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Moment Tory minister is told about man so hungry he has to eat toothpaste

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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A government minister has said he is "appalled" after being confronted by a report of a man going to bed so hungry he eats toothpaste to stave off the pains.

Millions of Britons are facing a worrying cost-of-living squeeze with further challenges set to come in April when it is feared soaring energy bills and significant tax rises will see the annual income of a typical household hit by around £1,000.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain to discuss ways in which the government was dealing with the issue, the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged it was "a really, really serious problem" and that ministers were “trying to work out the best way to deal with it".

Kwasi Kwarteng appeared on Good Morning Britain on Friday (GMB)
Kwasi Kwarteng appeared on Good Morning Britain on Friday (GMB)

Kwarteng was then played a clip of writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, who has been speaking with those living on the breadline.

Monroe said: "I had a message from a gentleman last night who had read my thread, who said that he had been going to bed having eaten a a teaspoon of toothpaste in order to fool himself into thinking that he'd had a meal.

"This is the reality for people in Britain today, and I would urge Kwasi Kwarteng to just listen to people who are speaking up about their difficult experience."

Read more: Ministers consider £500 energy bill payments for struggling households

Jack Monroe laid bare the true reality of living life on the breadline (GMB)
Jack Monroe laid bare the true reality of living life on the breadline (GMB)

In response, Kwarteng said: "I'm absolutely appalled that that should be the case and that's why we're trying to work out the best way to deal with what is a really really serious problem.

"I don't know who this gentleman was but that's an appalling story. I'm appalled that should happen and that's why people like me in government are trying really hard to make sure that we can help people".

Kwarteng also separately said that desperate households will be forced to wait until March to find out if the government will go ahead with a scheme which would reportedly hand out £500 one-off payments to help with energy bills.

It has been reported that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering making direct payments of up to £500 to struggling families as the cost of energy bills are set to soar.

Alarm bells have been sounded in the UK as families await planned tax rises in April.

It is feared that soaring energy bills will compound with these amid a 30-year high inflation level.

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 Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also warned 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.

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of Energy UK, the trade body for suppliers, has said bills could increase again in October after a predicted 50% jump for millions of households in the spring.

File photo dated 21/10/2021 of Rishi Sunak who said it is
It has been reported that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering making direct payments of up to £500 to struggling families as the cost of energy bills are set to soar (PA)

The Social Market Foundation think tank has proposed cash payments of up to £500 would be the best answer to the cost-of-living crisis.

Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, the organisation’s chief economist, said households where no-one is a higher-rate taxpayer should get a payment of £300, with an extra £200 for those on Universal Credit or legacy benefits.

And he said the scheme, modelled on the US stimulus packages seen during the pandemic, could even be dubbed “Rishi’s COLA (Cost of Living Assistance)” and bear the Chancellor’s signature.

Mr Kwarteng told ITV’s Good Morning Britain billpayers will have to wait until the Spring Statement in March to find out what extra support might be available.

“Lots and lots of things have been discussed, and I’m sure that’s one of the things that we’ve been talking about,” he said.

“My officials in the department speak to Treasury officials, and ministers speak to each other all the time.”

But he added: “I think we’ve got to wait and see what the actual announcement is.”

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