are worried about money and bills should seek advice as soon as possible, whether that is online or from a local CAB.”