Households will be 'devastated' overnight by soaring energy bills

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, records an address to the nation at Downing Street, London, to provide an update on the booster vaccine programme. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Experts warn the cost-of-living crisis is set to dramatically escalate in April. (PA Images)

Soaring energy bills are set to "devastate" millions as the cost-of-living crisis escalates, experts have warned.

A new report says the new energy price cap - which comes into effect on 1 April - will immediately hit the poorest Brits the hardest.

According to anti-poverty organisation the Joseph Roundtree Foundation (JRF), households on low incomes will be forced to spend nearly 20% of their income on energy bills after housing costs.

That figure will rise to more than 50% for single adult households on low incomes, an increase of 21% on 2019/20.

The organisation has urged the government not to stand by as the looming crisis unfolds.

Watch: Government should take action now on cost-of-living, say Labour

Read more: ‘Fuel stress’ to hit 6 million UK households as energy bills soar

The analysis comes as the government grapples with increasing inflation and spiralling living costs that will be compounded yet further by plans to hike National Insurance - also due to come into force in April.

Earlier this month Paul Johnson, the director of the independent think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), warned that tax rises, fuel prices, and inflation could create a situation for many that could be worse than the financial crisis.

The Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank focused on helping low and middle income families, has warned that 2022 would be the "year of the squeeze" and potentially "catastrophic" for millions of families.

The JRF says that an immediate emergency payment is necessary to help families most vulnerable, claiming current support is "profoundly inadequate" and highlighting the axing of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift in October as a direct factor.

The report also states that the benefits system is "increasing poverty for some", citing the two-child limit on income-related benefits; the five-week wait for Universal Credit payment; debt deductions from benefits; and Local Housing Allowance rates freezes as making matters worse.

They also claim those from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black families are most likely to be affected by spiralling costs.

Deputy director of policy and partnerships of the JRF, Katie Schmuecker, called for "urgent action" in light of the looming crisis which is set to "devastate" millions of Brits.

File photo dated 11/10/13 of a gas hob burning. A new study suggests that many companies are worried by the massive increase in gas prices. Issue date: Monday January 10, 2022.
File photo dated 11/10/13 of a gas hob burning. A new study suggests that many companies are worried by the massive increase in gas prices. Issue date: Monday January 10, 2022.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: One in three Brits fear they won’t be able to afford energy bills this year

"The government cannot stand by and allow the rising cost of living to knock people off their feet," she said.

"The alarm is sounding loud and clear and the case for targeted support to help people on the lowest incomes could not be clearer. But this must go hand-in-hand with urgent action to strengthen our social security system, which was woefully inadequate even before living costs began to rise.

"Our basic rate of benefits is at its lowest real rate for 30 years and this is causing avoidable hardship.

"The Government must do the right thing and strengthen this vital public service.”

Labour has slammed the government over the findings of the report, describing the situation as a "criminal" and a result of "incompetence" from the government.

Families face soaring energy bills in the coming months. (Yahoo News)
Families face soaring energy bills in the coming months. (Yahoo News)

Read more: What is behind the cost-of-living ‘crisis’ and what can we do to cope?

“Tory economic incompetence has given us a devastating cost of living crisis with rocketing energy bills, Universal Credit cuts and price rises in the shops set hit struggling families hard and abandon more children to sink further into poverty," said Jonathan Ashworth, shadow work and pensions secretary.

“Not only does growing poverty mean a weaker, less prosperous economy it also represents a criminal waste of the talents of the British people."

On the energy bills crisis, Boris Johnson's spokesperson said on Monday: "The prime minister continues to speak to the Chancellor and the business secretary. Ministers are having further discussions about what the appropriate response is to abating these costs of living challenges which we're seeing."

Watch: Cost of living: Households facing 'fuel stress' set to triple as energy bills surge, think-tank warns